The lasting impact of family violence
Family violence, or 'domestic abuse', has wide-reaching consequences that go far beyond the home. Children who witness domestic abuse are particularly vulnerable and can be affected by what they have seen for years to come.
The following true story comes from one of our brave volunteers and shows the long-term impact of family violence. It contains vivid depictions of domestic abuse that may be upsetting:
Sitting bolt upright in bed, still half asleep, waiting for the shouting and fighting to start – this was how it was when I was a child. I would run and sit with my Mum so that my Dad would not hit her, she would accuse him of having affairs and he would deny it. It always ended up with Mum grabbing him, asking for forgiveness, and him pushing her away, while I looked on scared and shaking with fright, not knowing what to do to make it better.
One night, as this usual scene played out, my brother appeared and thought he saw my Dad push my Mum over. He went for my Dad big time, throwing him through a plate glass door and ripping his back open. Before I knew what I was doing I found myself dialling 999 for help. The next thing I remember was being curled up in a little ball on my parents’ bed crying for my father, and the ambulance arriving to take my Dad away and police officers talking to Mum. I was just a thirteen-year-old kid – who could I turn to for help?
It seemed nobody could stop the ongoing conflict. I had no one to talk to who would understand. There were no counsellors I could talk to that I knew of, and teachers at school did not bother with me. I felt very alone and frightened. Worst of all, looking back, is that I thought all of this was ‘normal’, but today realise the trauma I suffered as a third party to domestic abuse.
If you have been a bystander to domestic abuse, be it mental, physical or other types of abuse, you will know first-hand how it haunts and affects you for the rest of your life – as if the incident had happened to you as well as the victim. In fact, being a bystander comes with its own challenges: the feeling of helplessness, not being able to stop the abuse without becoming a victim yourself.
I can honestly say that I was truly relieved when my father moved out. It really affected me until later in life, and still does to some extent. To this day I hate confrontation, shouting and conflict in family affairs. I’m always trying to make it right, playing the peace-maker. All I ever wanted was a happy family.