When I was six, my parents separated and my mother and stepfather moved 130 miles away from my dad. My stepfather had anger issues, although he never hit or touched me or my mother, instead he would shout and swear at us. To anyone who met him, he was charming.
When I was very little he would shout at me and my brother and pin us against the wall when we did something ‘wrong’. But what was worse, were the arguments between him and my mother. He would tell her how my brother and I were bad children and that we needed to be punished, and that she should spend even less time with us than she did, which was very little anyway. He would insult her and tell her how she was a terrible parent, which she started to believe. She would always end up crying.
My stepfather would constantly tell me how my dad didn’t love me and that he preferred my brother. Together with my other they would say bad things about my dad to us. After a while their lies started to sink in and my brother stopped seeing my dad for a while when he was ten. I understand why he did this. During the time when he didn’t see dad they were kind to him, while I was excluded from the family and punished more because I carried on seeing him. In the end dad went to court so that he could see my brother.
Things got a lot worse when I was around eleven. We had just moved into a smaller house because of money issues. Whereas before, we were in a large house with thick walls and could get away from the arguing and the terrible things he would say to my mother, now the walls were like paper. Things were also worse because as I was ‘older’ my mother would come and cry on my shoulder. This was when I started telling my mother that I didn’t like my stepfather and the terrible way he treated her, and how it upset me. Whatever I told her, she would tell him. So he started focussing his anger towards me.
He told everyone that I was an evil, manipulative liar. He would make things up that hadn’t happened and tell my mother. She would ask me about these things and when I said I didn’t do them he would tell her I was manipulating her and lying. He was also obsessed with ‘respect’. He said I didn’t respect him and that I was constantly “taking the p***”. Because of this, their arguments got worse and I became the sole subject of them. Since my name was all that came up, everyone in the ‘family’ (my stepsisters, brother and mother) began to turn against me. I was often put in ‘Coventry’. My mother only ever spoke to me to tell me to be a better person. I could see she didn’t like me.
When I was thirteen, I ran away from home because they were having a particularly bad argument. They both drank a lot and he was in a deranged drunkenness. When I was eventually found, my mother did a fake “I was worried so much” and then when I got home I was immediately punished. I was shouted at and then ignored for being a drama queen, caring only about myself and accused of trying to get my stepfather into trouble.
When I was fourteen, the years of being told I was a bad person started to have an effect on me. When you live in a house where everyone has come to believe you are bad, you start to believe it yourself. I used to try to stand up to him and say that I had a dad and friends who thought I was a good person, but he would say “They don’t know you because they don’t live with you. I know you and you just manipulate them into thinking you’re good”. It was too exhausting crying myself to sleep each night, that I started to go along with the idea that I was bad. I began drinking, smoking and going to parties with people I didn’t really know. I went on a mission of self-destruction. It’s hard to explain, but he had made me doubt myself so much, that I did these things because I felt I should be doing them. They had all treated me like a bad person when I was doing nothing wrong, that doing these bad things felt right. I felt like I was being my true self, when of course I wasn’t – I was just numb.
I didn’t even know I wasn’t ok until I tried to kill myself when I was fifteen. I was very calm when I did it and reasoned it through in my head: “I am a bad person, I have caused so much trouble. I cannot change, my mother and brother and everyone in the house would be better if I wasn’t around, so I will kill myself”. Of course I was deeply depressed and my brain wasn’t working properly, but at that time I was 100% sure what I was doing was the right thing.
When I came out of hospital, my mother pretended it hadn’t happened, and so did I. I was made to go to counselling, but I didn’t get on with it. It wasn’t until a few months later when I had a breakdown in front of my dad, that I accepted that I was deeply unhappy. I was put on medication and tried harder with counselling and CBT, but I still didn’t feel better. I remember one day my stepfather sitting me down in front of my mother and saying “I can see right through you, you didn’t want to kill yourself, if you had done then you would be dead. I know. I’ve watched a man bleed to death. You’re just doing this to get away with what ever you want you manipulative little c***.”
Needless to say I got a lot worse, but despite thinking about it, I never made another attempt on my life. My dad and my school got involved and had some serious words with my mother, and for the first time in years the abuse and punishment eased up. I put all my energy into my counselling and therapy and eventually got better. My counselling was very insightful, and I went from believing I was a bad person to realising that my stepfather was the bad person. However when I was seventeen, with the arguments between my stepfather and my mother continuing, I left home to live with a friend and her family to finish my studies. I now live with my dad.
Some months after I left home, I took my mother to see a counsellor with me because I was angry with her for not protecting me and for joining in all the bad things with my Stepfather. After less than a month my mother left my stepfather. My mother called a domestic abuse helpline to help her escape from him. Their help gave her the confidence and knowledge to be able to leave.
As time has moved on, we have identified that my stepfather had successfully isolated us from friends and wider family. He had set up all our emails on a server he could control, so that he could access them. We now know that he was sending emails to the family in our names, saying terrible things, that in some cases drove people away. He was monitoring our phones to see where we were. He had also spent all my mother’s money. We have now all been able to see that for years he manipulated and bullied her massively, so that she couldn’t see the truth, but she’s working through it. It is chilling how the isolation and dependency helped him to dominate and abuse us all for twelve years.
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