Domestic Violence – Not Always Black And White.
It’s hard for me to admit that I grew up in a house with domestic violence. Partly because my Dad without alcohol was the most beautiful, loving and caring man, and the other part because what went on in my house, was essentially my normal.
There was a lot of love and laughter, but unfortunately my Dad’s addiction to alcohol often brought a very dark cloud over our heads. He wasn’t a daily drinker, but he certainly went on drinking binges. Every few months his drinking would increase, and when this occurred Mum and I were in for a few weeks of hell.
Dad worked shift work, and I would often come home from school to find him drunk and agitated. I would sneak off into my room and ring Mum at work in order to warn her of what she would be coming home to.
Quite often I would tell Dad off for how drunk he was, which created an argument between us; it usually resulted in him chasing after me in the attempt to give me a belting. More often than not I managed to escape unharmed.
I had a lock put on my door and there was a lock on the bathroom door. I’d usually run as fast as I could to either of these rooms and lock the door; I always had to lean against the door though to stop Dad from kicking it down.
A few times I wasn’t quick enough and coped a few kicks and punches. However, this never made me scared of him, I always felt anger and determination to protect my Mother. I very much saw the fear in my Mother’s eyes when he was like that, and somehow my need to protect her always gave me the power to stand up to him.
Often when Mum got home from work, Dad would try to pick a fight with her. She would try her best not to agitate him, but sometimes he was determined to pick a fight. In these times, Mum and I would have to make a run for the car. We’d jump in and lock the doors. Mum would reverse out of the driveway as quickly as she could as Dad bashed his fists on the windscreen. It always amazed me that the glass never smashed from his sheer force.
We would run away to my Aunties house for a day or two when Dad got like this, with nothing more than the clothes on our back. There was never any time to pack a bag in these volatile situations.
I remember Dad kicking and punching two holes through our passage door in one of his rages – a constant reminder was two stickers placed over the top to disguise the holes. I also remember when I was about four or five years old my Dad’s twin brother came to stay with us from interstate. The two of them together were a recipe for disaster! My Uncle always egged Dad on to drink all the more, and he, himself, was a very aggressive and violent drunk.
This night they went to the pub and got blind. As Dad drove home they got into an argument and my Uncle punched Dad in the side of the head as he was driving. How he didn’t crash, I’ll never know.
Unfortunately, when they got home the fight continued inside. Pot plants, cups and anything that was in sight got hurled around the room.
Of course, me with no fear tried to break up their fight and got knocked flying (I still to this day don’t hesitate to jump in the middle and break things up if I see violence. I just cannot sit back and watch a fight occur). The fight eventually came to an end when Dad knocked my Uncle unconscious – I clearly remember blood trickling down my Uncle’s ear.
I know all of this sounds terrible, and I’m certainly not excusing my Dad’s behaviour, but I truly have nothing but love for him, and my Mother feels the same. I think it’s because we have immense compassion for the terrible childhood he endured, and because without alcohol he really was a beautiful man with a big heart.
Mum and I understood that he drank to bury the demons from his childhood, as so many from that era did (and still do). Therapy in those days was just mumbo jumbo. Dad grew up very rough and very poor, with an alcoholic Mother (who had her own demons she was battling).
He walked to school in the middle of winter in bare feet and often had to steal just to survive. He was molested by one of the many men in his Mother’s life, and when he told his Mother about the abuse, she belted him and called him a filthy, rotten little liar. It’s hard to imagine the effect that must have had on a nine or ten-year-old little boy. Dad only ever told my Mum about this abuse once and refused to ever discuss it again. He didn’t even know that I knew about it.
There are so many other terrible situations that he endured, but it really would take a book not an article to describe.
Dad never played the victim though, or carried on about how hard his childhood was, in fact, he truly believed he had a normal childhood. I know all of this unprocessed pain is why he drank – it numbed his pain.
Dad tried so hard to stay away from alcohol, often abstaining for months at a time, but it always got the better of him. It didn’t help that his eldest daughter (my half sister) and his twin brother always encouraged him (on the phone) to drink. They used to think it was funny to cause trouble amongst our family unit.
In their eyes, Mum and I were trying to control Dad by being against his drinking. I guess it was okay for them living interstate and not having to put up with Dad’s violent outbursts. It was a constant battle between us and them, only our reasoning wasn’t about being spiteful or controlling; it was about wanting Dad to be the best version of himself, and of course, us wanting to live safely and peacefully within our own home.
Thankfully as Dad’s cancer progressed, he finally learnt to overcome his addiction and he really learnt the error of his ways. He was so remorseful and ashamed of what he had put us through for all of those years, and that gives Mum and I incredible peace to know he corrected that karmic lesson before he died.
It’s also very satisfying to know that we got to have some really great years with him that were completely alcohol free. This, along with understanding Dad’s childhood demons allows me to have not only great compassion for him, but loving forgiveness as well.
People used to tell my Mum (including me) to leave my Dad, but life really isn’t black and white. My Mum always said she couldn’t leave him; of course, part of her was scared to, but mostly it was because she loved him and knew that at his core, he was a good man who most likely would have drunk himself to death had she not stayed to fight for him.
I used to get angry at my Mum for not leaving him, but now (in some way) I admire that she stayed – she ultimately sacrificed herself in order to save him, and save him she certainly did!
Please note: this article is not encouraging women to stay in a violent relationship. The best option is always to leave such a situation. I’m simply highlighting that every situation has a grey area, and by some miracle in this case, my family had a happy ending to what was a very tumultuous and sometimes dangerous situation. One that we would rather have not experienced in the first place.
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