A North Shore Mum (who would prefer to remain anonymous) bravely opens up about growing up in a household of domestic violence.
It is difficult to put into words what growing up in a household with domestic violence is like. Only one word keeps coming to my mind and that is ‘fear’.
Fear was my constant companion. I can’t tell you when fear and I became friends, because I don’t remember. I was too young. Fear was always there. At every occasion, at every moment. Fear that something would set him off. Fear that I would say or do the wrong thing. Fear that they would drink too much, and someone would say something to provoke the other. Fear that I would be killed or someone would kill.
I was always surprised I made it to adulthood and that my family didn’t make it into the papers as a murder/suicide. In the world of domestic violence, I was one of the lucky ones.
My children experience joy on a daily basis, and I mourn that I was never had that as a child. I was always trying to keep the peace. When you grow up with violence either being an every day occurrence or threat, you grow up really quickly. There is no joy, just fear. Doesn’t every child have the right to experience joy? Even when I tried to relax, I couldn’t, I had to be on guard just in case something happened.
It was only as an adult that I realized what a massive impact this had on the person I was. At the time, that was just how life was.
Domestic violence is not just about actual physical violence (though it can be). The ever-present threat of violence is crippling. The broken plates, the upturned tables, the yelling, the alcohol, all invoke fear.
I know that both of my parents also grew up in violent households. Violence begets violence. The cycle continued, but not with me. That cycle is now broken.
I cannot speak for any woman who is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence, as I was not an adult. I remember looking out our window and thinking someone must know what is going on? I believe some people did. Even as I type these words, it is still painful to remember.
My childhood is now over and through counselling I have healed. I have forgiven my abusers and have moved on. The scars are still there, but not as vivid. There is still a lot of shame attached to my story, and I have been trying to figure out why. For some reason I feel responsible for what happened.
What I worry about now, is the lack of conversation around domestic violence, because while as a society we are silent, more people are abused. More children suffer. We need to bring domestic violence out of the darkness and start talking about it. There are no easy solutions, yes it is complicated. But isn’t it worth talking about if only to save one child from losing their childhood (and often their life) to domestic violence.
When you hug your children tonight, I want you to think of all the children around Australia and the world who experience fists and cruel words, instead of love.
I don’t have the answers, but I know it is worth trying. No child should live in fear. Let’s start the conversation.
Talking about domestic family violence and sexual assault with professional counsellors can really help. The following counselling services are available for residents of NSW:
- Domestic Violence Line – The Domestic Violence Line can provide phone counselling, on 1800 656 463.
- Women’s Health Centres – These regional services can also provide information and referrals for women who have experienced domestic and family violence or sexual abuse and assault.
- 1800RESPECT – Phone counselling and support is also available through the 1800RESPECT service, on 1800 737 732. Click here to go to the 1800 RESPECT website.
HOW YOU CAN HELP VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:
Please spare two minutes to sign the petition to implore Tony Abbott to convene a national crisis summit on domestic and family violence – and film an ad denouncing the violence killing our women and children.
MORE RESOURCES AND INFORMATION:
- Better Health Channel: Domestic Violence and Children
- Australian Government, Department of Social Security: The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children
- One in Three: Male Victims of Family Violence