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It isn’t just victims that suffer from abuse

It’s normal, we say. We pretend we can’t hear the noises from the kitchen. We sit, play games, watch TV and laugh with our siblings whilst listening to the background noise like it’s a radio show.

Me and my older sibling would be watching TV when we’d begin to hear shouting, doors banging. The only reaction was a look – we would stop what we were doing for a millisecond and just look at one another, then go back to what we were doing. Looking back now I think about how to us it was normal, just background noise. As children, you don’t really understand what ‘normal’ is, only what your parents have taught you. So when you witness emotional and physical abuse in your home, it’s just normal, that’s home.

I wouldn’t tell anyone what was happening at home. Although it felt normal, my subconscious told me not to tell anyone. I would sit awake at night and listen to the noises. It was almost like I was waiting for something to go wrong – one final outbreak and I would be ready to jump out of bed and finally save my mother from what she was experiencing. But it never came. They would fight, they would make up. Sometimes it was really bad and I would think ‘this is it’, ‘Mum will get out’ but she never did, making it harder for me to say something. I looked up to her – she would just bounce back every time and be our mum. So how could I disrupt her strength by breaking my silence?

The silence was the enemy, but it was also my best friend. I would arrive home after school and if one parent wasn’t home, the silence was blissful. Then I would hear the door open and my heart would drop. I would sigh for a second, take a deep breath and just wait for the noises to reappear. I wanted to go out, go to my friends, but I couldn’t. How could I leave them there, knowing one day the wrong hit could make all the difference? So I would sit in the next room and just listen, turning the TV down so I could be prepared.

In 2014 1.4 million female and 700,000 males were victims of domestic abuse. How many children did these victims have? Did they witness the abuse? These statistics aren’t available. Silence surrounds the issue of domestic abuse, and what is forgotten is that it isn’t just the victim that suffers, but their family, friends, neighbours who have witnessed the abuse time and time again, isolated by their own silence.

Children learn from their parents, and they assume what goes on at home is normal because they don’t know any different. It is the most difficult thing to speak out against your parents’ wishes, even when they haven’t told you not to. And regardless of the situation, the hardest thing to accept is that Dad was wrong for what he did. But he’s my Dad. So, I sat in silence for a very long time. But this isn’t the right way. Children need more support to speak out when something is wrong. If you’re aware of a family that is experiencing domestic abuse, you may not think the children are in danger – my dad never hit me. But what you don’t see is the emotional effect. All I wanted was for Mum to be removed from the situation safely, and I hated that I couldn’t do that.

Think beyond the victim.

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