A local boy’s view of domestic violence/Looks forward to Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : May 12, 2017

Jim walks for other kids like him, who are still stuck in the midst of domestic violence.

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–A 10-year-old boy is looking forward to the May 27 Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event taking place around the Athens courthouse. Why? He wants to do his part to show support for those other kids who are still in the middle of domestic violence.
The annual International Men’s March is held to further conversations about manhood, family relationships and the growing problem of domestic violence throughout the community.
This is Jim’s (not his real name) second year to participate. Both years he was sponsored anonymously for the fundraiser, benefitting the East Texas Crisis Center, located in Tyler and Athens.
He was just 7 when he was woken by the sound of gunshots in his Montgomery County house. All day, he’d watched his father fiddle with a gun he kept on his person, taking it out, putting it back, talking to himself. And now, he lives with the guilt of feeling he could have, should have, done something to prevent what happened to his mom.
Miraculously, his mom survived being shot through her left eye and out the back of her head, but she suffered brain damage, a faulty memory and the inability to cope with stress and intense emotional responses.
“When I was 6, I thought I had a perfect life, until my dad got mad and shot my mom,” Jim told The Monitor. “But looking back, I know now it wasn’t perfect. I walk for those who are still going through domestic violence.”
Of that night, he said: “I was sleeping in the living room, then I heard a POW! And my sister screaming. Then I saw her run out the door. The dog was barking. I went toward the room and saw Dad standing over her saying how sorry he was. He sent me outside to wait for the police. We went to the neighbor’s house and stayed there the rest of the night. I was so sad for over a month and thought it was a dream, but it wouldn’t go away. My sister (then 11) and I didn’t really talk about what happened.”
His parents became sweethearts in junior high school; and the abuse started even back then. “They just kind a grew into their abusive relationship,” one observer surmises.
Today, Jim envisions a future life of a playboy, surrounded by beautiful women around a swimming pool because he’s made it big as a comedian. “I’ve dedicated my life to comedy, because I don’t want to see people sad,” he said. As a fourth grader, last year, he said he got the reputation as the class clown, which he admits wasn’t always a good thing.
“Children involved in abuse will remember stuff they don’t ever want to remember – even if they want to erase it out of their minds,” he said. “I’ll probably never forget it.”
Jim and his sister have been living with a first cousin of their mother’s. For the couple, along with extended family, it’s been one legal battle after another, regarding Jim and his sister.
Their mother healed from her injuries and sees herself as a good mom and lonely for her kids. However, every temporary living situation near her kids has ended in her having to move away.
Every three or four months, she is convinced her kids and she would be better off together than apart and gets a legal aid attorney to take her case. Meanwhile those sheltering her children can no longer afford to lawyer up.
His mom found the latest opportunity to get her kids back through divorcing her jail-residing husband. She has been awarded custody.
On June 3, Jim and his 15-year-old sister will be going to live with their mom in a small trailer on the Texas coastline. She has no car and is still involved with alcohol.
“I love my mom, but I know it’s not safe to live with her,” Jim said.
His greatest hope in living with his mom is he’ll get to have his own electronics, maybe a cell phone, stuff he’s not allowed access to, now. His biggest fear is “seeing me or my sister getting involved in sexual assault,” he said.
He runs down a list of seven things he’s been taught to do to keep himself safe, which includes screaming, fighting back, running away, jumping out of a car, taking a photo or video and calling for help.
The woman he calls grandma describes Jim as frozen in time, emotionally to the age of 7 and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They both could have a chance given some help and stability and an example of healthy living,” Grandma says. “But in these cases of domestic abuse and the (divorce) courts, the effects on the children are rarely taken into consideration.”
Jim’s foster family hopes and prays when the children have to be separated from their mother (again), an occurrence they are certain will happen, that their case for custody will finally be transferred to Henderson County and their guardianship will be firmly established. “That’s what we’re praying for,” foster mom and grandma agree.