Behind My Smile

By Rathana Puth

© Rathana Puth

This blog was developed as part of the Voices of Youth blogging internship assignment requirement. Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.

A fond moment I remember from childhood was sitting on my mom’s laps in the front seat of my dad’s car. We were so happy and at that time, I thought that I was the happiest kid in the world. But one night, everything changed. It was a night that has since colored my entire life.

My dad was sitting on the other side of my bed, his hands covering his face. My mom stood next to him, yelling and crying. I was so scared and I didn’t know what to do. I hid myself under a blanket trying to avoid everything that was going on. I heard my mom scream and she said to me not to hide myself because she wouldn’t take me with her anyway. She tried to pull me out but I wouldn’t budge. I said to myself that I hated her — I did not want her to be my mom anymore. After a moment, my dad stopped her and they went out of my room. They kept arguing for hours but I couldn’t hear much of the words. All I could hear was that my mom didn’t want me and she said she’d made such a big mistake keeping me. I was only 9 years old back then, so I didn’t really know what she meant. But I felt really hurt and I wanted her out of my life. That night I fell asleep on my own tears.

After that rough night, my life completely changed. My parents got divorced and I had to move to live with someone else. I thought that everything would be fine, until I moved into my relative’s family. My relative had a violent personality; he would beat me every time I did something wrong. He called me a shameless person, said to me that my mother was a whore and everything that came to his mind. When I was in grade 8, I ran away from home once because I couldn’t take it anymore. My dad was living at the countryside. I called him and asked him for help, but he kept saying that I had to be strong and keep fighting. How can a 13-year-old kid fight to protect himself, I wondered. So I ended up going back because I had nowhere else to go. Ever since I came back, the same thing kept happening to me almost everyday.

There was nothing I could do to make my life better. Every time I tried to make my life better I always failed. I never experienced the happiness from my parents anymore. I missed my old life so much I cried myself to sleep every night. Sometimes I asked myself why this was happening to me and why I didn’t have a big happy family like other kids. But looking back on it today, it makes me realize that all those things were meant to make me strong and independent. If it didn’t happen to me, I might not be able to stand up for myself and be who I am today.

Violence against children is still widespread in our society. In a 2013 UNICEF report, 1 in 2 children under 18 years old faced physical violence. In addition, 1 in 4 children reported experiencing emotional violence before turning 18.

Somehow, society has come to view violence against children as normal and even acceptable. But it is never okay, and it needs to be stopped.
How about you? Have you experienced any violence in your life? Share your story with me…!

Originally posted on Friday, August 19, 2016

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