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Hayley Kauffman - Not Staying Behind

Here I am, sitting on my green couch in my empty living room. I sit cross-legged, staring at my mother and her fiancé. This is not a happy family memory,looking at young love in front of me. Rather, I am looking at my parents in a very heated argument, wanting to cover my ears from how loud they are. This was normal to me, living every day in some sort of chaos. It is normal for me to see couples fighting and hurting each other. My parents had always fought in front of me,somehow even pulling me in in some arguments. In this certain argument, that same thing was happening. I get up from the couch after my mother tries to pull me in.

I stand in the middle of the two,trying to push them both back while begging them to stop fighting. My sad attempt only made things worse, making my mother tell me to get in our car with my sister.

I walk into my room, seeing my younger sister try to distract herself from hearing or witnessing anything. I urge her to get up and tell her to get into our car. As we walked out of our room, I could tell something violent was going on in our parent's room, judging from the screaming and thumping sounds. I push my sister to walk faster as we head out of the house. My sister and I get into the car as my mother runs out and gets into the car along with us. My mother's fiancé puts his arms in the car, trying to drag my mother outside. Eventually, my mother finally pulls the car out of the driveway and drives off quickly.

I remember all of us silently crying in the car, not wanting to talk about anything that was happening. I knew this was normal for me, but it still stung deep in me. I quietly whispered into the air, "I just want a family" I could feel my heart breaking, tired of this situation. I pressed my head against the window, looking out onto the rain and city lights.

I did not know our destination or the time, nor did I care. After the long silence, my mother mutters out if I could call my aunt. I nod, pulling out my phone. I press the button to turn it on, only to see seven new messages. I open them up,curious to see who would text me so much. As the screen changes, my stomach sank. My head starts to spin. I look at the pictures, now with tears spilling from my eyes. Pictures on top of pictures fill my screen with my mother's fiancé hurting himself.With blood filling the photos, I felt sick, knowing I could not take it anymore. I felt like I was never going to escape this abuse.

My name is Hayley Reese Kauffman, and my journey started on May 18th, 2001. I was born in Redding, California, where I spent the first sixteen years of my life. It was around the second or third grade thatI realized that my family was different, to say the least. When I went over to my friend's house for a fun sleepover, I was genuinely shocked to see my family's differences from theirs. Soon enough, after many sleepovers, I had an epiphany that normal parents do not fight every day.Mothers do not leave for days on end for you to take care of your younger sibling at the ripe age of ten. Fathers can actually talk to their children in a non-demeaning manner and can actually act like you exist.Normal Step-parents do not put their hands on you. I knew I could have had a different life, and it bothered me that I did not. My friends had everything I wanted. I wanted a family. I wanted a step-parent who would not hurt me in every way possible. I wanted a mother and father who would notice me. I wanted somewhere to live and not be scared to lose it tomorrow. I wanted to go to school and not be scared that people would point out my bruises and sad mood. I wanted togo to high school with my friends. I wanted to live one day without feeling like I should leave this earth.

In 2016, I took matters into my own hands and got onto a Greyhound Bus and took a three-day trip to Taos, New Mexico. I finally left what was hurting me. It was two years in Taos when CPS took me out of my household and into a Transitional LivingProgram called DreamTree.

Never  in my life did I think I would live on my own, away from my abuse, let alone be alive. I want to tell my story to the world because I know there is a kid out there somewhere begging to know if they are alone. You are never alone. People are waiting to help you. I want to be that person to someone. I want to be that person that people refer to if someone is going through something similar. I want someone to look at me and say, "If she went through this and survived, then so can I" There is more to life than your past.You can and will come out stronger than your abusers. Do not let them have control of you any longer.

Now in 2020, I live on my own with my amazing boyfriend. I have two dogs, Daisy and Koda, I graduated high school, which was unheard of in my family, and I started college this year. I will be starting my second semester soon. I have dreams of being a nurse. I also wish to tell my story to everyone. When I was locked in my abuse, I never had any dreams. I only knew how to survive. I did not know there was a life beyond trauma. It has only been two years since I have left, and I have a huge journey of healing in front of me, but for the first time in my life, I feel that there is finally something worth living for. Life is beautiful,and it is just waiting for me and you to take it. Your past will never define you. You are worthy of love just as much as I am. Do not let these hardships take you over,especially in 2020. Reach out to people and find help. You are never alone on your journey.