Something so often over looked is how domestic violence affects everyone else other than the victim. The victim’s parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, even subsequent partners and their families. My main focus here though is children. The innocent souls that get caught up in the evil games of an abuser. The abuser often being their father. The mind games, the inexplicable switch between love and hate, the violence an abuser is so very good at, not only does it make no sense to an adult victim, but for a child? Often the abuser will use the children or child in their games. They become pawns in his strange world, where he is God and they are his little followers. His sheep. Running along beside him, little eyes wide with uncertainty, making sure they don’t upset him or get any thing wrong, desperate for his love and affection. ‘If I can keep him happy, then he won’t hurt mummy…’
He wouldn’t let me comfort the children when he had been violent. He would tell us not to cry. It took my son four years after us leaving to show any emotion towards anything, despite my repeated attempts to encourage him to ‘let go’. He was the one that was affected the most. He was my rock. I feel terrible now when I look back at what he had to endure and the way I looked to him for support. He was my first born, my beautiful boy…
‘He drags him into the bedroom by his ear, and then I hear the slaps, and crying out for mummy, my poor baby boy. MY baby boy! I scream out at him to stop, running towards the bedroom from the front room where I’ve been ironing. I want to throw my body over his, protect him from the monster that invades our lives when it wants blood. But I am stopped in my tracks by him thundering towards me. I’m dragged back to the ironing board, and the iron is held an inch from the side of my face. His eyes wild, daring me to comfort our four year old son. Our little boy stands in the doorway and begs him to stop.’
There were times over the years when my son would have a physical reaction when he knew his father was going to start being abusive towards me. Vomiting as he ran up the hallway towards our bedroom to protect me or standing in the door way, his nose running with blood. What was the sound of his fathers raised voice doing to his little mind, doing to his little body to make it actually bleed? I imagine the terror he must’ve been feeling, and my heart breaks.
‘That night I sleep in my son’s bed. I cuddle up to him. He’s warm and smells of nice things. I listen to his breathing, soft, peaceful and although I know there is a storm brewing, I fall asleep tucked into him, my beautiful little world.
The light is switched on. White light burns my eyes. He is standing in the doorway. ‘Get out of bed,’ he says, his tone cold, hard. I rub my eyes and try to remain calm. At this point a little head pops up, big brown eyes all sleepy and beautiful. Then he is charging towards the bed and drags me up by my hair. Our terrified boy flies out of bed and stands next to it, frozen, watching.
He punches me in the rib, at the side just under my left breast. It takes my breath away. He demands our son go to our room and get in our bed. Little legs run up the hallway. I imagine him sitting all on his own in that big, cold, empty, bed listening to my screams. Unfortunately that is exactly what happens. Our daughter joins him in that big cold bed and he cuddles her while they listen to me cry for help.
Over an hour he keeps me in that room, beating me round the head and face, banging the back of my head into the wall behind me over and over. He repeatedly pulls me off the bed by my hair and kicks me whilst I’m on the floor. I black out twice, he wakes me by throwing glasses of freezing water into my face. By the end my head is heavy, bruised. I can’t open one eye. My jaw is swollen up, my lips raw. Chunks of my hair lay ripped out on the bed and floor.
Suddenly it’s all over. He tells me to come into our bed with the children. We all cuddle up, but I can’t lay down, it hurts too much and I’m scared I could haemorrhage. I can’t even cry, my eyes are too swollen, my face not my own. In the early hours he walks round to my side of the bed, pushes himself onto my bruised body and ‘makes love’ to me. After, he lays still on my chest and tells me he is sorry. I stare out in to the black void that is our room, my torture chamber. I have no thought process, I am numb. I am not me.
I didn’t sleep that night. Trying to lift my head off the pillow takes all the strength I can muster. I daren’t look in the mirror. I head straight to the kitchen for a cup of tea, my mouth is dry, my lips crusty. Then I hear a little voice behind me. ‘Mummy?’
I turned around that morning and saw my little boy’s face as he looked at me. I saw the look of horror in his eyes. I saw his innocence fade from him forever.