I have a friend, let’s call her Jane, who recently told me she dobbed her 11-year-old son into the cops.
We were the last ones standing after a catch up with some other school mums, and after ordering a round of espresso martinis it was confession time.
I confessed I’d actually been watering down my drinks all night because I’m a diabetic; and Jane confessed her 11-year-old son had been hitting her.
Now, I know this kid, Scott*; he’s very tall, and strong, and a total angel for his mum, who happens to be a sole parent. I know Jane has been very proud of him as the eldest child and a wonderful big brother. When she noticed her usually even-tempered kid had recently become prone to temper tantrums, Jane had put this down to normal pre-teen frustrations with friendship groups, schoolwork, and a need for independence.
But then, this gentle giant started to lash out at his mum. The first time was in the midst of an argument about homework before television. Scott punched his mum’s arm with such a force that her unsuspecting body almost lost its balance.
Listen: Mia Freedman talked to the incredible Rosie Batty about domestic violence. (Post continues after audio.)
Naturally, there was a ‘no television’ ban placed immediately, as well as a suspension of pocket money. Scott was mortified by his loss of control, and there were tears from both mum and son, with promises to never let it happen again.
Yet deep down, Jane began to truly worry; her instincts told her not to dismiss this as an isolated incident.
She was right – the second time came only 48 hours later, when Jane was punched in the back as she walked away from another argument. She sat her son down, explained to him that she had once left a relationship where her boyfriend had yelled at her and threatened to hurt her, and that what her son had done is called ‘assault’. As an adult, and even potentially as a child, Scott would be answerable to the law for such actions, so he needed to understand the gravity of what he was doing.
Scott began some sessions with the school counsellor to get to the source of his frustrations, and why he was choosing to take them out on his mum. But a couple of months later when the sessions ended, the arguments recommenced.
However, this time would be different. One night, as Jane saw Scott beginning to lose his temper, she explained that the next time she was hit, she would be taking Scott to the police and explaining that she had been assaulted. And the next day, when Scott tried to grab her arm to stop her from walking away from an escalating situation, she decided that was enough. She had to make her move before she was hit again and this behaviour became a pattern.
She told Scott that the police would be the next step. Image via iStock.
In the guise of needing to run an errand with him, she got Scott into the car; otherwise, physically, she couldn’t have made him. As it dawned on Scott where they were going, Jane just calmly said that he might be scared, but she would be there with him, and they were just going to talk to the police because he needed to understand the consequences if he continued to lash out against the woman who was closest to him. Because if they didn’t do this now, one day it could be his wife or girlfriend, who is potentially the mother of his children.