family

'Working from home would've been a death sentence for my mum. I'm not exaggerating.'

This post deals with domestic violence and might be triggering for some readers.

As coronavirus lockdown regulations get stricter, for anyone experiencing family violence, the thought of working and being at home constantly is terrifying. To understand how important it is to seek help for yourself or someone you know experiencing this, Mel Thomas shares her personal story. 

I was talking to my mum last week about our shared story of domestic violence at the hands of my dad.

It would’ve been a death sentence for Mum to work at home. I’m not exaggerating. Her office was the only place she could escape and her only friend was Joanne her work buddy.

WATCH: Women and violence the hidden numbers. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

Joanne was kept a secret from my dad because she was the only link my mum had to the outside world. She would eventually help us escape too.

Dad timed all our movements every day. If we were seconds late there would be hell to pay. Heads smashed on bathroom taps. Golf clubs. Small little bodies slammed into walls and doors. So many holes in the walls and doors. I tried to cover them with TV Week posters but he didn’t approve.

We ate when he said. We couldn’t watch TV. Computers didn’t exist. We had a landline but I never gave out our number.

I was terrified after a friend called me once. I was 10 years old and he didn’t like the sound of her last name. I was never allowed to talk to her again.

All we had was a secret red transistor radio, I played a daggy old station with way too much Elvis! The tuner didn’t work (I desperately wanted to play 2DAYFM like my friends). I listened to the radio under the covers in my room on the lowest setting.

My sister and I fished tin tomato cans out of the bin so we didn’t leave our room to go to the toilet. The sound of the toilet flushing would annoy dad so much it wasn’t worth the risk.

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Whilst we knew it wasn’t the same at our friends’ places, on the very rare occasion we were allowed to go to a party, we didn’t go because Mum didn’t have enough money to buy gifts. And we didn’t have a car so how would we get there?

A friend’s mum taught me how to make photo frames from cushion stuffing and cardboard, so I ripped up an old sheet so I could make little gifts for my mates. I didn’t feel bad. Or sorry for myself.

I don’t share these details to make you feel bad or sorry for me now. It was just normal for us. And after many years of working with kids who have it far worse than I did, I’ve learned the shame of that time is not my burden to bear.

But it’s still tough to relive. Especially as a mother of two little girls about the same age I was at the worst of it then.

Imagining the kids living in isolation and the mums who still have to provide for the family and make ends meet has kept me up for days and nights.

I can’t help but think of the unthinkable abuse playing out behind closed doors right now.

Women on the brink and kids in despair. Unable to escape and holding their breath like I did with my helpless little sister on the ‘bad days’.

I developed a system to help people in crisis check-in. We are in uncharted waters. My idea is based on the SCUBA buddy survival system.

WORKBUDDYCHECK is a smart; simple compliance tool.

Why? because I believe employers and leaders asking people to work from home, isolate and distance themselves have a legal duty of care to safeguard the safety and well-being of their people.

On the other side of this pandemic is social fallout like we’ve never seen.

Please have a look and see if you can use this for your people at work or in your place of worship or community.

Out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind.

If you or someone you care about is living with family violence please call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

This post originally appeared in the Mamamia Outlouders Facebook group and has been republished here with full permission.

Feature image: Supplied.

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