• Luke and Ryan Hart

Isn't it obvious?

Below is a brave submission we have received.

"To outsiders looking in, take the time to listen, to ask questions and to believe. If you feel something’s not quite right about a child, or a friend or relative then say something and say it now."

In my memories, it started when I was about 5 years old. I remember seeing my mum in the kitchen crying, wondering why she had a bloody lip.

(I would realise much later into adulthood that it had started soon after my parents married and my mum was quickly pregnant with me.) Then other things would happen and I would wonder why Daddy was so angry and what had I done wrong. By then I had a younger brother and my dad would make us do chores and help him with his own manual work. Mum was expecting again and so we moved to a larger house but it was pretty isolated. Mum didn’t drive so we were reliant on my dad to drive us anywhere we needed or the local, infrequent, bus service. If Dad didn’t want to go anywhere, then we didn’t either. He also drip fed Mum house keeping money so we really only had enough for food and not much else. The outbursts and violence escalated and often we would be in trouble for looking at him the wrong way, not doing something to his satisfaction, being “smart” or answering back and he would make us repeat “I am stupid”.  Then the ultimatums came - "I can kick you out", "If you don’t like it **** off elsewhere" and worse. Most of the time, it was the rage, the evil look in his eyes and then the fist to the face / head or body or slamming us into something. He kept guns in the house and so we were always afraid that was the next weapon. We saw how he treated the pets. We did have neighbours and it was, in my mind, obvious as to what was going on - he would often set upon us in the porch, visible to them if they were in their garden. I would hope and sometimes pray that they would do or say something but they never did. My youngest brother was around 10 when he was taken ill and my mum had to stay with him in hospital for a few days. It was always Mum’s responsibility to cook the meals and so in her absence, I had to prepare a roast dinner. I had never cooked a roast before and once the pork was done, he took one look and flew off the handle. Apparently it was not cooked properly. The carving knife was close to me as he came at me & he saw me look towards it. He grabbed me by the neck and pinned me against the kitchen wall, threatening to kill me. I was 16/17. The next day, I broke down in class and my teacher had asked me what was wrong. I knew I couldn’t say anything because that would make things so much worse and I couldn’t worry Mum as she was already worried about my younger brother. My teacher let me use her office phone and I called my gran, his mother. She came and stayed with us and cooked all the meals. But she never told him to stop hurting us. The next 2 years were hell - trying to get through exams and although I did not get the results I wanted, I had secured a place at University. I knew he wouldn’t let me go to Uni and nor would he finance it and so I kept my place secret, between my mum and me, and I worked for a year to raise the funds. But the guilt…Should I go or should I stay and look after my mum and brothers? I had to get out but I also had to earn enough money to never have to go back and to be there for Mum whenever she needed. Fast forward, all of us children now adults, had left home and Dad seemed to have calmed down, with the physical stuff at least, perhaps with age or maybe the drinking kept him subdued. I had a successful career, married a wonderful husband and had young children and living abroad. I get a call. Mum has been admitted to hospital with some kind of breakdown. My whole world was in a spin. They had been fighting - not happy with his meal, he had thrown it at her and later in the afternoon, demanded she cooked something else. This time she said no. To the doctors she was incoherent, confused, but to me, it all made sense. She’d had a psychotic break. He finally broke her. To outsiders - she didn’t make sense, maybe even far-fetched, my "poor dad”, “afraid for his life”. He'd he’d lost it, pinned her against the kitchen wall and tried to strangle her. He’d punched her in the chest and arm. She’d bitten him to get away and he chased after her. She managed to escape to the neighbours. He told them she was “nuts”, that she had attacked him, bitten him and to call the Police. 

It took weeks of phone calls, meetings and some very difficult conversations with strangers to explain this wasn’t some predisposed condition, but a result of years of abuse - mental, physical and all in between. The diagnosis was psychosis with delusions. The next few months were so tough but the most important thing was that Mum was finally out of there. Or so we thought... Christmas was coming and by now, the medication was making her feel better. She decided she was going back. It was only a matter of days, maybe even hours, before things had escalated and Mum was having a second psychotic breakdown. This time, Dad had cut her off from the rest of us, unplugging the landline and making her switch off her mobile phone. The last time I had tried to get through to her, my dad had answered and warned me that if I or my Aunt went to the house, he would kill us. None of us knew how she was and I was going out of my mind so far away. One of my brothers visited and it was clear something wasn’t right but he couldn’t get her to leave so he had to leave her there. We then raised the alarm with the Mental Health team but still, Mum had to leave on her own accord. They too, were worried about the guns in the house. The Mental Health team had given her a plan of action just in case. Thank God she was coherent enough to call my brother to go and get her. 

She never went back. I tell myself she had to go through that to realise that he would never change and this really was it now. At last, we’d had a breakthrough. The Mental Health team believed us. They had the Police remove the guns because of the threats. They had all of the last year's behaviour on record. To us, this was massive - we finally had evidence. We could get the bastard. It took a few more years and some horrific revelations on the extent of the abuse to get Mum settled, safe in her own place and eventually divorced. The support from the Mental Health team and the assurance that someone believed us gave her the courage after almost 40 years of abuse to finally face up to him. Is she free? Physically, yes. Is she free mentally? No. Are any of us free of it? Not really. Anxiety, depression, anger, lack of confidence, PTSD, so many side effects. So many bad memories, so many emotional scars but we are out of that situation and making good memories. Mum sometimes has relapses but she’s getting there. I am guilty of trying to live her life for her but she is happy just to be safe and free to do as she likes. I am so proud of her for standing up to him. I know that my dad will never go to prison for what he did but I have faith in karma. I finally sought counselling, afraid I would break too. My counsellor made me realise I unconsciously let my husband cook the roast dinners but that’s okay because he does a good job and he is a wonderful husband & father to our children. To those victims, I would say it only takes one person to believe you and you will get through. You can be strong, you have it inside you. To outsiders looking in, take the time to listen, to ask questions and to believe. If you feel something’s not quite right about a child, or a friend or relative then say something and say it now.

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