Rising Up – Teaching Respect For One Another
I was 13 years old when my stepfather targeted me. My two younger sisters, my mom, myself and my stepfather were living in Massachusetts, and one day my stepfather had me pinned in a corner. That’s when my mom stepped in, and he put me and my younger sister in another room and started beating on my mom.
I managed to get away and ran three blocks to our babysitter’s house. It all happened so fast – I don’t even remember stopping.
My mom had married my stepfather when I was 5 years old. Their relationship started out okay, but after a few years, that’s when his true colors started showing. You never want anyone – let alone your own mother – to be in that situation.
I dealt with my stepfather’s abuse toward me growing up I believe because my mom was very protective of me. Getting hit by him, getting beat by him, getting put down by him… it happened to my mom and to myself.
Now I recognize it as something that some men do, where they talk down to their partner to make them feel like they’re not worth anything, like they can’t do any better. They fall into a loop – a cycle – and might even begin telling themselves, “He won’t do this to me tomorrow.”
I’m proud of my mom for realizing that this relationship wasn’t good for her or for us as her kids. It was tough for her to leave, but eventually she did. After that, my mom was a worked three jobs as a single mom to support us kids. I give her so much respect for that.
Today I have two kids of my own and have been married for 12 years. I’m from the Hazzard Clan from the Wabbaquasset Nipmuc People. In our tribe, our elders teach us to have respect for all living things and for one another as people. These lessons are a part of who I am as man, a husband and a father.
It’s upsetting to me whenever I see a man lay a hand on a woman. Sometimes it starts off with something little, and it just gets worse. Sometimes we see people we know in the news when they pass on because the violence went too far.
What I teach my kids is you treat others the way you want to be treated, to have full respect for themselves and others. Violence is not the key to anything, really all it does is lead to more violence. That’s the best way to live: to treat others the way you want to be treated.
For our people out there who are in abusive relationship, you have to know how important it is to talk to someone, maybe a close friend or family member you trust. You can also call the StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-762-8483) to talk with someone from our communities who understands what domestic violence is and can offer help. Whether it’s verbal abuse, physical abuse or something else, it helps to talk to someone who can help you get over the hurdle.
I never want to see anyone in any kind of situation where they are put down or experiencing some other kind of abuse. You are meant to be happy and to live a happy life.
If you or someone you know is in abusive relationship, please call StrongHearts at 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483), open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central time, seven days a week. We’re here to hear your story when you’re ready to reach out.
Chief George BearClaw McClure is the proud leader of the Hazzard Clan, of the Wabbaquasset Nipmuc People. The Hazzards have been known throughout their Native communities since the 1600s. He has been married for 12 years and has two children, ages 11 and 9. Follow George on Twitter at @GeorgeBearClaw.