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Opinions of Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Columnist: Dr. Annie Gaisie

The untold story

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Domestic abuse is real and its impact is damaging.

Many children are being exposed to violence in their homes. Children who witness domestic violence or are victims of abuse themselves are at serious risk for long-term Physical and Mental health problems.

Children who witness violence between parents may also be at greater risk of being violent in their future relationships. If you are a parent who is experiencing abuse, it can be difficult to know how to protect your children.

This is a true story of someone who grew up in a violent home - (I have changed the name to conceal their identity).

The untold story of a victim

Ama is 44 and witnessed domestic violence as a child
"I was 6yrs old when my mother met her husband, and the violence started when she told him she was pregnant with my twin brothers a year later. The marriage ended when my mother died.

What I experienced growing up still hunts me when I don’t expect it. All it takes is a loud noise to bring back a lot of buried thoughts. I just shut down sometimes, because that’s the coping mechanism I had as a child.

That was years of not wanting to get into trouble or do anything for my stepfather to then take it out on my mother or one of my brothers, and cause them severe harm.

I was the oldest if 3 children and l took on the role of being the protector. I would try and make everything ok and that has carried into my adult life.

I got married but l struggled with trust and the slightest sign of disagreements.

In court My ex-husband explained how, I would just shut down most times without any reason. We didn’t really argue, and all that meant was that I suppressed myself. I didn’t want any confrontation or a heated atmosphere. Someone shouting or slamming something still makes me feel physically sick.

After the divorce, I moved back closer to where l grew up because of my new work.

Since I’ve been back, I have nightmares at least 4 nights a week. I’m exhausted and now planning to move house again. The memories are everywhere.

My mother died from severe injuries after my stepfather pushed her down the stairs during a violent attack. Whiles she was trying to get away from him, she fell and broke her neck. She never recovered after that.

I was forced to grow up and be the mother to my 2 twin brothers. Life was unbearable. I had to give up my education to provide for them.
I’m doing alright, I’ve got a good job, I manage a big team, but statistically, I shouldn’t be.

So sometimes, I think, if I didn't have that upbringing, what else could I have achieved? I had to grow up so quick. There was always so much parental responsibilities to deal with. That period when my mother struggled and I was looking after her, I lost a lot of friends and missed out on opportunities.
But at the same time, I thought, if l didn’t grow up like that l might not have the same motivation.

I experienced a lot of Mental abuse from my stepfather. He would say things like, l am useless, that I’d end up begging for food for the rest of my life, that I’d never do anything with my life. That gave me motivation not to give up, I’ll prove him wrong.

I feel lucky that’s the way I went. My brothers relied on me, there was no way l could afford to mess up.

It's made me really resilient. I’ve had a really terrible life but I’ve just carried on. You have no choice, you have to man it up. It’s good in one respect, but it’s hard work.

I come across more confident than I actually am. I apologise all the time, even if it’s not my fault, from growing up the way that l did. I struggle a lot with my confidence, almost self-sabotage, not thinking I’m good enough, thinking why have I done as well as I have, because I shouldn’t have - I left school with no qualifications. And I always feel like I’m waiting for someone to catch me out.”

The End

No child deserves such hardships. No child deserves to lose the best times in their life.

If you are a parent in an abusive relationship think about your children and get help.

Don’t expose them to conditions that may damage their Mental wellbeing forever.

If you are a victim, get support to address your childhood Trauma and its effects on your ongoing life.

Don’t give up.

By: Dr. Annie Gaisie, Psychologist - Addictive Behaviour.