As a little girl, Laura’s* earliest memory is of her father beating up her mother.
“For some reason, this would always be on a Sunday and would begin with them arguing. The shouting would get louder and louder and next thing, my father would throw my mother across the kitchen floor. I witnessed most of these episodes and felt terrified. One of my memories is of me as a little girl standing on the step which led down into the kitchen, holding a small sprig of bluebells. We had just been out to pick some from a local wood. I can remember looking down at them. They were crushed and beginning to wilt where I was clutching them so tightly. In these moments, when my father was violent, I felt frozen to the core. I couldn’t move and was too scared to say anything. In my head, I was willing them to stop and often covered my ears to block out the sounds of my mum hitting the sliding door of the kitchen as she was thrown again and again.
They both seemed oblivious to me and neither of them ever said anything to me. There never was an apology or any concern for me witnessing all of this.
My mother seemed to continue provoking my father and I often blamed her for these episodes, feeling that it was her fault. I still struggle with these thoughts today, believing that in some way she deserved it as she didn’t seem to know when to stop taunting and ‘going on’ at him.
My father seemed to think this was the only way to stop my mother, he never apologised for his actions. When he had finished, he would always step around me and sit back down in his chair. His only words before the violence stopped were ‘Have you had enough? Are you going to stop now?’. My father would not interact with either of us for the rest of the day.
My mother would come from the kitchen saying ‘nasty, he’s nasty’ and was looking to me for comfort and to agree with her. I shudder now as I recall how upset she was, crying inconsolably and wiping her face with her apron.
I was too young to really understand what was going on and to make sense of it. In my head, I believed that my mother must have ‘asked’ for this punishment by not knowing when to stop provoking my father.
These memories became my dysfunctional thinking for the future. I believed my mother got what she deserved and I took this into adulthood. My first marriage was very violent and was almost a repetition of my parents’ relationship. My husband used to beat me and I believed that, in some way, I deserved it and always apologised for whatever I did wrong. To me this was how relationships were. If you angered your partner, then you had a beating. I did eventually leave him and began a new life, away from the violence.
I remarried a few years later and although he wasn’t a violent man he used to shout at me and the old feelings of shame and fear returned. I eventually sought counselling for my marriage.
We began to talk , and as I talked about my childhood, all the memories came back. We explored in the counselling what it was like for me, what my beliefs were and the emotions and feelings attached to it.
I had always seen my father as my hero and had looked up to him. Suddenly my feelings changed and I realised that he wasn’t a hero. What he had done was very wrong and I began to see that no one deserved to be hit, or thrown, whatever they have done. My father could have gone for a walk to calm down, and to remove himself from this. He had choices. I could also see what they did to me was very wrong. No child should ever feel terrified in their own home.
I had no brothers or sisters, and this was the first time that I had ever talked about what happened in our home. To everyone else we appeared to be the perfect family. With counselling, something in me began to change and I slowly began to re-write my core beliefs and to see that this was not how relationships should be.”
*Names have been changed.
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