What happened

My parents divorced when I was young. After then, my sister and I were moved to a flat with mum and her boyfriend. We grew up in a very dangerous environment and would lay awake to shouting and screaming. Over time it became the usual for us. It wasn’t unusual to have police come over, and then it would start all over again.

When I was aged between 5-7 years old, mum would let her boyfriend babysit me whilst she took my sister out to work. His behaviour made me feel uncomfortable and I had to promise never to tell anyone. I remember begging mum to stay but she would tell me not to be so silly. I remember always rushing upstairs to avoid being alone. He would come and bring me downstairs. Eventually one day, the police came and that was the last we heard of him.

The years of my childhood were scarred. Scary. I hated school, had few friends, I was always wanting mum to never leave me and would fake illness to stay with mum. My sister and I would spend our early years with our dad in the weekends. This was my freedom and I never wanted to leave.

How I coped

I thought it was just normal. My childhood was chaotic, violent, abusive and dangerous. I blocked these events out. I never spoke about it. I enjoyed being at dad’s, would spend hours colouring and reading. All I really wanted was my mum.

When I started a sexual relationship with a boyfriend at the age of 15, I started having flashbacks. I talked about it to my boyfriend as a way of trying to explain my lack of interest in sex.

At 22 I was expecting out first child. I couldn’t believe the love I felt. I decided to tell mum what had happened all those years ago. She told me I was lying. She told me how she never left me alone. She didn’t believe me.

I contacted my sister, distressed. She knew what I was going to say, I couldn’t believe it. She knew. It had happened to her too. Our bond grew and we spoke about our distress. I could bear to think why mum didn’t believe me, especially as it had happened to both her daughters. Mum and I never spoke until I learned of her terminal illness. I spend two weeks caring for her. We didn’t speak about it. I saw a vulnerable side to mum. She cried. It was that moment that I saw mum with love in her eyes. I realised then, she too was scared.

I had tried seeing a psychologist when I was pregnant but the distress it caused from one week to the next was just too great. I decided that my childhood experiences would not define me. It was part of me. It gave me an awareness of always looking out for my children. I realised that my experience would protect my children and keep them safe. I knew that raising my children would be my number 1 priority, and if they were ever subjected to any inkling of violence in the home, I would protect them by leaving.

My advice

Speak to someone you trust – a teacher, a school counsellor, or call a helpline. Write a journal and seek help.