My stepdad abused my mum

Stacey looks back on the years of violence her stepdad inflicted on her mum and their problems with alcohol. She tells The Mix about how she's learning to put her abusive childhood behind her.

True Stories

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Waving goodbye to Dad

When I was 12 years-old, my mum told my dad she’d been having an affair with another man. I watched my dad leave, feeling very confused and upset. My mum introduced us to her new fella within hours – he came into our house like he owned the place and I instantly had a bad feeling about him.

I became aware of my mum’s drinking problems quite quickly after this. I hated her drinking because it was usually the main cause of their arguments. My mum had a temper on her – the problem was, my stepdad had a temper too

A rocky road

The violence started within six months of dad leaving. It was never directed at me or my brothers, just my mum. As time went by, the violence got worse and more frequent. I felt as though my life was being turned upside down and I was being forced to grow up too quickly. My mum and stepdad were incapable of looking after themselves, never mind me and my brothers, so I’d have to look after them.

I remember one time when my friend came to stay. At around midnight I heard plates smashing and screaming. I went downstairs and my stepdad was punching my mum in the face and she fell to the floor, crying. I tried to pull him off her but he was too strong. I just made the situation worse; my stepdad got a knife and held it up to my mum’s neck. I panicked and rang the police.

My stepdad tried to pack his stuff and leave and my mum tried to stop him. The next thing I knew he’d pushed her down the stairs. She fell all the way to the bottom. There was blood everywhere, but she was still conscious. The police arrived and rang an ambulance. My stepdad was taken into custody for the night and my mum was taken to hospital. I was left to look after my brothers and clean up and I felt so guilty that my friend had to witness everything.

On the move

Over the years we lived in so many places. We moved from our first two houses when my mum and stepdad fell out with the neighbours due to their drinking and violence. It was so embarrassing – they acted like a pair of teenagers out of control. Next we stayed in a family hostel, which was absolutely horrible. I felt ashamed as we were constantly being watched by the people running the hostel who knew about the violence. After that we lived in council houses, relatives’ places and more hostels. Finally we were put into the care of my real dad.

For about a year, the problems between my mum and stepdad continued. We would see my mum on Sundays although I had a part-time job, so I would sometimes only see her for an hour. To be honest, I was happy having this excuse. I wanted to get away from it all and I was scared the violence would start when I was there.

All of this was around the time of my GCSEs. I was still determined to do well in them, though. I made the most brilliant best friend when I moved schools, who I’m still best friends with today. Throughout all the rubbish, she was there for me. I don’t think I’d have got through it without her. I would talk to her about what was happening at home and it really helped just to talk to someone rather than keeping it all in.

Changing times

When my mum fell pregnant with my stepdad’s child, everything began to change. I suppose it was a wake up call and they started to take responsibility. Mum stopped drinking due to being pregnant and my stepdad got a job. I couldn’t help but think that my stepdad cared more about the welfare of his own child; it didn’t matter that me and my brothers had to go through all that. They moved house into a quiet little village and now live like a normal family with my two year-old sister.

Somehow I managed to do well in my GCSEs and my A-levels – I was so determined to get to university and here I am now, studying a Law degree. I’m proud of how well I’ve done – I never thought I’d get here. What I went through is still affecting me, though. I find it incredibly hard to accept that my teenage years were taken away from me like that. I often get moments of anger and jealousy when my friends talk about their happy upbringings. I talked to a counsellor in college about it, but it didn’t really help. Recently I’ve been thinking of having counselling again as I’ve started suffering from panic attacks and flashbacks and I don’t know how to deal with them.

I still hate my stepdad for what he put us through, but I respect him for changing and realising that the way he treated my mum was wrong. He’s working now and is looking after his daughter very well. If it was to start again, though, I don’t think I could ever talk to him. I feel as though I can talk to my mum now because she hasn’t got so much on her mind. I don’t have to protect her and I can be her daughter; the one she’s supposed to look after, not the other way round.

University has helped me in many ways. As well as getting me away from home, I’ve had lots of time to myself. Throughout my teenage years I was constantly looking after my brothers or trying to protect my mum. When I went to uni, I had time to myself, which was weird. I learnt to be independent and look out for number one, and I’ve learnt a lot about myself as a person. It’s also made me realise that things can get better and if you want, you can get out of that situation and move on.

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Updated on 24-Nov-2022