This post is a bit more personal compared to my usual gibberish. I’ve avoided talking about it out of fear that it wasn’t appropriate for this site but seeing as this is my virtual diary, I think it’s time to delve into what made me, me. After all, this is my story to tell.
I have split it into two sections; the first being a general insight into what life was like and the second half is about the 4 day event that ultimately led to us leaving.
What life was like.
I write a lot about my inner physique, dissecting the decisions I make/I’ve made with the hope that I won’t repeat the mistakes that may have lead me down that path in the first place. However, I believe that everything we experience is meant to happen (to some degree), that challenges are put in our way to help us grow and determine which direction our lives go in. There have been several times in my life where a certain event has completely changed my life. For example, getting into university. The only university to accept me on ‘clearing day’ (a day in August where remaining university places are offered in an online free for all) was the University of Huddersfield. There were 9 places available and 15 of us interviewing. I got in through the skin of my teeth but by being given that chance, my life changed direction forever. It took me out of a council estate and minimum wage job into a career where I see life and death every day.
The biggest cross roads in my life happened 12 and a half years ago when my 4 membered family unit was suddenly split directly down the middle and the constant fear of being slapped or strangled disappeared instantaneously. You see, the first 15 years of my life were rather… unconventional. My family consisted of 4 people: My mum, my dad, my sister and I. I didn’t know my grandparents or uncles/aunts. I knew absolutely nothing of my extended family and whenever I brought it up, the conversation was shut down very quickly. At the time, I didn’t really care. The only thing I really missed out on was baking cakes with my grandmother during the school holidays. I was so envious of my friends whenever they moaned to me about their stereotypical grandparently activities.
The man from whom I share half my DNA with was a controlling, manipulative, abusive dwarf of a human who’s greatest pleasure in life was to belittle anyone remotely close to him. This uninspiring, overweight specimen was the reason I didn’t know any of my extended family. Successful manipulating my (at the time) vulnerable mother, he moved us away from Norfolk, isolating us in a small mining town in Nottinghamshire where we remained for a further 9 years.
Considering I knew him for 15 years, I can probably count on one hand the amount of happy memories I have of my dad. From an early age, I remember resentment, disappointment. Constantly being pushed aside in favour of my younger, more obedient sister. That’s not to say that I was disobedient, I just questioned things, as any child would do. Anything I did that wasn’t to his standards would result in some form of physical abuse accompanied with equal helping of verbal torture. One of his favourite moves would be to slap me a full force around my head, so hard that I could hear ringing in my ears. And god forbid should I make a sound of distress. Any crying would result in just more violence. Ironically, one of my fathers favourite lines was “You’re lucky you’re not a lad or I’d have punched you”.
When I was 11, I was admitted to hospital for a night (unrelated). Once I was discharged, I was given some medication to take that tasted foul and I refused to take it. I remember Dad getting aggressive so I ran into my bedroom and tried to hide under my bed. I didn’t get far. The moment I ran, his heavy footsteps raced behind me. Before I could get completely under the bed, he grabbed my foot, dragging me back. The carpet burnt my skin. The cries from a desperate child didn’t stop him and he grabbed the collar of my T-shirt, choking me as I was lead back into the living room. In between sobs, I took the medication.
We lived in fear. Everything we did was ridiculed. From the clothes we wore to the way we packed the shopping bags. I remember being around 8 or 9 years old and we were about to head to the zoo for my sisters birthday. Before we left, Dad threatened me in a low-key manner, word to the effect of “Try not to ruin another day out”. I stood stunned in my bedroom, trying to figure out what I’d done to warrant such harsh words. Though the true reality is that I was forever told I’d ruined one thing or another without ever doing anything wrong. One thing Dad loved to control was food. Every week we would have a pre-written menu, telling us what we were eating on which day. It was strict and contained food he knew my mum and I didn’t like (there wasn’t much that my sister didn’t like). I specifically remember Thursdays being fish day. Regardless of whether you liked the meal or not, you had to finish everything in front of you. One time I was really struggling and still had a decent amount of food on my plate. Both Mum and my sister had tried to take some potatoes off my plate without Dad noticing but he soon cottoned on, barking at them to leave me alone. I sat at that table, alone for 45mins trying so, so hard to eat the cold, mushy food on my plate. This sort of behaviour no doubt aided those bulimia demons that would plague my life just a few years later. By the time we eventually escape his grasp, I weighed a pathetic 7st… I was 15.
Most of the abused we suffered was directed at Mum and I. My sister did get slapped occasionally but nowhere near to the same extent. If I refused to so something, Dad would take my pocket money and give it to her. On one occasion he asked if I wanted to wash the car with him. I refused so he asked my sister. She was paid for helping and told to rub it in my face (metaphorically). I remember my sister giving me lessons on how to get Dad to like me (how pathetic). I would watch the football with him, try and show an interest in what he was up to but nothing worked. He’d written me off. From an early age I’d come up with this idea that my father wanted a child. I was born. However I wasn’t want he wanted so they had another baby, my sister, the golden child. Throughout the years, she was brainwashed by him. His gestures to give her money or take her places came across as affection rather than manipulation. He knew how to control her.
As I grew up, I began to noticed that the rule in my family weren’t exactly normal. I can remember clear as day the moment I realised we were living with domestic violence. During a drive home from somewhere, a government message came on over the radio. I never really paid attention to the adverts in between songs but this one caught hold of my ears, forcing its way in. It listed the typical traits for domestic violence, it was like the narrator had been a fly on the wall in my home. It listed controlling behaviour, violence, verbal abuse, controlling money, being critical of everything you do… it stated that no-one should live in fear in their own home and in that moment, it clicked. This wasn’t what a family should be like. We were victims being held hostage. That night, I told Mum that we were living with domestic violence but we both knew we were trapped.
The Final Battle.
Days before ‘Freedom Day’ (that’s what Mum and I call it), the household had suffered a dramatic shift in dynamics. My father was celebrating his birthday weekend. As time goes on, the events become more clouded but I remember putting him in a bad mood before 9am. Mum had discovered lice in my sisters hair that morning and Dad had complained about some red lumps on his chest. As he was a hairy man, I put two and two together, suggesting that Dad might have nits in his chest hair (it made sense to me). I think any normal family would have thought this was a pretty hilarious statement but not Dad. He shouted something at me and I retreated back to my room, my sanctuary. That day we went to Dundee (we were living in Scotland at the time) and Mum found a five pound note in the floor. I don’t think Dad had noticed and internally I was begging her to keep it secret. Sadly, fully aware of the consequences, she handed it over to him. Something happened while we were in Dundee and I can’t remember what it was but when we got home, he told me and mum to get out of the car and my sister to get into the passenger seat. They drove off and we stayed in the house alone. They returned later on, having been to KFC (we never went to takeaways so when my sister strolled into my room with her fast food cup, I knew it was to boast). That night Mum and I stayed in our room as Dad and my sister ate cake and enjoyed the night as father and daughter.
The next day we did chores while Mum made her traditional Sunday roast. A tension was growing ever clearer between Mum and Dad and once the meal was served, she disappeared upstairs. The three of us sat, ready to eat and Dad declared that my sister could start eating. I assumed that meant I could too but as I raised my fork, I was ordered to wait until mum returned. We waited for sometime but when it became clear Mum wouldn’t be joining us, Dad gave in and allowed me to eat. A meal I genuinely enjoy, I cleared my plate. It was the rule that my sister and I washed and dried the plates after a meal and a roast dinner created quite the pile of washing up. This Sunday, my sister was dismissed. Dad followed me into the kitchen shouting at me to clean the dishes. When I tried to protest, he grabbed my hair and told me to kneel. He wanted me to beg for his forgiveness for ruining his birthday. I didn’t beg. I sobbed but I didn’t beg. I remember being defiant. I knew this wasn’t right and I was already broken. He let go of me, slapped me and walked away, leaving the house with my sister in toe. I cleaned every single plate, pot and tray that was there, making sure everything was spotless before carefully drying them and putting them back in they designated spots. I then went to find Mum.
Sitting at the base of her bed, emotionless and absent, I sat next to her, cuddling into her arm. She expressed equal feelings of hatred toward the household beast. I explained what had happened downstairs and that we were alone and suggested we should go for a walk. We talked and talked about how we needed to escape, how this was abuse but no real plan was made. We were so isolated with no family or friends to help us out. It was hopeless. That night mirrored the one before and I hid in my bedroom, away from the hostility.
Monday. I went to school and exchanged tales of our weekend escapades with one of my classmates. While she had been out shopping or doing normal family things, I explained the environment at home and how vulnerable I felt. That evening she sent me a text saying that we needed to get out. A text that would tarnish my father/ daughter relationship forever. While I had been at school and still unimpressed with his daughters insubordination, Dad decided that a fitting punishment would be to invade my bedroom. My TV has been taken and as soon as I got home, my phone was taken too. Fine, whatever. This wasn’t a huge surprise, especially as Dad repeatedly told me that the mobile I carried with me was his phone. Mum stayed upstairs for a third night and while my room was avoid of all entertainment, I decided to join her, climbing into her bed and just talked (I don’t remember where my sister was during this next part). Some time passed then suddenly, as if an earthquake had hit, heavy footsteps came pounding up the stairs. Dad saw me in his bed, shouted and dragged me into my room. I scream and cowered on the floor next to the stand where my TV had stood the night before. Gritting his teeth like an angry rottweiler, he roared in my face, my phone clenched in his hand. He’d discovered the text my friend had sent. He gripped this thing so tightly that I could hear the plastic cracking under the strain as he bellowed about my plans to “tear up the family”. He then threatened to snap the phone in front of me before raising his foot, bringing it down full force on to my terrified frame. He stomped on me three times before throwing the phone at me and leaving. I had never felt so alone. So betrayed. I slept on the floor that night.
Tuesday 4th March 2008. Freedom day. I woke up early, got dress and out of fear of losing anything else, I packed my school bag full of everything important to me. Jewellery, especially a ring I’ve had since I was 5, a poster, some books. I didn’t want to risk coming home and finding them destroyed. Usually Dad drove us to school but today he told me I could walk while he gave my sister a lift. It was a 45 minute walk from our house but I’ll be honest, I felt safer than being trapped in a metal tin with him. I remember seeing them drive past me as I walked alone. I spent that day in a daze. Exhausted. I have never felt so low as I did that day. I decided that I couldn’t go home. I planned how I was going to go into the local park, find a secluded area, use my school tie and hang myself.
The school bell rang and as I walked to the park, I received a text from Mum to say she’d pick me up. It was unusual but I accepted her offer. As I got into the car, she changed my life forever. She told me that she’d left Dad. I don’t remember how it felt to hear that. It was scary, I didn’t know if he’d come after us but I was so happy I wouldn’t have to go back to that environment. We drove from school so the council to apply for emergency housing, were given the address to a small BnB style refuge and headed home to collect some belongings. This was the last time I entered that house. My sister, being of an age where she could choose which parent to live with and suitably brainwashed, chose to live with Dad. She seemed sad but I don’t think she really understood what was going on. Once I left that house, our relationship was never the same and It would only be a matter of months before she completely disappeared from the world, having had all contact with us severed thanks to Dad. My father, said very little to me that night. I don’t remembered his presence until we were about to leave, bags of belongings in hand. He told me that I’d broken up this family, broken his heart but the final thing this heartless man ever said to me was “This will be something to cut yourself over.” A few years prior, I told my parents that I’d been self harming and his reaction was to call me an attention seeker. His final remark seemed fitting to his character and to this day, is a constant reminder of why I’ll never forgive him.
Freedom day marks the beginning of my life. The weeks after, the novelty hadn’t worn off. Being able to pack our food shopping any way we wanted brought us sheer joy and we were able to eat anything and everything. It only took a few months for me to reach a healthy weight. It has been 12 years since I last saw my Dad. For the first few years he would send me emails, calling me his little princess but reminding me that I tore up his family. Despite all he did, there was a part of me that still wanted him in my life. Having an abusive dad seemed better than not having a dad at all but any time I tried to reach out, it was thrown back into my face. 6 years ago, my sister came back into our lives although she isn’t the person I had once played games with. She is damaged by his control and any talk of him is completely banned. That chapter only seems to exist to Mum and I. That man ruined any relationship I had and will ever have with her. Once she returned to us, the emails from Dad stopped. Having lost someone closer to him, she became the ‘home wrecker’. The last contact we had from him was about a year ago where he told us he was dying of ‘blood cancer’. I have learnt of many lies my Dad told since we left so who knows if this is true. If it is, the he is going to die, alone, surrounded by no one. As isolated as he had once made me feel. I harbour no feelings towards him. I no longer miss him, I no longer hate him. He’s just someone I used to know.
I am so proud of who I have become, how I have bounced back and turned my life into something to be proud of. I am so proud of my mum. She has been through more than anyone could imagine but still smiles and never fails to make me laugh. It took her years but she is finally in a healthy relationship with someone who respects her. But most importantly, we are both safe. I would never change what I went through. I’d do it all again if it meant I could keep this life that I’ve created. I know my worth and no one should ever make you question that.