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.
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.