Is Violence a Choice?

Delta Winds cover 2016Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


Is Violence a Choice?

April Cox

By the time my mother was twenty she had three children, my two older sisters and me. When I was nine months old, my mother willingly signed over custody of us to my grandparents. She was irritated because the time caring for us took away from her partying. Society could argue that she wasn't prepared to have children. She was just a child herself. However she was the one who chose to have unprotected sex. Three years later my mother had my younger sister. By that time my mother had become wise to the welfare system and knew if she were able to keep my sister, she would be able to get financial assistance.

The first time I saw my mother being physically violent was when I was about eight years old. Usually, when my sisters and I visited our mother, she would watch television in her bedroom, while all of my sisters and I would play and talk. My mother was lazy and asked for things to be brought to her. At first my older sisters and I complied, but then we got tired of constantly getting up to get what she wanted and we began to complain. I noticed my younger sister looking scared and telling us to just do it and be quiet. I didn't understand why she was reacting that way. I thought, "This is the way we always act," and my two older sisters and I continued on as normal. My mother yelled at us and then told us to leave the bedroom. My mother told my younger sister to stay in the room and shut the door. I could see my sister's face as we closed the door. She was terrified.

As soon as we reached the other side of the wall, we heard a struggle, a slap, a yelp, and then a boom! The entire wall shook. There were a few moments of utter silence and then the door opened again. When my older sisters and I walked back in the room, we knew exactly what had happened. My mother had punched our sister in the head, pulled her hair and then threw her across the room, and the boom was my sister's five-year-old body hitting the opposite wall. My sister's cheek was red from where she got hit, her shirt was ripped, her hair was a mess; she was dead silent and shaking very badly. My sisters and I did the only thing we thought we could do at the time, which was to embrace and hold her.

I never looked at my mother the same way again. After that, when we went to visit my mother it wasn't for her, it was for our little sister. It was obvious that although that was the first time we had seen physical violence it wasn't the first time it had happened. It was a choice my mother had made. When things didn't go her way, she chose to vent all of her anger and frustration. Eventually my grandparents gained custody of my younger sister at the age of thirteen, which left my mother completely alone.

After my younger sister was gone, my mother became desperate. She no longer had her monthly check coming in. Just like every survivor, she evaluated her options and decided to be creative to get what she wanted. She would brag that she was able to beat the system. On one occasion she cut her wrists so she could get benefits and prescription drugs. She had the "mentally ill" act down to a tee. She was so good family members were unsure themselves. But I knew better. I could see those "accidental moments of clarity." This usually occurred when she realized she wasn't going to get what she wanted, or if a person wasn't getting the point fast enough.

My mother is a very selfish person; she only thinks of herself. She is never above manipulating anyone to get what she wants. Some people could say "She was too young to know any better," but she knew exactly what she was doing. I believe violence towards another living being is a choice. Violent people allow anger, frustration and irritation to take over. I think it is because violent people are unhappy and want others around them to feel the same way. So they act violently. Everyone has a conscience, but only some decide to listen to it. Ultimately my mother decided to become a violent person and not just once, but throughout her life. In the end she is the one who has to live with the decisions she has made.