Dear Miss Emily:

I'm 13 years old, and really confused.  I don't know what to do about the ugly situation I’m in, and have been in since birth. My mom  – I can't take anymore.  She hits me and kicks me when she gets mad at me.  I can’t take all the things she tells me about how stupid and pig-headed I am. She makes me feel so worthless. Any time I can get out of the house, I’m happy, but that’s not very often. She doesn’t let me go over to friends houses or out of the house without her, except school. My parents are divorced, and I go over to my dads house once a week. My earliest memory is when I was 2, and my dad punched my mom in the nose and broke it. I spent many nights crying myself to sleep listening to them scream at each other. My dad had never hit me up until a few days ago, when he was yelling at me and I supposedly smiled.  He slapped me and said "I wiped that smirk right off your face, and I will again if you continue to smile."  That was devastating to me!  I thought he was the parent that would solve problems with words, not violence.  Now, I feel so unprotected.  My mom has banged my head against walls and counters and gave me, many times, a bloody nose.  I have this feeling of helplessness like there’s no way out.  At 5 years old, I tried to commit suicide by holding my breath until I passed out and, for that moment, that was the first time, in a long time, I felt at peace.  Now I long for that feeling.  I’m so scared about what will happen in the future if she will finally break me.  Everyday I feel weaker and weaker, but I have no where to go.  What should I do?  Thank you.
Scared and confused

-----------------------------Miss Emily’s advice-----------------------------

Dear Scared:

You seem extremely mature about this, because that’s what it takes to endure the horrible circumstances you are in.  But you are wrong to think that there is nowhere for you to go. What you do now, however, should be planned, carefully, and you must harness the inner-strength that you have used to survive, to get the help you need.  Because you are not allowed to go out of your home without your mother (unless you are at school), you need to go to a school counselor, immediately!  Prior to this (at school, and not home) document all of the abuse you have told me in this e-mail,  making it easier to pass on this information without feeling tongue-tied.  If you are afraid to go alone, ask a teacher to go with you.  I think you feel that if you try to get help, this will backfire on you and your parents will become more abusive – but that is not the case!  The school will call the Social Services Department, and they will, on the spot, get the help you need.  I don’t know why your parents behave the way they do toward you, but child abuse is against the law.  To fear them, and continue to suffer this abuse, is the worst possible thing that you can do.  Your mother, especially, knows she has control, and this abuse has been allowed to go unchecked. Your father appears to be following in her footsteps. I would trust no one who is associated with your mother, or father to help you.  It might  be too risky.  You should take action, NOW, and let me know what happens. Again, it will require all of the strength that you can gather, but your life can only improve when you seek the help you need.  In spirit, I will be with you.