My step-dad could be a violent man. He could also be the nicest person you could ever wish to meet. He married my mum when I was eleven; my sister (his daughter) was one. I can’t pinpoint exactly how or when the violence started but I have vivid recollections of being woken up in the middle of the night by vicious arguments – I would lie still in bed, holding my breath, trying desperately to hear what was happening, listening for my mums voice to confirm she was ok. Occasionally, when I felt brave I would shout out and tell him to leave my mum alone, but mum would always tell me that everything was ok and to go back to sleep. Nothing was ever mentioned the following morning but I could sense that something was changing and although I felt really scared for mum I didn’t intervene.
Things soon went from bad to worse and it wasn’t long before his attention was on my sister and me. Being a very cunning and sly man he always waited until mum was out of the way before he started. I can remember when he picked my sister up and threw her against the fire because her hands were still wet after washing them – she was only three years old yet even at that age she knew better than to cry. Another time he hit her so hard across her back she could barely breathe – I held my sister in my arms and thought she was going to die.
I was often physically abused, but he knew how to hit so it didn’t leave a mark. I was also mentally and verbally abused. He told me he used to watch me through the window when I was in the bath and watch me at night getting changed. He used to go outside to tap or bang on my bedroom window, knowing that the fear it instilled would keep me awake all night. He started to take money from my mum’s purse and blame me. When I joined the senior school he refused to let me do any homework – he would rip pages out of my exercise books so that course work was missing – I was constantly in trouble. He stopped my friends from calling at the house. He even counted the number of sheets on a toilet roll so he could check how many sheets I had used after going to the toilet. He persistently told me that I was fat and ugly with horrible legs and that no man would ever find me attractive. We were ‘play’ fighting one day – he stripped me naked. He didn’t touch me but he looked at me with disgust, threw my pants at me and told me to get dressed. I was fourteen years old. The list goes on…
To this day I don’t know what it was that set him off – he didn’t drink or take drugs but it was like living with Jekyll and Hyde. He could be laughing and joking with you one minute, then have you pinned up against the wall the next. As I got older I did start to retaliate, but ended up leaving home when I was 15 years old because I was led to believe that the relationship would stand a better chance of survival if I wasn’t around. Four months later, my step dad left for good.
When I look back now I can’t believe that I didn’t talk to my mum and tell her what was happening. I think fear and shame stopped me. Maybe if mum and I had spoken more openly about it, we would have found the support in each other to take action. We had no phone and my mum couldn’t drive – I think these factors definitely didn’t help the situation but I guess what I am trying to say is don’t look for excuses. Domestic violence in any form is not something that you have to put up with it, no matter how bad things get please don’t think there is no way out - because there is. Today, thanks to the wonders of the internet, help is at hand. Whatever situation you might find yourself in, there a plenty of support groups out there waiting for your call. Remember that domestic violence comes in many different forms and can affect everyone regardless of their age, race, religion or background. Many of these groups are run and supported by ex-victims of domestic violence who understand fully what you are experiencing. All contact is confidential so don’t ever think that you are alone or that it can’t be stopped.
CLICK HERE to go to our useful links page. Here you will find some relevant websites listed that can help.
So please, break that cycle and make that call.