Life af­ter grow­ing up with vi­o­lence

In the third of a four-part se­ries of sto­ries about fam­ily vi­o­lence, Deena Coster dis­cov­ers what gets left be­hind af­ter child­hood vi­o­lence.

Taranaki Daily News - - News -

She’s an adult now, safe and com­fort­able in­side the con­fines of her sunny, sub­ur­ban home.

But life wasn’t al­ways like that. The young mother, who Stuff has agreed not to name to pro­tect her pri­vacy, re­mem­bers watch­ing a lot of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in her home grow­ing up, phys­i­cal at­tacks of­ten fu­elled by al­co­hol.

She finds it hard to talk about. Not let­ting any­one know her true feel­ings is a cop­ing mech­a­nism she dis­cov­ered at an early stage in her life to keep safe.

‘‘You try and safe­guard your­self to the max,’’ she says.

She be­lieves she ended up in a se­ries of vi­o­lent re­la­tion­ships her­self be­cause of what she ex­pe­ri­enced, de­spite know­ing it was not nor­mal.

When it was dis­cov­ered she had been abused, she moved homes and was placed with care­givers who were anti-vi­o­lence.

But de­spite this re­prieve, she cy­cled through a se­ries of tu­mul­tuous and of­ten bru­tal re­la­tion­ships with men.

The first time she was ever hit by a boyfriend, she says she was ‘‘shocked’’ but what came out of the blue soon turned into a daily oc­cur­rence.

There was hardly any love at all, she says. ‘‘It was al­ways pretty s***’’.

Her first abu­sive re­la­tion­ship ended af­ter she made a dash through the dark­ness to get away.

‘‘I ran away in the mid­dle of the night with my son,’’ she said.

Af­ter putting a call into Women’s Refuge for help, they stepped in and took her to safety.

Her sec­ond vi­o­lent re­la­tion­ship ended when her then part­ner went to prison and a third fin­ished about five years ago, when friends helped her get out of the dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion and set up a new life for her­self.

Un­for­tu­nately, her two young chil­dren bore wit­ness to her vi­o­lent treat­ment and the re­sult­ing chaos.

Al­though free from vi­o­lence now, she can still see things that in­di­cate their child­hood was not the care­free one it should have been.

It made them ‘‘very clingy’’ and scared, re­luc­tant to go any­where or sleep away from the house.

‘‘You can still see the signs of a bit of trauma in their past,’’ she says.

It took her sev­eral years to feel ready enough to get into a new re­la­tion­ship.

Af­ter meet­ing her new part­ner, they talked for hours about how they wanted their lives to be to­gether. This had been so un­like her other re­la­tion­ships with men, she says.

‘‘We talked about what we wanted and what we didn’t.’’

They com­mu­ni­cate, pull each other up on things and above all, put the needs of their chil­dren first.

It’s a safe re­la­tion­ship for both of them, she says.

She feels loved.

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