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First-place $50 (tie)

Author’s name withheld, Hollywood HS

I was half-awake on the living room couch with a blanket over my head. The living room lights were on. I could see the room through a small slit in the blanket. I felt like the blanket was transparent, because I saw the whole room clearly.

My dad entered the apartment, swaying as though his weight was unbalanced. His face was full of anger. He didn’t even know why he was angry. His eyes were red, as if he was staring into a pool of blood. He wobbled into my mom’s room.

The silence was shattered by broken glass followed by loud noises of objects hitting the wall, screaming and fists hitting my mom. Those noises were like ice, because I froze for a moment.

Then I started walking toward the phone. Shivering. Not because of the cold, but because of fear. I managed to pick up the phone and pushed in three numbers. I answered the stranger’s questions with a blank mind. I just talked.

Through my watery eyes, I saw a blurred man run out the door. But not until I stopped hearing his feet stomping in the hallway did the tears actually run down my face.

After the police came and did their report, I comforted my mother and started recalling other times like this—the times when I didn’t do anything. I learned that I didn’t have to live with violence in my home. There will always be violence around us, but it doesn’t mean we have to accept it.

First place $50 (tie)
Author’s name withheld, Jefferson HS

I have been abused verbally, mentally and physically. Different members of my family are to blame. When I was a 6-year-old, my mother sent little snacks to my school for me to sell. I was not allowed to eat any of those items. I’d get a beating if money or merchandise was missing. My mother was the first person to abuse me verbally and physically. She’d hit me and swear at me. The abuse continued until my early teenage years.

My older brother and I have always been so different. He has reacted violently toward me many times. I remember him kicking me so hard on my butt once that it left me gasping for air. He’s married now and is abusive toward his wife, too. Over the years, I tried to stay away from him, because he used to drink. He’d get drunk and stare at me in a way that a brother should never do. One time, he got drunk and tried to rape me. My mother ignored me when I told her. She slapped me across the face. He has always been her favorite child.

I have an uncle whom I hate and hope to never face again. He used to torture me using cigarettes. He’d burn me and hit me. He also looked at me strangely. He tried to hug and kiss me many times. He chased me around. He also tried to rape me many times. It’s hard to write and think about him without wishing him hell.

One time I told my mother about my uncle, but she didn’t listen. These situations have caused me loneliness and frustration. The thing that most confuses me is that I can’t count on my mother.

I have a hard time remembering all the violence that I’ve faced for many years. I see how it has shaped me. I used to have very low self-esteem and was shy and afraid of everybody. Now I have a daughter, and I will be a good mother to her. I will use all of those experiences to be a better person and a good mother.

Second place $30
Author’s name withheld, Jefferson HS

I was born into a drug-dealing family. My family always had to be aware of thieves, or as drug dealers call them, bajadores. But the most awful thing violence has done to me is me made me lose my oldest brother, because he tried to follow in my family’s tradition.

My earliest memories include my family dealing drugs. I’ve never had one family member with a decent job. Nor did I have a brother, sister or cousin who went to college.

On one hand, easy money made it a good life. But violence was also a part of that high-rolling life. There were thieves out there whom we had to be aware of. When unscrupulous people know that you have money, they want some of it. Believe me, they’ll do whatever it takes to get it. They use weapons to get your money.

One night when I was about 14, I woke up in the middle of the night with a gun in my face. The stranger holding it told me not to scream. I stayed still and watched them put a gun in my dad’s face and then stole his drugs.

But the main reason I hate violence so much is because it killed my brother. He wanted to continue the family tradition and be a drug dealer. But he got what all drug dealers end up getting.

He went to Tijuana, Mexico. To do what, I’m not sure. But I am sure it was related to drug dealing.

A few hours after he left, our family was notified that he was dead. He was shot by other drug dealers with a gun that destroyed half of his face. Then he bled to death.

Many people believe that drug dealing cannot end, but it did end in my life. I learned from my brother’s death that drug dealing and getting easy money is not the way to success. Drug dealing killed my brother, and in time it could take much more. I’m getting through high school, and I have already enrolled in college. I will never marry a person who is remotely close to dealing with drugs. I will live my life away from the life I was brought up in, because I know that I deserve better.

Third place $20

Author’s name withheld, Jefferson HS

Violence has affected my life in many ways starting with even before I was born. My dad used to beat my mom. He even did it the day before she gave birth to me. I’ve always felt responsible for this.

I’m very violent myself, especially with my mom. I’m afraid that I’ll find a husband who will treat me the same way my dad used to treat my mom.

One reason why I’m violent is because I’ve seen my dad beat my mom practically every day when he drank, was on drugs or whenever he felt like it.

One night my dad beat my mom, and it scared my sister and me. I took my sister by the hand and went outside to cry. My dad hit my mom, and all she could do was scream and try to fight back. This affected me a lot. I never wanted my dad to come home from work, and I was always scared when it was time for him to return from work.

I knew that the second he’d walk through the door, he’d hit my mom. So I’d try to keep him happy the minute he came home. But that never worked.

The beatings my mom took from my dad were terrible. He hit her as if he hit a man. Anything he could get his hands on would go straight at my mom. Every day my mom wore sunglasses, because her eyes would always be black and purple. She had big and nasty bruises on her back, legs and arms. I know this because every night she rubbed alcohol on them and got ready for her next beating.

In a way, I always felt that I was responsible for what my mom was going through, because I never said anything about it. I guess I was too scared to say anything to anybody. Up until this point, my mom sometimes makes me feel that I’m still responsible for what happened to her. That really affected me.

Another way violence has affected my life is that I’ve become aggressive with my mother every time she compares me to my dad. I get angry and we yell at each other. My sister always gets in the way of our arguments and tries to stop us. I know that I do not like to be told what to do, but around my mom, one must learn to be silent when she gives an order. That’s pretty hard for me to do. Even though we don’t hit each other, the words that we say to one another are pretty cruel and always ends with our feelings hurt. This happens a lot. Ever since my dad left us, these problems have become worse, because she always compares me to my dad. I’ve never liked it, and I’m never going to like it.

One time I went to visit my dad in jail and even then he was being cruel and uncaring to my mom. The inhumanity that my mom went through was unbelievable. That cycle is not for me. I will not be treated that way and have learned from my mom’s mistake. Yet there’s always something in the back of my head reminding me to be careful or the same thing will happen to me.

I had to break up with my boyfriend because of an argument we had, and he raised his hand to hit me. At that moment, my mom’s life flashed right before my eyes. I deserve better than an abusive husband. My boyfriend and I were planning on getting engaged but not anymore. Not after he tried to hit me.

In the future, I hope to forget those awful memories of cruelty toward my mother, and that they will become no more than invisible scars in my mind. I hope to control my temper with my mom and be nicer to her. I hope to trust others and understand they don’t want to hurt me every time they raise their voice or hands when we argue.

That will be the day that I have forgotten that violence once existed in my life, and that it really affected me.

Honorable mention

Author’s name withheld, Hollywood HS

It was late one afternoon, and I was on my way home from school. There weren’t many people in the streets. So few that you could have counted them.

On my way home, I usually pass by a broken-down old street where a lot of homeless people hang out. But mixed among them are people who hang out there waiting to make trouble. They have never started anything with me, and I’m not sure why. But I often see them picking on people and trying to take their money away or taking whatever they can get. And they like fighting. They’re always up to no good.

But one day these troublemakers sunk to a new low.

There was a kid, about 9 years old, riding his little bike up the block. These guys saw him riding up there and blocked the sidewalk so he couldn’t pass. As the kid approached, he noticed they were not going to move. I guess he got the idea that they were up to no good. So he turned his bike around to head back the other way. One of the bad guys ran after him and grabbed him off his bike. Then the other bad guys ran up behind him. They dropped the kid on the floor and started to beat up on him. They kicked him and stepped on him. They all did it at once. The boy screamed for help and begged for them to stop. But they continued to do it. The more the kid screamed, the more they beat up on him.

After they finished beating up on him, they picked him up from the floor and put him against the wall where they made him a human punching bag. Other people passed by on the streets and saw what was happening, but no one could do anything. If anyone tried to help, they’d jump on us, too.

The beating continued until the cops drove by and saw what was happening. They grabbed the bad guys and arrested them. Then they took the young boy to the hospital.

I’ve never seen those guys since that day. I still see the young boy riding his bike, but he’s more cautious of what he’s doing and where he rides his bike.

That was the most violent thing I’ve ever seen on the streets. I hope to never see it again.