Michelle's* Story

When I first met Jenny, she was very sweet. She was complimentary and caring towards me and my two-year-old son, Michael. I thought I was the luckiest person to have met someone who wanted to help me raise my child.

After six months, our relationship changed. I didn’t recognise it at first. We argued and shouted at each other more; she started drinking during the week. It came to a head one Christmas when she flew into a rage in front of my son, trashing the house completely.

I didn’t want to admit that anything was wrong. She would always apologise and buy us gifts to say sorry. She told me her behaviour would change and I believed her. It was all lies.

Before long, I was finding myself having to defend her behaviour to my friends, even when she physically attacked me in the pub in front of them. I brushed it all aside and thought Michael was too young to know what was going. I didn’t realise how much abuse my child was seeing.

One day, when Michael was seven-years-old, I went to the gym and Jenny looked after him. When I came back, I noticed a mark on his eye.

The next day, I got a call from his school. His eye had bruised and it was black and blue.

When I got to the school, a police officer and social care worker were present. I broke down, telling them about Jenny’s abuse. A doctor said it looked like he had been punched.

I never wanted to see her again. Our relationship was over, and she moved out immediately.

That week, Michael slept in my bed. He didn’t want to leave my side. One night, he took a knife from the kitchen and put it under his pillow, saying it was to protect himself from her.

His behaviour became challenging. He would pick fights at school and was rude to teachers. He was removed from class, distanced himself from his friends and started having 1-2-1 sessions with his teachers.

Eventually, his behaviour became so bad that he was expelled.

I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t home-school him and I couldn’t afford a private teacher. He had an appointment with a child and adolescent mental health service and was diagnosed with Complex Trauma. I didn’t think the abusive behaviour he witnessed at such a young age could have such an impact.

Following this, he was given an Education, Health and Care plan and gained a place at a special education needs school.

Michael is now 11 and has been at his new school for two years. I can see improvements in his behaviour but it’s taken a long time. He doesn’t talk about Jenny anymore and our relationship is getting stronger.

I thought that keeping him in his room when Jenny was violent was enough to protect him, but children really do see and understand everything.

Read 'On The Sidelines: The Economic and Personal Cost of Childhood Exposure to Domestic Violence'

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