When I look back on my childhood, I would not say that it was defined by the family violence that I experienced. In fact, if you asked me to describe how I grew up, that’s not even the first thing that comes to mind. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but it was so normal for my family that I didn’t make a big deal of it.
My father used to abuse my mum, both physically and mentally, and sometimes he would turn on me and my brother. He would beat my mum, usually at night, with wooden spoons from the kitchen, beer bottles, his hands and yell at her. He tried to suffocate my brother with a pillow. He was sneaky and careless, letting us do anything we wanted when we stayed at his house. He taught us to steal things from the supermarket when we went shopping with him, let us watch scary movies and have alcohol and we ran around with no shoes and ratty clothes.
But I think the thing that I remember the most is when I had to comfort mum. She would come to my bedroom and curl up with me crying with bruises on her face and arms. There’s something strange about comforting your mum when you’re a child, because you’re thinking “this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.” Your mum is supposed to be the one who looks after you. This forced me to grow up fast, do things that young kids shouldn’t have to worry about.
I don’t blame mum for anything, she was just trying to keep her head above water to get us all out of there.
The violence has definitely changed our family now that we’re out of there. We all have different problems and anxiety. Even years after we stopped seeing dad and made a family intervention order, we still have trouble.
He’s always there in the back of my mind and I still have to stop myself from freaking out if I pass someone on the street who wears the same cologne as him.
How I survived
At the time, I didn’t need to cope with it because I didn’t understand it. It was what I had grown up with.
When I get too anxious or angry or scared, I get my music and go somewhere where I am alone and allow myself to get lost in in the music instead of my thoughts.
Talking about it to other people helped a lot. I told my teacher and my therapist what happened at home and they were really helpful. They listened to me, which really helped, because I felt like I couldn’t talk to my mum about my problems because she has enough on her plate anyway.
Writing down what happened was really helpful, more than even talking to someone. I haven’t read what I wrote in a while, but knowing that it’s there helps me.
It sounds pretty standard, but understand that this does not define you. I used to be so worried that I’d turn out just like my dad. But I’ve proved to myself I’m not that person and proved it to the people that matter.