By some standards my upbringing was normal. Born in 1974 in a small mining town in South Yorkshire, my maternal grandparents lived one street away and my paternal grandparents had a farm. I was lucky until I was 5 years old, and my life was perfect, if you don’t count the fact that my tiny tears doll didn’t cry anymore because my baby brother pulled it’s head off! Then one night my mum left my dad and moved us in with his best friend. A man who’s wife had left him because he beat her. My world changed.
A new reality
Suddenly I had to eat all the food out in front of me at meal times. If I didn’t I was punished. Even if the food was cold. Doesn’t sound too mean does it? Sometimes I would have to force the food down. Even if I was gagging. I was told if I threw up I’d have to eat that too. I once fed the bit of food I couldn’t eat to our dog. He knew of course and he put me over his knee, pulled down my pants and hit me with his slipper. A leather bottomed moccasin.
My mum said I “should count myself lucky he used that and not his hand”.
We didn’t know at the time (it wasn’t recognised) but I have severe dyslexia, and my teachers would say I was bright but lazy. I was punished for that too. My writing wasn’t neat enough. So he made me write out all the Mr Men books we owned over and over until it was what he considered neat. Nothing I did at school was good enough.
Of course I wanted approval as most children do, but the older I got the harder it was to get. He told me how stupid I was. When my mum would have me “show off” a new dress he would tell me that it was a shame I had no boobs and a big backside like my mum (it was never said as a compliment).
When I eventually started dating at 16 (remember the age of consent in the UK is 16) it got worse. I was pinned against a wall by my throat, my feet not touching the floor. I was carried again by the throat from one room and tossed in my bedroom. I hit my head and was knocked out after that one. My mum said I was lucky he hadn’t hit me.
Trying to escape
I went out and stayed away for a week after that episode. I eventually left home at 17.
Before I left home for good, when I had left school, was working, and dating my first husband, I would walk around at night waiting for all the lights to go out, then wait 20 minutes, before going in. Hopefully that meant he and my mum would both be in bed and I could safely go to my room.
My mum told me I was challenging and ungrateful. That I asked for it by answering back. To this day I don’t think anything I said warranted his response.
I’ve tried very hard to move past it. But I find it hard. My mum didn’t protect me. She allowed him to grab me by the throat and for years I couldn’t stand anyone to touch me near my neck.
She made me call him “dad” and play nice. She made me lie to my extended family that he was generous and loving. She told me no one would believe me if I said anything anyway.
She was wrong. I told my maternal grandmother and aunt. They believed me.
My dad knew I think, but we never talked about it, but my paternal grandmother and aunt knew. They also believed me. Unfortunately I didn’t tell enough people when I was young. I waited until after I had a child of my own, when I had already left home.
I was lucky
He never touched me in a sexual way. I didn’t suffer that way. For that I am thankful. It was verbal, emotional and occasionally physical abuse. I don’t want to miss lead anyone, I wasn’t beaten, I wasn’t hospitalised. I never had a broken bone. But I lived in fear and no child should.
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