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School was my escape from domestic abuse

“I’m in pain” I’d tell my friends.

“But you’re not hurt” they would reply.

Just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Every day was a new chapter, but every day I carried guilt, anger and pain around with me like a backpack to school. Each day it became heavier and heavier, I started to want nothing more than to lay in bed – where I didn’t have to feel so exhausted.

I would paint on a happy face for my friends, but the night before I had hardly slept, staying awake listening to the shouting and bangs, waiting just in case my mum needed my help. I would lay in bed and wait patiently for the sound of my mum coming up the stairs, turning off the landing light and getting into bed. Then I would sleep, knowing she was safest when she was asleep in bed.

The mornings would be better. Dad had already left the house most mornings so it was just me, my brother and my mum sat at the kitchen table eating breakfast before school. The smile on my mum’s face when we made her laugh was calming. I would go to school happy those days.

School was my escape. I didn’t have to feel responsible for anyone or listen out for anything. I could just be myself, play and be free from constraint. I would be called a ‘geek’ at school because I wished to be there 24 hours a day but really I just wanted to be anywhere but home. This I would feel guilty for, but I knew that Dad stayed out all day because they would argue about him never being home, and so whilst I was in school, Mum didn’t need me. She was safe.

I would carry this weight of worrying and protecting my mum every day, I would feel guilty for leaving her to go to school, I would cry at the thought of her being alone and isolated. But I was too young to understand that I should have told someone, that it wasn’t normal for our family to be how it was and mum just needed help to escape.

As I grew older, the pain got worse. I would sit and my head felt like it was physically exploding, I would want to scream and shout and rock backwards and forwards and kick because it felt like there was something inside of me being contained, so much pain that I just wanted to release. But it never releases, it stays hidden, no one else can see it – neither can you. You just feel it like an abnormality under your skin.

I began to lash out at my mum and distance myself because of the pain that I couldn’t do anything for her was increasing the older and wiser I became. I would think to myself, “she must hate me, she must hate me for not doing anything to help her”, and so I would lash out at her, pushing her away because I didn’t think I deserved her love.

Emotional scars are something that nobody can see, not even yourself. People from violent homes are experiencing emotional pain and feel that they cannot escape. Speaking out is the key. Scars are not always physical.

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