I was born in 1948. Ages ago, now. I have two sisters who are older than me. We all have kids of our own and some grandchildren.
When we were growing up our mother did everything she could to keep us safe, but our father was violent and we were all frightened of him. He was physically and verbally violent with my mother and my sisters, and we all suffered emotionally because of his behaviour.
In my child’s mind, I think I was worried that one day my father would kill my mother or my sisters. I was especially anxious at meal times – about the only time when we all sat down together. Who would he start on? What would happen? Who would get hurt? What could I do to distract him? What could I do to escape?
How I survived
I think, like any little kid, I just lived from moment to moment; hoping my dad wouldn’t come home after work, hoping he would die – or at least hoping the violent part of him would die. When it wasn’t happening we never talked about it and I tried never to think of it. The violence, fear and anxiety were part of our life, part of my life, part of me.
It’s taken me a long time to really understand the devastating effect it can have to grow up in a confusion of violence, love, anxiety and fear.
By the time I was about 13 or 14, I knew dad wasn’t going to hit me. One day I stepped in between my parents and told dad to leave mum alone. I’m 57 now and looking back it could have been dangerous, so I wouldn’t recommend it, but it felt much better than sitting back and pretending it wasn’t happening. Looking back, I suppose for the first time I was naming what was happening. When I went with mum to the police station the officer said that there really wasn’t really anything he could do.
Other people must have known something was wrong, maybe guessed that dad was violent. Maybe it would have been good for me if someone outside our family had said something to me, said that what my father was doing was wrong.
I know that these days there are people you can talk to, people who are supportive and helpful when children and women talk about family violence, including some police. I think it would have helped me then.