I have a memory of me sitting on my bed in a large, well-lit room. Above me hangs a picture of Madonna, the singer I loved so much. It was just before I entered the 8th grade, two weeks before the school year began.
On the table were my new notebooks, impeccably arranged. Beside them was the new colorful pencil case my dad bought me. He would always take us to buy whatever we needed for school and told us we could choose anything we wanted. He spared no expense. It was important to him that we were the best students possible. And we were.
Dad was a teacher and was home with us every day during summer break. I often wondered why we needed this long break. I didn't understand why he chose this profession that kept him near us from dawn to dusk for two months. The holiday months were a terrible time for me because my father was a violent abuser. He hurt us physically and emotionally, all year round but it was always worse during school holidays. My mother was a victim of his violent behavior as well and it was only when I turned 20, that I escaped.
My vacations were spent in fear. I knew to expect his outbursts. I knew that if I said the wrong word, I would be punished either by degradation or by violence.
My mother who was also a teacher and served as a vice principal, also stayed home during the summer. Although she probably wanted to get away, she remained close by in order to protect us. He not only abused her verbally but on occasion would threaten to murder her while holding a knife to her throat. It was a nightmare that never ended and we lived in constant fear. I hated my home.
September 1st marked freedom. It was the start of the days when I was able to feel somewhat normal. For half of each day, I was at school and my dad was at work. So even if only for a few hours, I could be like other children. This was what I had been longing for, during the two-month holiday.
Everyone thought our family was perfect. Parents who are educators and a house that appeared cultured. But that was because they did not hear his shouts and our screams and when he threatened our mother with murder. They did not hear him when he yelled at me that I was worthless.
Sometimes, it would stop, but only for a short while. Like the rare moment when I would sut on the bed, under the picture of Madonna, the singer I loved so much. A moment when I could feel what every teenage girl feels before the school year begins.
Sharon Bar-el Tamir operates a Facebook group to combat domestic violence, is a content editor, and lectures on her life story.