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Home : News : Features : Display
NEWS | April 17, 2013

Living through the abuse

By Airman 1st Class Jarad A. Denton 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The year was 1981: MTV launched in the United States, Sandra Day O'Connor took her seat as the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and President Ronald Regan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr.

It was also the year a 6-year old boy living in Oklahoma was introduced to the harsh reality of child abuse.

Tech. Sgt. Steven Wilson, 28th Bomb Wing public affairs NCO-in charge, said after his parents divorced, remarried and divorced again the judge awarded full-custody of him and his younger sister to their biological mother. A short time later, she married a man 20 years her senior who suffered from Alzheimer's disease. After she had two more children by her new husband she began abusing Wilson.

"My mother had a temper beyond 'short,'" Wilson said. "I became the house whipping boy."

He said she would routinely beat him if she had bad day, if he didn't dry the dishes fast enough, the younger children were crying because they were hungry or the table wasn't set or cleared quickly enough.

First Lt. Dana Hubbard, 28th Medical Operations Squadron family advocacy social worker, said if this incident had involved family advocacy they would have been able to provide support for both the family and the child.

"We would have connected the child with organizations downtown such as the Department of Social Services," she said. "Individual and group counseling would also have been provided to help the victim of the abuse."

Hubbard also said intensive individual counseling, anger management classes and healthy parenting groups would have been offered to Wilson's mother, which may have stopped her from attacking him.

"I got punched in the face or hit with whatever she could find," Wilson said. "Wooden spoons, electrical cords, clothes hangers, a hairbrush across the head - she developed an imagination for turning anything into an instrument to clobber me with."

Wilson said his mother would sometimes make him change into long-sleeved shirts before school, so as to hide the cuts and bruises on his arms she inflicted with various household objects. He said one of her favorite forms of punishment was to forcibly remove his clothing and beat his entire body with a belt.

"One time, and I don't even remember what my 'offense' was that day, she hit me so hard and so many times I urinated - I just couldn't help it because it hurt so bad. Since she forced me to take my clothes off, it subsequently went onto her clean floor. She beat me harder for that until I passed out."

From Broken to Angry

Wilson said his mother would explain to him the day following a beating how her behavior was his fault and he didn't understand why she did what she had to do.

"I was very rarely let out of the house because, according to her, as the oldest I had responsibilities," he said. "While they were out doing kid things, more often than not I was trying my best to get everything she wanted done so I didn't get punched in the jaw that night."

His mother would constantly tell him how "lucky" he was to have her, because he was so defective his father didn't want him.

"I thought I was broken or something was wrong with me because everyone else my age seemed to have normal lives," Wilson said. "I remember thinking they must be a better son to their mothers than I was and I was defective somehow because I couldn't do anything right. I had no self-confidence at all."

Looking back, Wilson said he remembers that part of his life with anger and resentment toward his mother for making a defenseless child live in fear every day. He feels somewhat detached from the events, almost as though he watched them unfold on a movie screen.

"It's almost like it happened to someone else," he said. "I never talk about it."

Wilson said he was rescued from this nightmare after six years by his biological father. He said his father worked with an uncle to convince Wilson's mother to let him stay with the uncle for a summer.

Once the day came to leave, Wilson's mother decided to beat him one more time as a parting gift. Then, he boarded the plane for North Carolina and his father.

Breaking the Cycle

"I really didn't know what to think because all I had heard over the years was 'your father is a drunk and didn't want you anyway,'" Wilson said. "I spent the summer with my uncle, but Dad was there nearly every weekend."

He said his father worked very hard to rebuild their relationship.

"It didn't take long to learn everything my mother had told me about him was false. But, it took years for me to actually realize self-worth," he said. "I didn't gain any self-confidence, or really discover what I was capable of or realize the person I could be until I was well into high school."

Wilson said, even though it would not be the proper response, he would like to sit down with his biological mother, hand her a list of things she did to him when he was a small child and then invite her to try to do those things now.

"That probably makes me a bad person but whenever I think about her, that's really my heart's desire," he said. "I haven't seen her since I was 12 years old and I'd want her to know I have not, and never will, forgive her. I can't wait for her to die."

He said the worst part of the whole ordeal was when he became a parent.

"When my son was born, I was so overjoyed at being a dad, but then it hit me like a bolt of lightning - what if I become like her?"

Wilson said he couldn't bear the thought of actually harming a defenseless baby.

"When I brought him home and tucked him in, I stared at him for hours and hoped beyond anything I wasn't a child abuser just waiting to happen. It really scared me."

When Wilson thinks about other victims of child abuse he hopes they realize it's an experience, if survived, they can recover from. However, he doesn't want them to think of their trauma as an excuse to feel the world owes them something.

Wilson said his father eventually re-married and he now calls that person "Mom." He has become very successful professionally, nearly finished his master's degree and is relied on by people for his advice and opinion.

"Me - the person who was told he wouldn't amount to anything," he said. "I have served my Nation honorably in combat. I know, beyond a doubt, I have self-worth and I'm not a defective human being, despite her best efforts."

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in 2010. The current version has been updated to reflect changes in Associated Press style.