This is a reflective piece of writing based on my ongoing thoughts. I continued to stay in an abusive marriage for the sake of my children. I didn’t want to be, nor could I be an absent father. Nor in the early years did I know whether the physical assaults I experience would subsequently take place on my children. In their young childhood, would they understand the reasons why I wasn’t living with them?
These were questions I asked myself daily. I couldn’t leave them. Neither could I leave with them for I had nothing to fall back on. If I walked out, I would lose my home and my job. No agency would be interested in housing a man claiming domestic abuse. Had I left with the children, no-one would question their safety or well-being and I would probably face police charges for child kidnap.
So I stayed, but came up with an escape plan. Once, the children had grown to independency I could leave and start living my life free from domestic violence. Staying until then, I believed, would minimise the impact on them of living with Domestic Abuse and I would have protected them.
As it happened, my ex-wife eventually placed me in a situation when I choose not to go back to the family home. That was, and will remain the hardest decision I will ever make in my life.
Did my staying until then minimise the impact of Domestic Violence on my children? I don’t know. I do know that it has affected them all in different ways and this troubles me.
I have been reluctant in my blog to write too much about the children. This was to protect their identity. However, time has moved on and we are all living with the after-effects. This is a summary of their story through my eyes. I have two daughters and one son. At the time of separation they were aged 15, 13 and 11.
My eldest daughter was often on the receiving end of her mother’s vicious tongue. This has caused her to be very sensitive to received comments and also very defensive.
The middle child was very placid in nature, trying to keep away from conflict and often would try and placate her mother. She wrote for me the previous blog movingly explaining how the abuse affected her.
My son right from birth has had developmental issues. Countless medical tests have been conducted on him right from birth until present day. No diagnosis has ever been made although he does display symptoms in keeping with some of those on the autistic spectrum. His gait and posture is very infantile and he displays frustration which quickly turns into vented anger when things don’t go right for him. School has always been a struggle for him.
I have written elsewhere about my leaving the family home. On the following Monday, my bishop had arranged a pastoral interview discussing the state of our marriage in the family home, first of all with my ex-wife and then I was asked to return for a joint meeting.
My two daughters were still at school when I arrived. My son was at home because his school hadn’t returned from their recess yet. As I entered the house, I went straight to my son’s room where he was watching a film. When he saw me, his response to me was very angry, shouting at me that I must pack my things and come home. I was in tears and tried talking with him, trying to reassure him but he was in such a frenzy that he didn’t hear. My bishop came up to try and calm my son down, telling him that he was loved and we were trying to sort everything out.
The girls were walking home from school and saw my car parked up so came running and screaming “Dad.” I ran out to meet them and we embraced and cried. No-one said anything, we just held each other for what seemed like eternity. It was very heart-wrenching.
Although leaving the children was very distressing, once I’d broken the cycle of abuse I knew I couldn’t go back. Should I stay or should I go? I went, there could be no going back.