How domestic abuse affects children
It’s late at night. I’m four years old and clutching my teddy bear whilst listening to my mother’s whimpering. She is in the lounge down the passage outside my room. When I can’t bear it any longer, I venture out and plead with Phillip, my mother’s boyfriend to please stop hurting Mummy.
Phillip growls at me between clenched teeth, “Get back to your room!” My mother is on her back on the lounge floor and Phillip is on his knees over her. I am so afraid that I scamper back to my bedroom. When the whimpering doesn’t stop and I hear shouting, I venture out again. Phillip just yells at me to get back to my room yet again and I listen. He has hit me before too and I am keen to avoid being beaten with a belt again.
Phillip was a charming man to most people who met him. The life and soul of the party. No one would ever have believed that he terrorised me and my mother for years. He would regularly hit my mother and then be remorseful about what he had done. He would apologise and buy my mother gifts to assuage his guilt. He left us both traumatised.
How ironic is it that this same abusive man once gave me a Good News bible as a gift. I grew up wondering if this is how all Christians behaved. Eventually my mother found the strength to leave him and had to make a plan to move out when Phillip was away.
He tried to climb across the balcony from our neighbour’s appartment on the 9th floor to get to my mother. He was a dangerous man who threatened to kill her if we left. Most abusive men become more dangerous when the women they abuse leave them. They hate to lose control. Thankfully, I can’t remember much of what happened but that night as a four year old has stuck in my mind. I will never forget it and the fear I felt.
Domestic abuse unsettles children. Don’t make excuses for domestic abuse, thinking that children are unaware. They know what’s going on. It can cause severe psychological trauma and children can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder long after the abuse has ended.
If you are in an abusive relationship and don’t feel you have the strength to leave, get support – talk to someone. You deserve a better life and to be treated with love and respect.