I used to watch those ads on TV about the NSPCC. I say ‘watch’, but often I couldn’t because it would/still does makes me so upset because I know exactly what it feels like to be in those children’s shoes, feeling lost, sad, confused as to why your parents are treating you like this and not having anywhere/anyone to turn to. But as I got older, those ads made me angry. Why? Because people were giving money to this charity, (and I know this sounds incredibly selfish), who not once helped me, and I know for a fact that there are without doubt so many other children out there that no one is aware of, being treated really badly behind closed doors, who charities like the NSPCC will never help despite their best intentions.
I used to tell my parents I would call ‘Childline’, a reasonably new service at the time, I believe set up by Esther Rantzen, but I never did. I never had the guts and I was scared of the potential consequences. I used to think everything through so much as a child-something I still do, ‘overthinking’ things as one close friend says I do. Anyway, my mother’s response was to always laugh at me and tell me they would come and take me away. Little did I realise at the time that that may have been a far better option than staying where I was. Every night I would fall asleep, usually in tears, wishing my childhood away, praying for the day I was old enough to leave home and support myself.
When I was 16, the physical abuse stopped. I very clearly remember the last time he hit me. He smacked me across my head in the kitchen, with my baby sister, (his daughter), then aged 6, screaming at him to stop, (I can’t even remember why I had annoyed him), and just before this incident, I had vowed to myself that the next time he did it, I wouldn’t react-I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of him knowing he’d hurt me or made me cry, and I didn’t. I took the hit, and I didn’t react, despite the pain. And he never hit me again. I don’t know if it was because of my sister’s reaction, or because I’d reached an age where I was fully aware that what he was doing was wrong and I could have gone to the police or because he didn’t get his usual reaction from me. But whatever the reason, the hitting stopped. I carried on living at home until I turned 18, because I wanted so badly to go to university. When I filled out my paper UCAS form, I made sure every university I applied to was at least 200 miles from home, and with my okish grades (I really should have done much better than I did at A-level), I got a few offers back. That September, I packed up my things and my parents dropped me off at university with all my worldly possessions packed into the car, the rest put into storage. The day I left, he said to me “when I left home at 18, I didn’t come back”. Nice, I thought, not that I ever wanted to come back but that’s something I’ll never, ever tell my children.