By Dr. Jacqueline
I am so profoundly grateful that traumatic scars are not visible from the outside. Had they been, I would have lived my life looking like Cher’s son in “Mask.” Instead, I was beaten and emotionally abused entirely because of my gender. I was raped and impregnated entirely because of my gender. My first child was legally taken from me entirely because of his gender, ‘Had you given birth to a girl, we would have given her up for adoption,” my mother smirked as she told me just hours after my son was born.
In January of 1962, I was almost 15 years of age, but by today’s standards, what I knew about my body, reproduction, or sex in general was about that of today’s toddlers. There was no Internet in 1962, no sex education classes, no older or young siblings in my home, no long term friendships in my transient military lifestyle (I’d experienced 23 moves by age eight), and no access to books to answer any questions about how my body functioned. Not once had my mother said, “I love you,” read me a story, or said a kind word to me. She was totally absorbed in staying a numb as possible with alcohol and prescription drugs while finding fault with anything I did or said. Yet, she talked a lot in public to strangers, “I wanted six tall sons, and all I got was Jackie,” was her mantra.
She beat me many times a month. Also, she kept detailed lists of what she considered to be my transgressions to make sure each one was converted into another physical beating as soon as my father returned home. She bragged to others about her adeptness with making sure I was never “a spoiled only child.” Not a single teacher, military staff, or military medical personnel ever questioned my body having bruises in various states of healing.
My father was usually away (as long as a year) following military orders. I learned later that he applied for as many T.D.Y’s (temporary active duty) as possible. He did anything to be away from my overbearing, always complaining, alcoholic mother. He told me that she was a total embarrassment to him and kept him from ever making permanent officer status; he was a Warrant Officer when he served in WWII.
My parents knew each other only 28 days before their wedding: August 6, 1940. My Roman Catholic Polish father was 5’ 8” tall then; my Lutheran Scottish heritage mother was 6’ 1.” His parents disowned the couple. The “why” reply they each gave in to years of questions from friends about their initial attraction was: “We both dreamed of having six tall sons.”
My mother was, as usual, in bed that early January morning when Bill Fulford (18), a Navy dependent, came over to get me to walk to school. I was wearing a large circle skirt, down to the top of my Bobby Socks, over at least one 100-yard stiffly starched petticoat. I did not refuse when Bill wanted to hold me gently and lovingly on our couch, “To neck” he said. But somehow, though all that nylon, he ejaculated on my underwear. I was too ignorant to know what on earth that wetness was that I asked him about as we walked to school. “It’s nothing,” he replied.
But, soon I found out that it was not – “nothing;” I was pregnant.
Before and since January 1962, my body was knocked down, kicked, and beaten with hands, sticks, wooden paddles, rulers, metal fly-swatters (with the fabric gone, so the rusty wire cut me) and more. However, after that date, each beating ended with military issue steel toed black leather boots with zippers to hold in extra insulation and weight was driven into my body lying sprawled out on the floor. Today, my hips, back, and legs hurt all the time; my spine is horribly twisted and my knees fail me. I think you now know why.
By May 1962, I was in Trenton, New Jersey, in a nunnery. To this day, I have a dear friend, “My Big Sister” from those months of being hidden away. As I gave birth before the age of 16, I lost legal rights to my perfect baby boy. All I was able to offer him was his first name. My parents pretended they adopted him. I came home to even more hatred being expressed toward my gender: “A son would never have caused us this grief!” they yelled at me. I felt so dirty.
So, I married a man whose parents were kind to me; I ignored the fact that he was so much like my mother. He was also an alcoholic and physically violent, but that was my normal. He needed to have a child to avoid the draft; I was proven to be fertile and willing to work outside the home. As soon as my gorgeous daughter was born, and appeared to be going to live (she three holes in her heart, and had suffered a heart attack at four-and-a-half months of age), he left us to be with the lady whom he had been in love with for years.
Soon, I was a divorcee, a mother, and “Just a waitress” at just barely 19 of age. My parents had disowned me, my beloved maternal grandparents were dead, and I had never had contact with any other relatives. So, I married a certified brilliant, but mentally twisted, father of two who said he loved the idea of a blended family. Again, I ignored the fact that he was an alcoholic and physically violent toward me, as once again that was my normal.
My oldest son was 5 when his daughter (then 6), his son (then 4) and my daughter (then 3), became a family. For nearly seven years, I worked three jobs help him to be awarded a Ph.D. at the University of Illinois without any debt and to pay child support for his daughter and son. He beat me even outdoors in front of the neighbors, and yet, no one ever stopped him – even the police I called.
The day he graduated he announced at the dinner table, “From now on you will all call me Sir!” When I laughed, he slapped me so hard my body went through the doorway into the living room. A few weeks later, I found him having sex with our foster daughter – she was 17. Later I learned that he was also having sex with my oldest son at the same time. Although we divorced in 1974, it was not until his death in February of 2015 that his bullying of me ceased. His last revenge for not staying married to him was to instill in my oldest son the same disrespectful attitude toward women that Donald Trump’s video released in October 2016 displayed.
It was a long hard road to learn to love myself; it took nearly half a century. I did many things to assure myself that I was loveable. The first was entering college late in life, and the last was getting my doctorate in 2010; that was 43 years after I swore that I would earn a Ph.D.
Today, I focus on empowering those who are ESL or Special Education students, especially girls. I have over 20 years of marriage to my best friend. I have been an ordained minister and the manager of a non-profit since 1986. And, last but very far from least, I have a daughter whom I love, respect, and could not imagine being more perfect. She too has spent her adult empowering girls and women.