Long before October was deemed Domestic Violence Awareness Month, my relatives knew all too well what it was and what it did.

Abuse separates. It isolates. And it leaves behind a distinct sadness that’s impossible to ignore.

My maternal grandmother’s sister Mamie J. had “violent husbands,” my mom recalled. My grandmother, Lula Bryant Pinkard (1925-1983) would sometimes visit Mamie J in Columbus, Ga., not too far from where she lived in Omaha.                        The signs of Mamie J’s abuse were painfully obvious: a blackened eye here, bruised flesh there. But one thing remained constant:

“There was just no happiness around that house,” my mom said.

Mamie J had a number of abusive relationships, and they seemed to escalate. During one visit, my mom recalled that Mamie J’s neck had been cut.

“There was this long slash down her neck,” my mom recalled.

In fact, in a bit of tragic irony, that’s the most prominent physical feature my mom remembers about Mamie J: the scar the abuse left behind.