“Dear Mum, thank you for ‘kidnapping’ us. You saved our lives.”

This week the plight of Australian mother Sally Faulkner has gripped the nation, after she travelled to Lebanon to retrieve her two young children from her estranged husband Ali Elamine.

Faulkner is currently appearing in court over a botched attempt to ‘kidnap’ her children, Noah, 4, and Lahela, 6, who were returned to their father soon after they were snatched by a child recovery team.

Here in Australia, there has been much speculation over the rights of the children, the terror they must have felt as they were snatched from their grandmother’s arms and the rights of their father, who many feel has just as much right to his children’s lives as their mother.

Many parents would have felt a cold horror grip their hearts as they watched this mother mourn for her lost children, feeling the heartbreak she must be feeling after saying goodbye to her kids and fearing their lives would be in danger.

If you’re unfamiliar with Sally Faulkner’s ‘child rescue mission’ case, watch the below clip. Post continues after video…

Video via Sky News

As I watched this story unfold, I too felt cold fear grip my heart, but for an entirely different reason.

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I don’t have children, but I know what it’s like to be the child who needs to be saved, to be taken by one parent and protected from the other. It’s not always fair, it’s not always clean cut, but sometimes it is necessary.

I don’t know the circumstances surrounding the custody battle between Sally Faulkner and Ali Elamine. All I know is that sometimes children need to be saved from the people who are supposed to love them the most, and even a child who appears whole and happy from the outside can still be screaming for help on the inside.

When I was a little girl, I knew my Dad was not like the other Dad’s at school. I knew he could come home in a cold fury and lock himself away from us at night. Or, on the very bad nights, he would tear through the house like a vengeful animal, screaming, making terrifying noises and always uncovering the nooks and crannies within the house where my sisters, mum and I would cower for safety.

I knew that for every ‘good’ week, there would be three bad ones. That the more bad weeks that pilled on top of each other, the more the tensions and uncertainty would rise in the house and the more my father would circle the wagons around us as he sensed that my mother was getting ready to run.

He would always take one of us with him when he left the house, knowing that Mum would never leave him unless she had all three daughters with her. Without letting on what she was planning, she packed a small bag for each of us, filled with a few pieces of clothing and stashed them under our beds.

I know what it's like to be the child who needs to be saved. (Image via iStock)

I remember watching her pack up my small, pink flowered backpack late one night, as she explained that one day she would ask me to grab it and run to the car, and when that day came I was to do so without asking any questions or making any noise.

She looked so sad at having to ask me that, sadder then any other night we had hidden together from Dad or cried together in the car that I immediately said yes. It wasn't until I tried to go to sleep that nigh that the real panic set in. Lying alone in the darkness my head suddenly became plagued with a mess of thoughts.

What if I couldn't get to my bag when the time came, should I just run outside to the car and leave it behind? What about my baby sister in her cot, she was so little and so quiet, and although I knew mum would never leave her behind, I still feared we wouldn't be able to get to her. She couldn't run.

What if we all made it to the car, but it wouldn't start? Or if the car did start, would he hear the noise and race out to stop us? Maybe we should push the car quietly down the driveway, like the Von Trapp family had to do when they were escaping the Nazis in The Sound of Music. Everything in our lives had become about how we would make our escape.

At this point in the story, you're probably wondering why no one stepped in to help us. Why didn't our teachers reach out to protect those two broken little girls, little girls who couldn't remember what it was like to be safe? Why didn't our neighbours speak up when they suspected we were living in danger and constant fear?

To the outside world, we looked like a happy, normal family. (Image via iStock)

It was because, to the outside world, we looked like a happy, normal family. A devout family who went to church together on Sunday mornings, with three little girls all dressed in matching outfits with identical ribbons in their hair.

A family with a father who took his little girls to the park and watched over them as they fed bits of bread to a family of white swans. A father who took his kids to the movies and sat through Disney film after Disney films, buying them each a little tub of popcorn so they wouldn't have to share.

To the outside world my mother would have looked like the villain, on that night she waited for my father to step into the shower and run the water and then told us quietly that it was time to grab our bags.

My mother, who waited for us as we crept through the halls and quickly piled us all into the car, slamming her foot on the accelerator and careening us down the driveway as the tall figure of my father emerged from the front door and came after us.

She would have looked guilty, driving us through the night for hours on end, stopping for nothing until we reached a tiny motel nestled in a tangle of back roads. Where we sat together in a filthy room while Mum planned the next part of our escape, too afraid to step outside or be out of each other's sight for even a moment.

Mum quickly piled us all into the car, slamming her foot on the accelerator and careening us down the driveway. (Image via iStock)

To people who only knew half the story, she would have been 'kidnapping' us when just a few days she walked us through the airport gates, boarded a plane with us and flew far us far away to safety.

To the other passengers on the plane I would have looked like any other little girl travelling with her mother and sisters, clutching a pink flowered backpack like her life depended on it and patting her baby sisters hand to keep her calm because her little ears were burning with pain from the altitude.

I was kidnapped by my mother, and there is no doubt in my mind that it saved my life. That dashing away into the night and leaving everything behind was the best, and the only option. That growing up without a father was better then not being able to grow up at all. Or falling asleep every night filled with fear about what could happen to me in the night.

From the outside looking in, I don't know what the children of Sally Faulkner and Ali Elamine need, but they might need to be saved and all I can do is hope that they are.

The author of this piece is known to Mamamia and has chosen to remain anonymous.

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