What It’s Like to Experience Domestic Abuse

I wish I was a superhero…

My name is Liam and I am 10. Before moving to Sonas, I lived with my Mam and my brother. My Mam’s boyfriend was really mean to all of us. He locked me in rooms and pushed me down the stairs. He used to call my Mam bad names and hurt her. I remember sounds of crying, screaming and things breaking. I used to wish I was a super hero and have magic powers so I could make him disappear. I hit him once to make him stop choking my Mam. I was scared but I felt I had to protect her.

“Since we came to Sonas, I don’t have to protect her anymore. I seem people who talk to me about what happened and how I feel. My Mam is getting the help she needs and she is getting much happier and we are all getting on much better.”

Carol’s story, parenting during and after domestic abuse

“When me and my two kids move to Sonas two years ago I was completely lost and very lonely… I was worried about all the abuse my two-year-old Jack had seen living in the house with his dad. Claire (Carol’s support team member) was such a great help. She found me parenting courses and she got in touch with a specialist to get Jack’s assessment.

“Sometimes when everything is getting on top of you, you can be snappy and not nice at all but Claire has the patience and understanding as well. When you are trying to come out the other side of the river that’s exactly what you need. Thanks to Claire, Liam is getting his play therapy. He has got his hearing test sorted too… Thank you Claire for helping build my confidence back up as a mother and for all your hard work.”

Amelia’s story, Sonas outreach client

“I would never considered myself someone who would experiencing domestic abuse. I suppose to be honest, I really thought it only happened to certain women. I know that sounds really judgemental but I really did think, it was something you were more likely to experience if you were poor, had finished school early or maybe an older woman who was just unlucky.

“My ex-partner and I had met through work, we both had good jobs. Honestly, the first year was amazing. Then we moved in together… I remember the first time it happened, we were staying in his parents and he had got drunk. I was getting into the bed and he got really angry and shoved me out. He apologised afterwards and blamed it on drinking too much. It began to happen more often, he would push me or shove me, he got really angry one time and just hit me across the face. I remember saying it to a friend, in an off-hand way and just the look on her face over a few drinks, she wasn’t judging me but she let me know that she thought it wasn’t OK.

“I started laughing, I can’t believe I did that, and then I was embarrassed but looking back I think I did it because I had got so used to it and just put it down to having a bad fight. Her reaction had made me think though and I thought maybe I needed to go and talk to someone to get my ex help if he was having problems, again it never occurred to me that I might actually need the help.

“I found out about the local outreach service in my area. I met Sharon in a café, she seemed really nice, really ordinary. I found myself describing what was going on and I felt like I was almost listening to myself. I had basically being safety planning around my ex, without even realising it. Minimising what he was doing, and just fitting in around him to make sure that what I did, didn’t aggravate him.

“In the end, I made a really hard decision, like I loved him and I know there are women in much worse situations than me, so I was telling myself it really wasn’t that bad. Something clicked though and I thought to myself, it’s already gotten worse and we have only been with each other a few years, what is it going to be like in 10 years or 20?

“When I told him I was moving out, he kept saying he was sorry. He tried to contact me for a while after that and at the start I would talk to him but he would go from being sorry and telling me how much he loved me to getting angry at me. I stopped having any contact with him. I think I was lucky, I think by making contact with the Outreach service, I could take the time to figure out what was going on and what were my options in the situation. They also helped me safety plan while I was still with him. Sometimes I wonder if he is with someone else now and if he is doing the same to them.”

Sonas Team Member, Deirdre on working with mothers and children

“The kids are always really interested in you and the older ones want to know if you have a boyfriend and if he is nice to you. One little boy asked me did he have to get married when he grew up and I told him not if he didn’t want to. When I asked why, he said he didn’t want to grow up and do mean things. I explained that getting married didn’t make you mean and that there were lots of nice daddies and husbands…

“We work with both mothers and children – a lot of the time a woman has been undermined in her capacity to parent by her abusive partner. She may feel really conflicted about the fact she stayed with her partner or left. We work to support her to figure out what she needs as an individual and as a mother. We work with the children on the same principle, starting from where they engage with us and assessing what they need…

“It is amazing the changes that can happen just by getting them away from the violence… The first and biggest step is making sure children and their mothers aren’t exposed to ongoing violence and they are safe.”