When I was younger, I generally had just as many, if not more toys and games than other children. There was a great deal of treat food in the house too, the cupboards were generally well stocked. I think it is possible that when one social worker visited, she mistook how the children were pleased with their new shiny toys for a sign of domestic harmony and happiness. Most children from neglectful households stem from even poorer socioeconomic groups, and most likely had less material possessions than me and my siblings. So, how does this work, how is it that children with so many things can be neglected and emotionally abused? I would like to add at this point, that me and one of my younger sisters, if not more of us, have been inappropriately struck by our ‘mother’. But, physical abuse of children was not common in our household. No, my dad received the worst of my ‘mother’s’ physical aggression.
Well, unlike many neglectful households, we had a father and a nice one of that. He knew things are were very wrong, and knew that things were unsustainable, whilst also knowing what would happen to the children if he left my ‘mother’. My father tried desperately to financially support the household, as my ‘mother’ had long ceased to pay her way, and instead she spent a massive portion of our income on alcohol and cigarettes. She drunk so much that she managed to make her spleen spontaneously rupture after he finally decided to leave. If, you could call it that. My father was in a horrific situation, he was working increasingly absurd hours, driving home in a fit of exhaustion, doing his best to clean the house some, feverishly attempting to prepare the children for school, and scoffing down whatever was at hand, before collapsing into bed. It was worse too, as my ‘mother’s’ drinking worsened she became progressively more and more aggressive.
At some point she had started to mock him, to deride him, to walk into the kitchen where he was pushing down food and verbally abuse him. Perhaps she would call him selfish, perhaps she would confront him over the dire financial situation the house was in, or for some mysterious reason accuse him of drinking too much or cheating, both of which she was doing at the time. He was doing neither, of course. It was a slow process. In time she began to throw things at him. The children would put their ears to the floor and hear shouting, screaming, and the crashing of objects. Most of the children, some were only about 5 or 6, did not understand what was happening. Their voices were characterised by confused trepidation, “why are mommy and daddy shouting?”
Of course, it was only a matter of time before my ‘mother’ was striking and attempting to choke my father every night for months. Sometimes the children would walk downstairs in the middle of night, most of the time my father tried to defuse the situation, and told them to go to bed or they would get into trouble. But, sometimes, especially towards the culmination of the situation, the older children with their narrow tear stained faces would actively try and stand in the way of my ‘mother’ as to prevent her from hitting my father. It is a bit of a blur, but I think I remember my closest younger sister trying to push my ‘mother’ away from my father. When I stayed at the house, and usually my ‘mother’ would not allow me even though I technically lived there, I would to interfere as much as possible. She didn’t want me there, as I would require funding and care, which would detract from her alcohol funds. Whether or not that was the right decision, I do not know, my father was a martial arts instructor and so he was unlikely to be harmed. Surprising, I know. The older children and me might have actually caused my father further stress, because he was trying desperately to protect us from the reality of the situation.
On one occasion my ‘mother’ picked up a plank of wood, one of the beds was broken, and began to chase my father with it. I attempted to disarm her and called the police. They arrived and she sunk into her bed upstairs and sobbed uncontrollably saying she was depressed and drunk. The police did nothing. In trying to intervene during the abuse I was scratched, bitten, had my hair pulled, my limbs pinched and pressed, and had objects thrown at me. My ‘mother’ tried to strike me on numerous occasions but she did not succeed, either because of my father’s intervention, or because I outmaneuvered her. At one point she raised her fist in preparation to punch me in the head, and I sort of palmed her in the face Some time later my father finally struck her back, he punched her a number of times in the early hours of the morning. Her eye was blackened and she seemed apologetic. They had strange emotionally charged sex.
The next day, I had stayed at my previous boyfriend’s house that night, I was on the phone to my father. He explained that my ‘mother’ had gone somewhere and not returned. He had had to pick up the children from school. While we were on the phone, there was a knock on the door, and I heard the voice of a police officer. My father did not hang up for he was soon handcuffed and I listened as he was taken to a police station. He had been accused of assault and domestic violence. My mother told our neighbors, her friends, and some school teachers that my dad was a domestic abuser and rapist. She said that my younger siblings were a product of rape. Eventually my dad was released from the station and he had nowhere to go. My ‘mother’ had been to a solicitor and had a restraining order placed on the house so he could not return. He was homeless, she would not allow him to have his property, and soon I was to join him. I visited my ‘mother’ and she told me that she had given my room away to one of siblings, when I asked where I was to sleep, she replied “not here” and went back indoors. She closed the door on me. I had dared to call the police regarding her, and I had fervently defended my father.
You see, the root of the matter is that my father did not want the children to suffer. While he was working my mother would essentially neglect and emotionally abuse her children. Sometimes she wouldn’t prepare meals, often the children were ill but uncared for, she would not interact with them, they were left to stew in squalor and filth, there were maggots near the sink, the pets had fleas and parasites, food rotted on the floor, parents evenings were unattended, and birthdays were ignored. The children wandered about the house with their hair infested with lice, with cavities, with their mouths hanging open, with infections, and raw scratches. They were behaviourally defunct. My dad tried his best to remedy the situation, he took the children to the GP if he wasn’t working, he attended the parent’s evenings that could fit around his work, sometimes he would cook, often he would clean what he could, and he dealt with all the birthdays to the best of his ability. When I struggled at school because my language skills were essentially delayed, and I had emotional difficulties, he would work through my homework with me in the evening. He bought me books on science, chemistry sets, art sets, and unlike my ‘mother’ he was actually nice to me. I didn’t see him as often as I would have liked but I was always happy to spend what time I could with my dad. If my dad had left my ‘mother’ earlier, and I had not have hypothetically gone into care, I honestly feel that is possible that I would not be here today.
What is interesting is that the worse the situation became, the less money my dad had spare, the more he tried to give. There is sort of a positive trend between how elaborate our Christmases were and how abusive my mother was. I imagine that the toys were my dad’s way of apologising for the lives we lived, even though it wasn’t his fault. Strangely, when I was a child the more stressed I became with my ‘mother’s’ shouting at me, the more toys I destroyed.