RINCON — Dawn Loetscher’s life has been filled with dark twists and turns. She found some light only after enduring an assortment of physical and emotional wounds while growing up in a highly dysfunctional family near Atlanta.
“It was very challenging,” the Rincon resident said. “When you are going through it, though, you don’t really know that you are. You think it’s very normal.”
Loetscher shares her far-from-normal story in “Survivin’ the Hand Life Dealt,” a book published by Outskirts Press.
“Because my dad did drugs, sold drugs and we had that kind of lifestyle at our house, we had to be very careful about any friends that we brought home or anything of that nature,” Loetscher said. “Obviously, we afraid that they would tell someone and we’d get DFACS out there and have to go to foster care. We learned pretty early about who we could trust and who we couldn’t.”
Loetscher could trust virtually no one. Her parents constantly feuded, causing her mother to leave her family behind. Loetscher was just 12 at the time.
“When I was growing up, my mom and I had a very special relationship,” Loetscher said. “It was the kind where if she needed help I would realize it without her telling me.”
Loetscher joined her mother and siblings in a shelter for domestic violence victims numerous times.
“We had Christmas there,” Loetscher said. “We learned how to share toys there.”
When not in a shelter, they frequently bounced from one friend or family member’s house to another.
“And then my dad would follow us and threaten us. It was very chaotic,” Loetscher said.
Loetscher found refuge from the chaos of her youth in reading and writing. Those skills helped her in adulthood, too.
While a college student in Germany — she was married to an American soldier stationed there — Loetscher asked to pen a report on her family history.
“I really had no idea of my culture or where I came from,” she said. “All I knew was that I was a white girl who grew up in DeKalb County on the outskirts of Atlanta near I-285. I kind of felt embarrassed or ashamed that I didn’t know anything about culture when everyone else was talking about coming from Ireland or England or whatever.
“What I basically wrote was what’s in the book, excluding the parts that hadn’t happened yet. I wrote about learning to live by the seat of your pants because every day you might be in a different place.”
Moved by Loetscher’s revelation, her teacher told her that her story might be an inspiration to other people mired in similar circumstances.
“I started thinking that maybe there was something to that,” Loetscher said. “There are so many things that happen to people growing up that makes them feel embarrassed or ashamed because they have been a part of domestic violence or been a victim of it. The same thing goes when you are molested as a child.
“You have all of these things and you don’t have a voice. You don’t know what to do with all your feelings and you develop a people-pleasing attitude, which is what I had my whole life.”
The vulnerable Loetscher wed when she was in high school and worked multiple jobs to survive. The marriage ended in divorce because of domestic violence.
“I wouldn’t tell my family (about the abuse) because I was ashamed, embarrassed and everything else,” she said. “Growing up in domestic violence, you think, ‘Oh, I am not going to let this happen to me.’ ”
Loetscher married again and that union has lasted 20 years. She and her husband have lived in Rincon since 2008.
Before her book was published, Loetscher, who has battled Cushing Syndrome, showed it to her friends and family members, including her husband.
“I asked them if they were comfortable with it because this is how it happened,” she said.
No one voiced opposition, including her father, a former inmate at Coastal State Prison in Savannah.
“He’s turned his life around,” Loetscher said. “He’s a preacher.”
““Survivin’ the Hand Life Dealt” — a tale of faith and forgiveness — is available at amazon.com.