In Defense of My Mother

Heather Monroe
36 min readAug 14, 2021

How I Ended My Family’s Cycle of Violence and Sexual Abuse

Mom, 1984, From my private collection, used with permission/Heather Monroe

I dread questions about my childhood. Most people can whip out a happy memory to fondly share with folks who relate. Ask for their earliest memory, and they’ll usually tell you about the first day of school or a vacation.

I recall a few fond memories, too, like my grandma’s plump fingers rubbing my forehead or me, shoving rolly pollies in the front pocket of my Oshkosh b’Goshes. But, you don’t get to be Hank Monroe’s* daughter without retaining a million horrific memories as a direct result of the trauma that he perpetrated.

I remember walking into the bathroom at age 12 and finding my father lying in the bathtub. His fixed eyes stared vacantly into the mid-distance, and his naked body was covered in blood. I watched in terror, wondering what to do. He laughed maniacally at my reaction when he yelled, “boo!” Dad wasn’t dead. The blood was just ketchup, and I was not amused.

My stories are scary, traumatic, and sometimes stomach-turning. Inevitably, anyone who listens walks away disgusted and fuming mad at my mother, who dared allow such things to happen in the first place.

Los Angeles: 1978

Author as a blonde toddler sitting in the sun on an yellow apartment balcony.
Me at our Los Angeles Apartment, about 1979/Heather Monroe

My earliest memory is most vivid. It was 1978, and although my name is Heather, everyone called me Hez. I wore homemade jammies made of cream-colored flannel, trimmed with a royal blue satin ribbon. I spun wildly in a plush, avocado green Papasan chair. Each whirl around, I’d catch a glimpse of my parents.

Dad stood in front of our picture window and held my mother, Dawn, to his chest. Her neck craned back, causing her hair to fall down her back in loose, honey-colored waves.

I thought my parents were dancing at first, but there was no music. What I remember is the booming sound of my father’s voice.

“I’ll kill you!” Dad screamed, “I’ll shove this fucking knife down your throat!” Dad’s steely blue eyes were narrow and sharp, and the corners of his mouth turned down in a threatening grimace. I giggled at his puffed-up chest. I thought he had the form of Mighty…

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Heather Monroe

Welcome readers! Heather Monroe is a genealogist and writer who resides in California with her partner and their nine children. •True Crime• History• Memoir•