Nearly 10 million people a year go through what I went through as a child at home. Home, the place where everyone should feel safe and be well. In the United States,1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.1
In two weeks, I will be on a platform for my third powerlifting competition. Clients and friends keep asking me, “Are you nervous? Are you feeling ready?” I appreciate the questions a lot.
I’ve done two competitions. Both of them I’ve done for myself. I trained because I loved powerlifting, and I’ve competed against myself.
This time I want it to be different. “Train with a purpose” is the philosophy of my coaches. I decided to take it further and I am to “compete with a purpose.”
Close your eyes and imagine late on a Saturday night. It’s November in Eastern Europe, and the trees have just a few leaves left hanging. It’s cold.
Three people are walking down the alley. A woman with her two teenagers.
“Sweetheart, let’s hurry up. We’ve got to get to bed before your father gets home.” my mom tells me.
She’s walking fast, rushing almost, and I can sense a hint of nervousness in her soft voice. My brother was trying to catch up with us, absolutely quiet.
We were walking home from my uncle’s house after a family dinner. My father stayed there.
The three of us got home, did our nighttime routines quickly, and went to bed. My mom stayed in my room that night. She lay in my bed, shaking slightly, but sounded calm when she said, “It’s time to fall asleep, sweetie.” She kissed me goodnight.
Silence filled the entire apartment.
Until a roaring voice and a slamming door broke the quietness.
“Where the fuck are you?!” My drunk father had finally gotten home. He slammed the doors of the master bedroom.
“Come out, you dumb bitch!”
I felt my mom shaking even more.
I knew what was about to happen. And I was praying to God to calm my father down and let him go to sleep.
He continued slamming the doors and yelling insults at my mother.
I heard him going through the cabinets, looking for more alcohol.
He yelled and screamed and continued searching for my mom. I heard him walking into my brother’s room. The next up was mine.
“I’ll fucking find you.” He opened the door, stepped inside the room and pulled my mother out of my bed. She fell on the floor.
“Get up you fucking bitch. Do what I say, and you will be fine.”
Anger filled my body. I was terrified, but I was mad. I squeezed my fists so hard they started to hurt.
Meanwhile, my father grabbed my mom and started shaking her, calling her names and saying how she ruined his life.
My mother was crying. She was petite and couldn’t escape my father’s strong hands. She begged him to let her go.
“I will fucking throw you off the balcony right now.”
I jumped off my bed and stood between my parents. My father’s face was red and screwed from anger and hatred. His eyes were bloodshot and he breathed alcohol on me. I saw a monster. I stood there looking in his eyes, squeezing my fists. My heart was pounding, and I was breathing like my lungs were about to collapse. I yelled as loud as a 15-year-old could, “DO NOT FUCKING TOUCH HER! I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL BEAT YOU WITH MY OWN HANDS!!” Even though I knew that this bastard could take me down in a second and wouldn’t even blink.
Since that night, I always wanted to be strong — physically stronger than my father. I wanted to be so strong that he would be scared of me and would never touch my mom or me.
You see, the story I described above wasn’t the first time that happened. As long as I could remember, my father would get drunk and beat my mother. There were instances where she’d have to go to a hospital.
Both my brother and I were terrified of my father, mostly because by day he would be a normal person but at night he turned into a monster. Not only would he beat my mother — he’d beat me as well.
Back then, I thought my family was the only one to deal with domestic violence. My mom would never tell anyone what had happened and would prohibit me telling anyone as well. I don’t blame her. She was afraid of him.
But now, I have a voice. And I refuse to keep silent. So I decided to start with this year’s competition. My purpose is to bring awareness to domestic violence and physical abuse. Not a single woman, man, or a child should feel unsafe at home, cry at night and feel hopeless and covered in bruises.
During my competition, I will be wearing this T-shirt. If you’d like to stand against silence with me, you can purchase one, too. 25% of the purchase will go directly to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Are you with me?