Having witnessed the indecencies of our justice system and the insidious nature of power and patriarchy, I am part of the 74% of Americans who know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. I was about five or six years old the first time I witnessed intimate partner violence (IPV); my mother, at twenty-one, was gasping for air by the hands of a young man, likely no older than I am today. It is unfortunate, yet telling, that often times it is violence and power that give us our element of humanity. And although it is my first vivid memory, it was surely not the last. A number of broken bones and ribs, collapsed lungs and swollen features later, I found myself face to face in a number of hospital rooms with a resilient yet lost soul; a woman who had not yet found the resolve to transition from victim to survivor.
You know the stereotype: young girl is molested at an early age and/or abandoned by her father, causing her to search for validation by spinning around a pole and dancing buck-ass naked for money and attention from random men. I’m not going to say this stereotype isn’t true because if I did, I would be lying. The fact of the matter is that my father molested me repeatedly when I was in preschool, and then once again when I was fourteen years of age.
For as long as I've remembered, my grandfather has played the starring role in all of my father's stories. Dad will always, to this day, proudly describe my grandfather to me and my little brother as a bold, patriotic, and dashingly handsome young man, a perfect specimen of Korean manhood who will risk everything to protect his loved ones.
Once, for an elementary school assignment on illustrating our heritages, I drew my grandfather as a raven-haired, smiling stick figure holding the Korean flag. When we presented our drawings, I proudly retold my father's stories about my perfect, adventurous grandfather, embellishing details until my fellow classmates' eyes bulged in awe or narrowed in disbelief. My grandpa, I thought, was the most accomplished, caring, hard-working, and loving person in the entire world.