Tara’s* story

*Names changed to protect identities  

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How do you leave when your partner is always at home? We had no choice; we couldn’t stay there. I decided to tell my partner that me and our children had been offered alternative housing. He exploded, as he always did, and said that if we wanted to leave, we’d have to leave immediately. It was 8pm. 

He went to the pub and waited for us to leave. I frantically filled plastic bags with our possessions and my dad came to take us back to my parent’s house. Within a few days, we were at Hestia’s refuge. 

Me and my partner were together right up until I left, but he had been getting gradually more and more abusive. I feared for my children’s safety.

I remember one time when I was pregnant with my youngest son, and my eldest son and I were sitting in the car while my partner drove. Something annoyed him, and he said he was going to drive the car at 100 miles per hour.

He sped up the car as we were driving along the motorway and said he hoped we had a massive crash and that none of us survived. I remember him saying: “If I hear one more sound, I’m going to throw the pair of you out of the car in the middle of the motorway, and you can find your own way home.” 

We were terrified. I held my son’s hand and made sure we were absolutely silent the whole way home. He was three at the time. 

He also attacked me once; he was clever enough not to hit me, but he spat in my face and smashed up our flat. Another time, when I was just days from giving birth, he said that my eldest son had squirted him with water. He flew into a rage at us, shouting and walking towards me and punching himself in the head. I thought he was going to hit me. 

On the day he pulled a knife out, that was when I realised what he could potentially do. 

We went through the family courts and at first we reconciled. I believed he wanted to change as he had been through counselling and stopped smoking marijuana. However, he wasn’t off the drugs; he had only stopped so he could pass the test in court. It was all deception. 

The abuse started again gradually and carried on after our second child was born. He showed no interest in our youngest, and he wouldn’t change nappies or feed our children. I had to do everything. If he took them to the park for half an hour, I felt lucky, as it meant I could quickly get on with some work. Just before I left him, he was growing marijuana in the house and drying it in the oven, where I cooked the children’s food.  

He never showed any kind of remorse or that there was anything wrong with what he did. He was ashamed to admit that he was the problem, so he would just blame me.

I decided to leave because I didn’t want my youngest son to have to witness what my eldest had. I always tried to shield them as much as possible and take them out of the situation, but they did see it. 

My eldest son has been through so much change, and I’ve continually pushed for him to get counselling at school. Now we’re in a refuge, I think they are taking it seriously and I hope he will start counselling soon. He’s made a lot of friends at school and is now doing extremely well academically.  

My youngest son is very sociable, but he can be challenging at times. He spent time with his dad, and then he didn’t, so I think he finds that very confusing.  

The good thing about being in the refuge is that we are with other families in the same situation. I don’t think my children feel different here; all the other kids just have a mum too, there are no dads around. They play with the other children, and one of the other mums sits and reads with my eldest. We all help each other out. It’s lovely. 

I don’t know yet if what they saw might affect them long-term. My focus now is that they are safe.

Tara's* story is taken from our latest report 'Journey to Refuge: A Child's Experience of Domestic Abuse', exploring children's experiences of domestic abuse and living at a refuge.

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