real life

'I'm terrified of being isolated with my abuser. But I can't leave him - he's my son.'

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

My hands have a slight tremble as I hit the keypad, my heart races and I strain to hear footsteps approaching.

I have a story to share with you and until now I have been too fearful to write it. I fear judgement, I fear that writing it will make it all seem more real, and I fear being caught. Caught by my abuser.

I am scared of what the punishment will be today.

The hidden numbers around women and violence. Post continues after video. 

Video by MMC

Nobody seems to notice that I get abused every day. For the most part I pretend it’s not happening. Usually it’s verbal abuse, sometimes physical. Those who do care don’t know what to do. The authorities don’t know what to do, nor the experts. I have exhausted many health professionals over the years. 

You are wondering why I don’t just leave, I guess. Well, I have thought about it. I fantasise about it. But how do you leave a 12-year-old boy?

Yes, my abuser is my son. 

My son is bright, too bright. His sense of humour, warmth and charisma match that of a cult leader. Yes, he has special needs but you wouldn’t notice them if you met him. They are well disguised under a charming smile. You see he saves the worst for me; his metaphorical and physical punching bag.

Unless you have lived with a child with ADHD, you won’t understand the true meaning of ‘climbing up the walls’. I used to scoff at parents complaining of their kids with ADD and cruelly made jokes that it was more ‘Adult Discipline Deficiency’ than Attention Deficit Disorder (now known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

But that all seems to pale in comparison to the diagnosis of ODD ( Oppositional Defiant Disorder), which quite frankly sounded like it was made up when I first heard of it.

It’s hard to explain ODD, but just imagine that whatever you say, the person argues the opposite. 

My husband and I eventually decided that we would medicate my son. There was a LOT of criticism from well-meaning family and friends saying how wrong it was for us to ‘drug’ our child; as if we hadn’t already weighed up the decision heavily. 

Medication began and after a couple of years we landed on the right one. Finally some breathing space, finally a child that only raged for 45 minutes instead of 60 when putting on a shoe to get ready for school. Finally. 

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Until. 

Until my husband was tragically killed 18 months ago. He was killed in a work-related accident and as fate would have it, my son happened to be there on that day, bearing witness to the whole catastrophic and gut-wrenching scene.

As I write this I am more numb than anything else. My son watching his father die. This happens in wars all over the world; but it isn’t supposed to happen on a sunny Saturday afternoon in suburbia.

On No Filter, Mia Freedman meets Nicole Lee, a survivor of domestic abuse at the hands of her carer. Post continues below audio.

So here we are 18 months on. We’ve moved towns to be near our support network and friends who can give us a hug and say it will all be OK.

Except now they can’t. If they do they face a hefty fine.

We had been here in our new home for two months when coronavirus hit. I now sit here alone, but not off duty, lonely and with no adult company. Friends no longer allowed to visit, nobody to come over and say we’ll be OK in our grief and sadness. 

I sit here for hour after hour with a child that cannot comprehend the world around him and asks why he can’t see his friend. His only friend.

I am on call day and night, no handing over to another parent and my own parents long gone. There is no break. There is no light.

We have access to homeschooling apparently. In my world a couple of minutes of homework results in more abuse, so we don’t do it. I see on social media mums with their neatly laid out home schooling timetables; schooling that will never happen here because it’s just not worth the repercussions and loss of bond to my child. Not worth yet more tears. Not worth it.

This is our life living with COVID-19. Some people enjoy the isolation and quiet and I envy them. Isolating with your partner and/or neurotypical children is a very different experience to isolating with an atypical child. I am becoming the worst version of myself. Broken with my personal grief, grief on behalf of my son and grief for what the world is experiencing right now. 

The advice for those of us living in a family violence situation is to distance yourself. Get some space, self-care, get support. That is now not a possibility for many of us.

The world outside is frightening at the moment; but my world inside is far more dangerous. 

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.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo.

Feature image: Getty.

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