Physical abuse: Pete's story

Pete talks about his experience of physical abuse when he was younger and how it affected him.

"I thought it was a game"

"My earliest memory of my mum's temper is from when I was a toddler and she was throwing books down the stairs at my dad. I was so young at the time that I thought it was a game.

"When my dad moved out when I was 5 or 6 her aggression turned on me.

"Over the years, my mum kicked and beat me, throttled me, threw me down the stairs and pushed me into a scolding hot bath.

"She once held my head under water and another time she shoved a full bar of soap in my mouth. There are too many incidents to recount.

"Even though she could be really nasty, she could be loving too. It was just that you'd never know when she was going to flip, get angry and start screaming at you. Sometimes after a flare up, she'd be apologetic, other times she'd accuse me of starting it. Sometimes she'd pretend it never happened.

"I didn't misbehave as a kid and it was always something petty that would trigger her violent outbursts. It would usually start with her yelling and swearing and I would normally try to go to my room to escape her but she would follow me in and overpower me.

"I'd get thrown against a wall and she would hit and kick me. If I put an arm or a leg out to protect myself and it made contact with her then she'd say that I had hit her and the whole thing would escalate.

It really hurt when my sister wouldn't admit seeing my mum lashing out at me when my dad asked about it. Yet in private she would happily admit what was going on to me. I think she was protecting herself. It was safer to keep quiet and stay out of the way.

"At home, I'd try to avoid being in the same room as her. It was a good strategy for keeping out of her way.

"My sister's relationship with my mum was better than mine. She would get yelled at and hit, but it was me who bore the brunt of mum's anger. Sometimes when she was having a go at my sister, I'd be almost pleased because it wasn't me for once.

"It really hurt when my sister wouldn't admit seeing my mum lashing out at me when my dad asked about it. Yet in private she would happily admit what was going on to me. I think she was protecting herself. It was safer to keep quiet and stay out of the way.

"My dad always used to say he could see me literally sink in the 10 yards between the car and my mum's house when he dropped me off after I spent the weekend with him. The minute I stepped through the door, I'd feel on edge.

"My neighbours must have heard the raised voices all the time, but no one complained or did anything about it.

I was moved to live with my dad and I can remember hoping I would be able to stay with him forever but I was returned to my mum after a month.

"When I was 8 or 9 my dad found marks on my back and told the police. They photographed my injuries and interviewed me. I was moved to live with my dad and I can remember hoping I would be able to stay with him forever but I was returned to my mum after a month.

"It wasn't until I was around 12 that I started to realise that it wasn't normal and that other people's parents didn't hit them. Over the next few years I got stronger and started to fight back so it would happen less regularly. I stayed at home until after my GSCEs were finished and then moved in with my dad.

"He had gone to court a number of times to try and get custody of me, but nothing changed. I know he feels guilty about leaving me with my mum when I was younger.

"My mum said I was brainwashed – that my dad had invented it all. To this day, she says nothing ever happened. But I know it did. I'm still living with the feelings and fears from those days now, in my twenties.

For a long time, I accepted what was going on at home as normal. But no child should have to live in fear or on edge in their own home – that's the place they should feel safest.

"I find it difficult to trust people and I have flashbacks, especially if I see something on TV which triggers a memory. I find everyday things, like walking down a street, difficult as I worry that making eye contact with someone will cause them to be physically violent towards me.

"If I see someone now in the street shouting at a little kid and being aggressive, I get really angry. I feel like saying, 'that's not going to work, it's only going to make thing worse'.

"For a long time, I accepted what was going on at home as normal. But no child should have to live in fear or on edge in their own home – that's the place they should feel safest.

"I think there's a risk that children don't know there's help out there for them. Even when they see ads for Childline, they may not realise it's for them. They see the abuse as normal and so don't connect the adverts or advice to their own situation.

"But they should know that what is happening to them is wrong and that there is help out there for them. Childline lets children and young people go at their own pace and talk about things when they are ready. They won't laugh at you and they will believe what you say."

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