For All the Children of Domestic Violence Who Need a Voice

I stand there watching as you let him strike you.

Let him call you ugly names. Let him put bruises on your face and leave your neck red and swollen when he released you from his choke-hold. You didn’t think I saw, but I did. You thought that you’d been quiet, but I heard you cry out when he raised his hand to you. I heard you struggle with him, no matter how quiet you tried to be.

I hear you crying in the night; I hear your sigh of relief when he goes out and slams the door.

I see the look, that terrified, worried look, glaze over your eyes when you hear his key entering the front door lock.

So naïve, you think you are protecting me. Keeping quiet and putting up, never uttering a word — you believe that I’m fine and I haven’t noticed. But I have. I did more than notice. I saw it all, I heard it all. I am the faint creaking noises that you hear when the shouting and screaming pauses; sitting on the stairs cradling my own tiny body with bated breath, waiting for that moment when I’ll run in and save you, should it come.

You think that you’re doing me a favour by sticking around.

Children need a mummy and a daddy, you say — but I’d rather have neither if the abuse just ends. I’m a child, not a robot, mummy! I have eyes that I can see with and ears I can hear with — you can’t hide from me what’s going on in the very next room. I know that you’re lying when you say that everything’s OK. You tell me to go back to sleep, but I don’t — I sit on the floor, ear pressed up against the wall to listen, so I can make sure that you are safe.

Who is this monster that tucks me into bed with the same hands that he’s bloodied your face with, mummy?

I’m getting older now, and you still think that I’m in the dark. I have problems at school, I can’t concentrate in class — you’re alone with him, and over the years he’s only gotten worse. Anxiety fills my mind, mum — I can’t stop worrying about what he might do to you when you’re all alone with him at home! You admonish me for getting bad grades but mum, can’t you see? Can’t you see that grades are the least of my worries when I don’t know what I might come home to?

Why won’t you just leave, mum?

You can go — you can go any time that you like! You have family — Nana and Grandad, they’ll help you! The police can help you, can’t they? You can leave, mum, but I can’t! I can’t leave until you do!

He hit me today, mum.

I said something that he didn’t like, and he slapped me across the face, hard. Why haven’t you left yet? I have bruises, mum, and he’s called school to tell them I have the flu and can’t come in. Mum, leave, please!

I avoid talking to him. He’s always picking a fight. God, mum, why don’t you just do the same! Why do you think that you need him, when he does this to us? He thinks I’m big enough to take beatings now, mum!

I’m scared! Leave, mum, I want to leave, please!

I’m an adult now, and you’ve finally realised I’m not in the dark any more. You started talking to me about the abuse and everything he did to you a few years ago. I begged you to divorce him, and you said you would. Then he’d say sorry, mum — and you’d believe him every time! It was a vicious cycle, but you never saw through his fake apologies! You couldn’t leave, could you?

I had to get rid of him for you.

It was me who called the social services, the police, family members. I had him arrested, I stood up to him, I showed him that I wasn’t to be walked all over — not like you, mum.

I love you, mum, but don’t you dare talk like you’ve been through hell and back when you could have done something about it years ago. I was a child, mum! I couldn’t leave — I was too young to go anywhere without you! You could have left; you should have left.

You put your supposed duties as a wife before your duties as a mother.

You chose to ignore the help available, putting yourself and your child through years of abuse instead. Now I’m ill, mum — I’m depressed, I’m anxious, I have nightmares every night! I can’t trust anybody and it’s because of you!

You had a choice, why didn’t you see that?

If you are a victim of Domestic Violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Helpline ( 0808 2000 247) (UK).

If you are in immediate danger, please call 999 immediately.

You will survive, I promise.