Over the coming months short podcasts will be telling the story of those who have survived domestic abuse. The podcasts, along with films, will also be looking at other areas around domestic abuse. 

Survivor story 2

John, a Safeguarding Officer in the Methodist Church talks about his experience of visiting a victim of domestic abuse when he worked for the Department of Work and Pensions.


Survivor's story 1

In this podcast we listen to an adult who is reflecting back on her childhood experience, what it was like to live in a house where domestic abuse was the norm.  The family were Christians taking on various leadership roles within the local church.

I approach the front door and my heart rate increases, I am on guard. Cautiously I open the door and go inside – listening.  I call out to Mum, but no-one replies.  I move intentionally from one room to another before I can sit down…  all is ok. Nothing has happened while I was out. 

I look back at my childhood – it was normal. My father had a good job, we lived in the country with a playground of rivers, woodlands and open countryside that was to be envied.  Normal – what does that even mean?  My childhood was not normal – it was full of tension, of quiet unrest, of anger and violence. 

I never knew which of mum's injuries were accidental, and which were not – the broken leg, the missing teeth, the bruises.  And yet the worst part wasn’t the violence – it was the not knowing – the fear of doing something wrong and being caught – of not knowing what the rules were for that day. I became excellent at not getting caught – it was rule number 1.  Rule number 2 – predict the unpredictable.   I learnt what Dad would get mad at Mum about – I cleaned the dust off the top of doors, tidied up, washed up … but it didn’t stop anything.  Becoming invisible was the idea.  Rule number 3 – know how to come in after bed time without Dad seeing me – I was good at that.

Yet the worst wasn’t even the arguments – the shouting and screaming, the lying in bed under the covers until it was all over… again. The worst was the periods of stability – wondering when it would flare up again.  The worst was the long periods of untold eerie silence – silence that isn’t silence – if you know what I mean.  The worst was the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen next.

I survived – I don’t like that term – I am not a survivor, I am me.  A person with a past that has formed and informed my now. But it is not what defines me.  You will walk past me, work with me, share a meal with me – and never know. How would you – it took me years to realise that what happened in my childhood home was wrong – that it had a name. It took many more years of unpicking this and beginning to understand myself. 

Still I don’t trust – forgive me if I appear distant to you – but unless you and I journey together for a long while and we share the joys and sorrows of life together with no judgement but only love – no strings attached – then I’ll struggle to trust you. 

Not a survivor then, but alive to live each day with love and gratitude. I am a Local Preacher, a parent, a theologian.  I am a reconciler. A peace-maker.  Just one person among many who strives to make a difference – drawn from an experience I’d rather forget, but never can.