'I Can Still Remember the Pain of the Sink Right Against My Chest' - FabFitFun

‘I Can Still Remember the Pain of the Sink Right Against My Chest’

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A few dislocated shoulders, lots of broken bones, stabbing with needles, getting cut with razor blades — that was Elizabeth Steffel’s childhood.

Her mother was bipolar and her father was schizophrenic, so by the time she was 3-years-old her family had moved five times. When she was 4-years-old, her father thought she was trying to poison him.

“I remember doing the dishes and somehow I got the dish soap into the rinse water and my dad — who’s schizophrenic — thought that I trying to poison him. He grabbed the back of my head and just shoved me into the sink, trying to drown me. It’s weird because I can still remember the pain of the sink right against my chest.”


By the time Elizabeth was in kindergarten, her dad got involved in a neopagan cult and became convinced that she was possessed by an evil spirit that needed to be beaten out of her.

Then there was the knife game.

“[My father and his friend] had their pocket knives that they would throw up above my head, and if they stuck in the ceiling it meant I was good, if it fell down and hit me, it meant I was bad.”

The intense abuse continued into her teen years — everything from broken jaws to beatings. Meanwhile, her parents had a hard time holding down jobs. They lived in poverty that was so bad, she had wear her brother’s clothes, including his underwear.

While she was getting beat up at home (and at school), she found comfort with her school teachers. They noticed something was wrong, so many of them let her come to school early and stay on campus later.

By the time she turned 12-years-old, the abuse worsened. One time, she was hit so hard on her spine that she couldn’t lay down. When she told her neighbor’s mother, the police didn’t believe her. They thought she was just a troubled teen.


Later on, she was finally placed in a foster home. But four months later (under a new law that required her to be reunified with her parents), Elizabeth was forced back into her mother’s home. Within a few months, her mom tried to kill her with a telephone cord.

She was once again put back into foster care and eventually when she turned 18-years-old, the system couldn’t do anything for her anymore. Elizabeth became homeless and thought about stripping after school to make money.

A school counselor intervened and got her involved with a transitional living program. She got an apartment at a very low cost, and the counselor taught her the importance of college and how to apply for admission.

But as her life began to calm down, depression started to sink in.

“Once I was finally living on my own and I wasn’t in survival mode anymore — depression just hit,” said Elizabeth. “My thoughts at the time were, ‘I’m going to be alone the rest of my life. I’m never going to have a family the rest of my life. Everybody around me has support and family and people that care, but it’s going to be just me for there rest of my life.’ I became very suicidal.”


Luckily, Elizabeth’s high school counselor noticed the signs and got her the help she needed and provided her with tools for her future.

“Family isn’t just who you live with — it’s your teacher, your community, your friends. You can actually build your own family. With that I had hope for the world,” said Elizabeth.

Now, Elizabeth is getting her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California. She hopes that through her experience, she can help foster youth nationwide. When she reflects on her past and how things could have been different, Elizabeth encourages people to pay attention and notice the signs. They’re there for a reason and one report, one phone call could change a child’s life.

xx, The FabFitFun Team

You can learn more about domestic violence here and if you know anyone in a potentially abusive relationship please contact the National Domestic Violence hotline.

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month, we’re featuring the stories of brave women who have overcome domestic violence. Read and share these stories so that we can be one step closer to a world without domestic violence. 

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  1. Roseann Tiralli-Giannone

    October 27, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    FabFitFun please check your private messages – thank you.

  2. KJ Fyten

    October 27, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    God bless this woman and the best to her for her future.

  3. Alaina Anson

    October 27, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    I’m sooooo disappointed in social service systems in general. It’s disgusting.

  4. Keri Bahr

    October 27, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    This is horrifying! So sad what mental illness does to people. What an amazing woman to come out of that a better person and wanting to help others.

  5. Magen Marie

    October 27, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Sad story hope she can save some lives

  6. Anne Soulidis Williams

    October 27, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    So so sad

  7. Allie Sisk

    October 27, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    That’s very sad

  8. Cherice Waterbury

    October 27, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    What’s sick is this kind of stuff happens all the time. What’s worse is the majority of cases that childrens services should remove a child from an extremely dangerous situation, it doesn’t happen. My mother was investigated countless times when I was a child. No one did anything until I secretly recorded her and went to the police on my own at 12. Foster care in my state is usually not much better.

  9. Laura Michele

    October 28, 2015 at 4:02 am

    Sad Myrissa Gay

  10. Melissa Fonville

    October 28, 2015 at 9:11 am

    The same here. We called so many times and nothing was ever done. And that was the foster home my brothers and sister and I had been put into.

  11. Sandy Torres

    October 28, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    This is so heartbreaking U0001f494 my prayers are always with children/babies being abused. The thought and knowing that so many children are going through this at this very moment all around this world makes me so sick.

  12. Katherine Miller

    November 1, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    How do we get involved to help in ways that can make a difference?

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    August 4, 2016 at 10:05 pm

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