Parents split up for all sorts of reasons. For these families, the reason was domestic abuse. The children feel the professionals didn’t listen to them. To protect the children’s safety, the words were spoken by actors.
What was it like when your Mum and Dad lived together? I also love my dad and everything. When he’s nice, he’s really fun to be around. But your home is somewhere you should feel safe, not somewhere where you see your own family get hurt.
Dad would spend all the money on drugs. And he was constantly putting Mum down. She hated it, but she stuck around for us. I tried to stick up for her, but he just got really angry. I’d lock myself in the bathroom. I was that scared of him. When Dad lived with us, there was too many bad memories. We would have had to be in bed before he came home, or he would have hit us.
How did you leave? Well, we tried to leave a few times. We’re going to go on a train, but he like stole the tickets. He stole Mum’s credit cards and everything. So the next day, we went to the police station. And they sorted it all out. He got taken in by the police, so we had a chance to leave.
Who decides if you see your dad? I had 2 hours contact with my dad every week. He’d take us to the indoor play centre. That was good. We liked it and we liked it when he buys us stuff. But he was not nice. He said bad things. I felt better not seeing my dad. It kept the worries out of my head. But the court said I had to. What did you do? I wrote a letter to the sheriff. I wrote that I didn’t want to see my dad just then. I was petrified of him. And then what happened?
They said it wasn’t really my letter, that I couldn’t possibly know the word ‘petrified’. So I tried writing again. And this time I used simple words. But it didn’t make a difference. What do you think should happen in court?
They should let the child come to court and say what they want. It’s not that they don’t listen. It’s just they don’t make a difference.
Who decided where you should live? There was the court case, and I went to go live with Dad. Dad was constantly bribing her, saying that he’d buy her a pony. I was about seven. He said if I moved back in with him, Mum would come back, and then we’d be a proper family again. The day she left it was absolutely horrible. My mum and my sister were crying. And I was crying. When she was at my dad’s, it was the little things I missed, like having arguments with her. Dad would text us, saying she was having the time of her life. And she didn’t miss us.
It was a sheriff who made the decision, I think he made the wrong one. Living with my dad wasn’t good for me. It wasn’t even that safe. I was kind of scared. A solicitor came to see us. She was kind of off on my dad, like he was the greatest dad ever. She was sort of taking our dad’s side.
Our dad lives on a farm with loads of horses. She likes horses. She was always talking about how great it was, living there. She just didn’t have a clue. She didn’t listen at all. What I say to the solicitor and the sheriff is, you need to dig deeper, get the real story When I was on the phone to Mum, he’d be writing something on paper for me to say. He basically made me say, I’m happy down here and I don’t want contact with her. I didn’t want to say it, but I felt I had to, because if I didn’t he’d get angry with me. Mum started to cry, which made me cry. But Dad didn’t care.
One night I was down visiting my sister and she started to talk about how she didn’t feel safe. I do a big letter to the court. I do a lot of stuff in there that I wouldn’t tell anybody, basically about how my dad hit me and I didn’t want my sister to go through the same thing. They didn’t even write back or anything. I was really close to Whizzer, my dog. When Dad was at work, it would just be me and the dogs. Dad threatened to kill my dog if I didn’t say I wanted to live with him. Mum kept taking Dad to the courts to see if we could get them to change their mind, and they did.
Do you still see your dad now? I’m quite close to my dad still, so I don’t mind seeing him. I do like spending time with my dad, but mostly, I just go so I can be there to look after my sister. It’s like, when we went for Christmas, he went out Christmas night. We texted him and phoned him, asked him to come home. But he was just too busy getting drunk. He can sometimes be fine with us. And then the next minute, he’s just like horrible. One time he started chucking stuff and shouting about how he didn’t want me there. And I was a slut like my mum.
Beginning of the year, we got our own house, and Mum’s like clearly happy. But, every time I’m with Dad, he’s always asking questions about her. He’d use his mates to get on Facebook and try to check her page. He is always saying, oh, I really miss you. Why don’t you come back and live with me. I find that quite hard.
What happened after your mum went back to court? Then it changed. The court said I didn’t have to see my dad. I meant that I can do what I wanted on Saturdays, because with Dad, it was always what he wanted. I was really pleased. And now? I told the sheriff I just needed time. And now, I do see my dad. But when I want to. Now, it’s nothing to do with the court. It’s better. Yeah, I got on OK with my dad.
What would you say to your mum? I’d ask her why she stuck around so long with Dad? I’d tell her I’m happy she left. Because a lot of parents stay in these situations. And it just turns out not very nice. I think domestic abuse should be touched upon a lot more in schools. Because if it had been taught at my school, I think I’d have realised a lot earlier that it was wrong. If I could stop domestic abuse, that would be one of the top things I would do.