real life

'My dad is an abuser and I still love him.' The conversation we're not having about domestic violence.

This post discusses domestic violence and may be triggering for some readers. 

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

No one can remember it except my little sister.

She's five and woken by the sound of muffled screaming.

It’s the strangled voice of our mother and the loud, deafening roar of my father that jolts her from sleep and forces her to make her way outside of the bedroom we share. I sleep soundly.

Watch this clip on domestic violence. Post continues after video. 


Video via Mamamia.

She whispers repeatedly for her mum in the darkness, inching closer to the noise. What she sees, with just a small light from the incandescent cooktop lighting her path, is our father pressing our mother against a wall. A kitchen knife is barely inches away from her throat.

Mum is whisper-screaming at him while he barks in her face, daring her to make more noise.

“Mummy?” my sister repeats over and over again. “Mummy? Daddy?”

The rest of the story unfolds as most do, with Mum telling her to go back to bed, affirming it’s a bad dream, with my sister nervously agreeing and hiding beneath the covers, waiting for sleep to come. And eventually, it does.

She won’t bring it up with Mum until she is much older. Until she can understand what took place that night.

When she does, Mum will laugh in her face. She will tell my sister it's a stupid thing to say, that it’s a lie and that she should never repeat those words.

And when my sister tells me, I will tell her she is lying too. That my dad is just a man, and men are not infallible. They're human, and our dad is as human as any. But he is not evil and my dad could never – would never – do that. 

At the time, I claimed it was not possible because he loves his mother and he loves his wife. He loves his girls and his nieces and he mows our elderly neighbour's lawn for free because he can't stand to see her struggle to do it herself. He cries over sad things and he cuddles me constantly. Because my dad is like all good men and, at the same time, incredibly different.

I fail to mention the ear-splitting arguments my sisters and I heard on a constant loop, or the many times his least favourite child (my then 11-year-old sister) dared to speak back and in turn, had her neck squeezed so tightly and for so long, that she had begun to turn a worrying shade of red. 

I don't mention the bad days at all.

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Instead, I refuse to believe her. Mum is not that great either, I tell my sister. Mum yells too, I remind her. Mum and Dad are just as bad as each other, I say. I ask my sister if Mum started it – if she knew the whole story. I ask for answers, for clarity, for some form of a resolution. But there isn't any and my sister's story falls to the wayside.

But my sister's brave admission comes back to me, eventually; The moment she told me that Dad had threatened to kill Mum. 

I realise in an instant that I believe her, and maybe I always had. 

Then I wonder how my dad can love us so much and so deeply, and still be someone who threatened the life of my mum.

My mother is a nana now, and my father is a papa. They bicker like kids in front of their grandchildren. Now, I am 23 years old, and my sisters are all grown up too. 

My parent's marriage has collapsed time and time again. But for right now, Dad says Mum is his soulmate, despite her nagging. Mum rolls her eyes and travels up the stairs to her separate bedroom, where there is a lock on her door that she uses every night.

Listen to No Filter, hosted by Mia Freedman. Post continues after audio. 


My dad is on wake-up duty with his youngest granddaughter and he kisses her toes, tickles her belly and warms up her milk to the perfect temperature. My dad cries when he thinks of growing older with my mum, surrounded by the children of his children. 

My dad is an abuser, and he is still someone I can't help but love.

There's a conversation we're not having about domestic violence. The story of where the victim stays. Where the entire family does too. The one where they all learn to trust their perpetrator again, or the one where they never quite stopped trusting them in the first place.

In a clearer world, there is a victim and there is a perpetrator. 

There are good people, and there are sinister people. Not in my case, though. 

Because in a world where good and evil are so clearly defined and those binaries are upheld, my sister wouldn't have begged her dad for affection just hours after seeing what he had done to our mother. In a world that makes sense, our mum would be the only one who deserves justice. 

There’s a conversation we’re not having about domestic violence.

I want to say my dad and my mum no longer live in the same house, or that relationships aren’t as complicated as we believe. I want to say my dad was punished for his crimes and that my mum was stronger in the end for going through what she did. I want to say I don’t still love my father.

And I desperately want to say there is a conversation that doesn’t need to be had about domestic violence.

But then I would be lying.

May is Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month and, at Mamamia, we're sharing women's stories of bravery and courage. If you have the means, please donate to RizeUp to help women and families move on after the devastation of domestic violence.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

The Men’s Referral Service is also available on 1300 766 491 or via online chat at www.ntv.org.au.www.ntv.org.au.

Feature Image: Getty.

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