I was the child of a woman who suffered domestic violence

By Kelly Dwyer

I know what it is like to watch your mother almost die, to see her cower, to wish for your own father to die because his death would mean safety for your mother.

As a small child I prayed nightly for God to take my father. He was a man who could not help but drink it seemed.

He would drink until the point he could barely stand or talk but when he lost his temper – say his dinner wasn’t still there for him hours after he decided to come home – or if something just wasn’t right, perhaps my mother had looked at him the wrong way – he would somehow bear the strength of an ox.

I remember dropping a plate, wearing a white dress for my communion as all the feelings of being a princess drained from my body.

I remember the day being ruined and always condemned to a past I try to move on from.

I looked up to see why there were screams and saw my father trying to stab my mother in the throat. I saw my brother, only a young man, trying to stop him.

It was too much for a seven-year-old to see or a 12-year-old to attempt to stop but somehow my mother and brother managed to get the ox away.

Mother was safe for another day.

But this life went on. We lived on egg shells every evening, every Christmas.

As a child I learned to fear Christmas. It is such a bizarre way to feel. I loved the morning with my mother and opening the presents but evening would bring more hell.

At Christmas father was worse than ever. He would drink until he barely knew what surrounded him yet still he was a danger to us.

I remember him throwing a chair and it hitting me as a small child. He didn’t mean to. He just didn’t care what happened when he was in that state.

As a family, my mother, brother and I, ran to hide on many occasions. We were sometimes dressed, sometimes in pyjamas.

It was in the night or in the morning but mostly in the night. This is when dad was worst of all – after a night in the pub and a hard day in a menial job.

I don’t think my father was even a bad person. Bad things happened to him early on in life. He lost his mother young. He had a tough life.

But my mother and her children suffered for his loss.

My mother, the stalwart, the survivor, my everything in this world. If only she knew how much I loved her.

She was my strength and what made me fight in my own life. And she never ever gave in. She always loved us and made us believe we could conquer anything.

Despite her hard life, she never let us believe ours couldn’t be all we dreamed of.

She was and is my hero but my father died before I ever got the chance to simply ask: “Dad, why?”

I believe he wouldn’t have been able to tell me and his sickness at the end made me feel guilt for ever wishing for his death.

While he also made me a fighter, it always seemed I was still a kid in pyjamas running in the night, no shoes on my feet.

But he also made me cynical of men. How can we trust them as women, part of me still feels today.

I know this must be wrong and that some are of course good.

My father wasn’t bad either. He was just lost. God bless him, my mother and all who suffer today and tomorrow.

Domestic violence won’t stop. Therefore we need shelter for women and children.


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