'He kicks me, pinches me, pees on me.' The reality of living with a violent son.

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

I was sitting on a bench inside a McDonald’s play place. I was probably staring off into space from either being overtired or totally stressed out. My boys, 18 months apart, were probably three and five years old at the time.

My younger son NEVER stopped moving. He literally never stopped going, running, or climbing onto things. He climbed on top of tables and counters. I sometimes found him inside of dresser drawers and climbing out of windows. He just never stopped.

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I found solace at a local McDonald’s from the constant need to follow him around. We could never seem to keep him safe.

All of a sudden a woman came storming up to me with a terribly angry face and shouted as loud as she could, “I don’t know what is wrong with you, because your older son is fine but the little one keeps pushing my son. What’s wrong with you?” I stuttered because the abrasive comment stunned me.

“My son is disabled,” just fell out of my mouth. She shouted louder, “So what? He should still know human decency!”

He was only three, and I wanted to scream, ‘pushing is completely normal for a three-year-old and not a big deal’. Instead, I was so humiliated my face grew hot and I became uncomfortable. I quickly got my boys into the car and drove away.

Shamed. Heartbroken. Angry. Isolated. The experience would not be my last.

What I really wanted to shout back was that my son was born very sick. He is missing part of his 15th Chromosome. When he was five weeks old he was shaken four separate times, suffered 15 broken bones and almost died.

When he was six weeks old he went into foster care. At eight months he moved to another foster home. My husband and I adopted him when he was 15 months old. So please give him a freaking break he is doing his best. And… please give ME a freaking break. I am doing my best.


My son, Dominic, is now 13 years old. He is five feet tall and weighs 41kg. Dom is a lively and extroverted conversation starter with random strangers, a delightful cuddle bug with a wide smile and tenacious sense of humour, but he is also violent and abusive.

His behaviour, or what psychiatrists call Emotional Dysregulation, dominates our household. Everyone is constantly walking on eggshells. The slightest tinge of frustration could set him off. If I ask him to wait, even a minute, it could set him off. Sometimes, setting him off is just matter of his own exhaustion. He still never sits down.

Dominic calls me all the names you shouldn’t call your mother. Yes, he uses all of them. He gives me the finger. He pokes me, bumps into me on purpose, punches me, kicks me, pinches, spits, and pees on me. His anger can be triggered at a moment’s notice.

His moods carry him up and down, sometimes all day as he is unable to cope with all the intense feelings. He breaks everything, including the things he loves the most, out of the same intense rush of feelings. He talks non stop, craving your every last bit of attention and sanity. He doesn’t play with toys.

Now is a good time to mention our family has no support or respite. My husband and I plan every part of our lives knowing Dominic will be tagging along. There are no vacations and nights out. There are tight squeezes, lots of hugs, and calm down techniques that work some of the time.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I would soon be diagnosed with Gastroparesis, and then I started experiencing chronic debilitating pain.

Currently, I live with anxiety and pain every moment of every day. In the morning I often wake up and immediately feel a huge weight on my shoulders pushing me down and speaking directly in my ear, I am not good enough, this is all my fault, today will just be the same. I often feel hopeless.

There are many days I can not change out of my pyjamas because living any life outside of Dominic is just too overwhelming. Loud noises bother me. I am too exhausted or feel too sick from caring for Dominic to work, or enjoy anything else.

Like a true abuser, Dom has a cycle of abuse that starts with just namecalling and can escalate to physical violence. This escalation can last a few seconds or a few hours. When I am able to go through the routine of calming him down, he has all the regret of an abuser in a cycle of abuse. Dom becomes super sweet, super nice and super accommodating.

It always gives me time to reboot and calm down. My house can have a moment to breathe. I can answer an email without breaking down into a crying rage.

It also gives me time to forget. Forget the emotional pain and agony he caused. I need to forget his violent abuse in the good moments because there is nowhere to go, he is my son and he needs me. It’s the only way I can survive.


For a long time, I really was counting on being rescued. I was, after all, a victim of my son’s disability, I thought to myself. I wanted to be saved. I was trying to be saved. I was begging to be saved. I needed to be saved.

But I’ve slowly realised the only person who can save me is ME. I truly wanted a saviour to sweep in and take care of my son, clean my house, pay my bills, and massage my feet.

I worry that emotionally, I’ll always be the same person. That the pain and sadness and depression will just slowly ease back into my life. That I feel lost because I let myself get lost.

I let the abuser in, and let him abuse me. Guilt and regret kept me from demanding what I needed in my life to save myself.

One job of every parent, in my opinion, is to never give up on your child. I love him unconditionally, but he has way more challenges in life than most other children. I recognise that loving him and raising him can be painful and rewarding at the same time.

I can feel the heavy weight of emotions pushing me downwards, but I can still always see the sky. I am broken and hurting, but that doesn’t need to define me in any way. I can still feel free.

I can heal. I want to heal. I am trying to heal. I need to heal.

For now, Dominic is in an escalation cycle throughout the day and is struggling to stay calm. He is overtired, getting over a cold, and has a low frustration point. This is never going to change, at least not in the foreseeable future. I need change faster, but I accept I have little control over how Dominic behaves or processes his emotions.

I am not going to stop feeling guilt and regret and intense stress from living with someone who is so often “out of control” and “violent.” For now, we live day to day, moment to moment. That’s our life.

I can work to be more present, and I am working on being more present, but my saving is largely dependent on me and what I can do to take the smallest of steps to save my own life.

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished here with full permission.

Joy Ellen Sauter is a freelance writer who writes human interest stories for interested humans. You can reach her at [email protected]

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 for further information.

Feature image: Getty.