I remember standing by the wall with my brothers and crying while my father was beating my mother.
I remember my mother screaming and crying. I remember my father going away after that and the rest of us huddling and crying together.
Then, I remember my mother cooking and cleaning after it was all done, like it was just another day. I remember me helping her because that was the only way I knew how to support her.
I remember watching from the doorway when my father was beating my elder brother with a big book just because he was singing. I remember him beating my younger brother with a belt just because… All we could do was stand and watch till he was done so we could take care of our little brother and the belt marks on his little bare back. We lived in fear all the time, we never knew what could trigger him, so we tried to stay clear of him.
I remember me being beaten by my father because I told my mother that he was talking bad about her with someone else.
I remember once he was so angry because my mother was sick, and she didn’t cook. He almost burnt us all alive. He threw a burning kerosene stove at the bed where my brothers and I were huddled with my mom. My mother was so tired of his abuse that she was willing to just lay there with us and let us burn. My older brother and I helped put out the fire. Of course, my father was gone. He didn’t even care to see if the fire was put out.
One time when I was about 13 years old, I took too long in the bathroom because I had just started my period and I was still learning to manage that, and my father hit me so hard that my forehead hit the marble counter. I was bleeding from my left eyebrow profusely. I stood there with my hand on the wound trying to stop the gushing blood and my mother stood there angry and scared but did nothing. When my father saw that the blood was running down my arm, past my elbow and now making a pool on the floor, he decided to take me to the doctor. Luckily the doctor was still there. He stitched me up. I came home and no one ever talked about it after that day. It was another day in the mad house called our home. That was our normal.
I remember wishing for a peaceful life where there was no fighting, screaming or beating. Hoping for a better normal.
We moved from India to Michigan, USA. Scenery changed, but my dad and the madness were still with us.
Then, I met a guy that I fell in love with. He was nice and respectful to me. He loved me and wanted to marry me. I thought this was heaven sent. I could finally escape and make a good loving home with him. Which I did. We were both young, intelligent, smart, hardworking and risk takers. We had two beautiful boys and we were soon very successful in business too. We were a perfect little family till the day I found out that he was cheating on me. After that everything took the turn for worst. He became angry, just like my father and sometimes even worse. He threatened me that if I think of leaving him, he will make sure I never see my sons again. So, I stayed. That gave him more power. And somewhere through all that, we became his property.
He told us he loved us, but his actions didn’t match the words. We lived in fear of his temper just like we did with my father. After a while my children started asking me why I put up with him and why do I not leave him. I stayed for 14 years and kept my children and myself in abuse. I feared that the custody fight would be worse because I could not protect my children from his anger and beatings if I wasn’t there. Yes, every day of the 14 years wasn’t bad, but most of the good days were clouded with the fear of what could trigger him into our worst nightmare. Those days we didn’t know how to stop him or where to go. The bigger the house the bigger the battle ground.
I remember him setting the security alarm after he had beaten one or all of us. And I remember thinking and sometimes asked him, “why are you setting the alarm now? The one we are afraid of is in the house.”
Finally, one day my son who was almost 18, and was in college, came home to see us. Within a few minutes, they started arguing and his father started beating him with a shoe. That was it. That day, my mental calendar, waiting for my son to turn 18 was up. I realized that my son or I did not need to take it anymore. So, for the first time I told him I was going to leave him. Things got even worse for a while. The divorce was ugly and long, but it was over.
We were finally free to start healing. We moved away physically. That was the best thing to do.
Three months after I moved to Malibu, one day I realized I hadn’t cried for 3 months. Wow! That is the first time I felt the freedom. I could not stop smiling. What an amazing feeling that was! So, I decided to stay in Malibu away from my past and the people who were hurtful.
I worked on myself. I was finally peaceful. But the question that why it happened at all, why did I live in abuse all my life and why did my sons suffer so much, was always confusing and painful. While we were working on our healing, I also wanted to find the answer for that. I wanted to make sure It never happened again. I wanted to make sure the life of abuse was over for good.
I started writing and analyzing my life to understand where I learned to accept abuse. I was a strong, smart woman who was not afraid of anything or anyone else, except for men in my home. When did our family become him owning us? So, I interviewed a lot of people who had freed themselves from abusive relationships and were now enjoying wonderful successful lives on their own terms. I wrote a candid guidebook for domestic abuse awareness and how to get out of it, so that I could help others who may still be living in abuse. I wanted to make their journey to freedom easier and faster than mine.
Luckily my sons and I are very close, and I made sure they knew that I was always available for them. I knew it was going to take a while and there will be days when they will have questions and pain they could not figure out on their own. I am their mom, and I was the other adult who decided to keep them in abuse as long as I did.
I started studying Spiritual Psychology at University of Santa Monica. It gave me a lot of answers. Brought me some peace so I was able to forgive and move forward. I was able to guide my sons as and when they needed or asked for my help.
My goal was still to learn how to live a life of domestic harmony. But I was seeing red flags everywhere. One day, someone made me realize, I cannot be afraid because people are not perfect. Of course, we must avoid and beware of red flags, but all flags are not red, some are just shade of pink. People have differences, and in healthy relationships we should be able to handle differences peacefully. So, I joined Pepperdine Law school for a degree in Mediation and dispute resolution to learn how to resolve conflicts peacefully.
Now, I have a private practice as a mediator to help resolve family disputes or conflicts between business partners. I am the neutral person helping parties negotiate a win-win resolution. My objective is always to remind people that they were once lovers or friends who decided to build a family or business together. I am almost always able to help negotiate a resolution where all parties come out successful because they agreed on the outcome themselves unlike going through the expensive and lengthy lawyers and court system where they are told what to do. And best of all, they are able to salvage some respectful relationship. It is especially important when children are involved that all parties stay civil because after all they are still a family, even if they live in separate homes.
My most rewarding work experiences have been at the private school, Our Lady of Malibu (OLM), where I teach mediation and also help the principal with resolving disputes between students, students and siblings, students and teachers, and sometimes even students and parents. Most of the time the Principal, Mr. Smith tells me to go do my magic. He tells the students if they agree to mediate with me, he doesn’t have to discipline them in more formal way. So, the children are willing to learn.
Over time we were able to change the culture at school. Now most children have learned the process of mediation and have learned not to look for fighting or throwing things at each other. They have learned respectfully distancing themselves and ask for mediation.
Many parents asked me, what I did in mediation because they noticed that the children who had been fighting for years, go in hating each other and come out hugging and smiling. Many of the teachers and parents remark that they wish they were taught mediation skills when they were growing up. At OLM, we have resolved some serious problems through mediation, some problems that had been going on for years.
Witnessing what a difference mediation has been able to bring about in the behaviors and relationships of students, teachers and parents in one school, I am convinced that this is where the change needs to start. I am so honored and passionate about working with children and teaching them how to resolve disputes peacefully and respectfully because these are the children who will be future spouses, parents, teachers, partners, bosses and employees. If they learn these skills now when they are young, they will remember to use them when they are older. Hopefully, when our children are grown, they will look for peaceful ways to communicate their differences instead of resorting to anger and threatening to sue each other.
I want our children learn to be more accepting of neighbors and manage their lives with love and respect unlike the examples of anger and chaos they are witnessing and learning now.
Increased companies and individuals have engaged alternative dispute resolution professionals to resolve their disputes. Indeed, ADR processes are increasingly becoming the default mechanism for dispute resolution instead of litigation. belen-ariel-jams-how-can-we-increase-09-2022Download...By Ariel Belen