Sunday, November 13, 2011


Looking back it was probably the dinner plate that was thrown at my Mother's head that was the catalyst.  The moment when she thought enough was enough. I’m guessing it was then anyway.

My father wasn’t an aggressive man, well not physically.  And not usually.   I’ve written about him HERE, but to sum it up, he was an alcoholic.  And not even a particularly good one.  A man lost to his mad mind long before I was even born if we’re to be honest.  But my brother and I weren’t aware that our lives weren’t normal.  That to have a father who verbally abused his wife on a constant basis wasn’t normal.  That to be in a household where you as a child, were often afraid of what your father would do next, wasn’t normal.  Because that was our normal.

That particular night started out fine enough and my brother and I tell this story often. At BBQ’s or dinners and often with an injection of humour. When in reality, we  shouldn’t I guess, because domestic violence is anything but funny.

I was about 8, my brother 11.  Dad was in the kitchen trying to light his cigarette from the hotplate after returning home from the pub.  He was also whipping up some fried rice.  As you do.  Meanwhile, Mum was dishing out the perfectly fine meal  she had just finished cooking behind him on the kitchen bench.  My brother and I were in the room we shared more than likely dicking around doing something we shouldn’t have been doing.  We heard a commotion and both eagerly ran up the hallway to check it out.  I was in front, he, close on my heels. 

That’s when we saw the fire.  The one that, in his paraletic state trying to light his smoke on the hotplate, my father had  managed to start with the assistance of an ill placed tea towel. My brother and I watched on in horror as Mum raced around trying to extinguish it.  She started to shout, told him to move. That’s when I saw him walking towards us with such malice that I remember I physically tried to shrink. To become invisible.  As he reached us, he turned on his heel, grabbed a dinner plate and frisbee’d it directly at my mother’s head.  Somehow she had the 6th sense to duck and it smashed into a hundred tiny pieces on the wall behind her.

My brother and I audibly gasped and turned to run as fast as our little legs would take us, back to our room.  The next thing I remember, Dad was reefing our bedroom door open  as I cowered in the corner, my brother standing protectively in front of me.  I remember Mum screaming and chasing him up the hallway.  He didn’t hurt us, he simply, with a little more force than was necessary, removed us from the room.  The next we knew the television was being thrown from the second story window, then the fan, then our toys.   We were bundled up and we fled.  I can’t even remember where we went.

This wasn’t the first time that heavy shit went down,  it was just the one that sticks in my mind the most.  When we returned to the house later that night, he was gone.  And Mum did what she had to do to make sure he could never return.  And believe me, back in the early 80’s removing your husband from the house, supporting yourself as a woman and not losing your mind, was no easy task.

So why am I telling you this today?  Well,  this is my experience with Domestic Violence.  And it is one too many.
My very good friend Kristen Brumm has been recently endorsed as Ambassador for the Domestic Violence awareness campaign, SPEAK OUT.  Her story is hers and hers alone to tell, but she reminds me a lot of my Mum.  She did what it took, everything she could, to remove her children from the unhealthy situation that they were in.

I urge you, if you need a safe place to discuss your situation, to do so.  Don’t let Domestic Violence become your normal.  Because it should be anything but. 

If you're in Australia, start here with some links: Reach Out


Alex aka WHOA MUMMA! said...

Sounds like my parents too. If you find yourself in a similar relationship, reach out and get help. It's not normal and you deserve a happy, peaceful life. xx

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

Amazing post Bern. Crap that you and your mum had to go through that. I sincerely hope that your speaking out helps someone else.

Anonymous said...

Amazed that growing up with that you have created a different normal & not attracted someone similar which sadly is often the case.
That was my normal around the time my parents got divorced & I have a similar experience forever stuck in my mind.
I tried so hard to not be that parent with my kids but sadly I do scream & yell & so does my current partner.
There is no alcohol involved but I wish we could have a calmer household. I just don't know how....
Good on you for breaking the cycle.

Mum on the Run said...

Discerning what's 'normal' is so difficult as a child.
As adults, we have to protect our children because we know the boundaries of acceptable.
Your Mum, and every other parent like her, is inspirational.
Thank you for a brillient post - for a brilliant cause.

Ms Styling You said...

Oh Bern, the fear you must have lived with. You are one amazing woman with an incredible way with words. x

Ms Styling You said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wanderlust said...

Bern, your post touched me deeply. I felt like I was there as you described your experience. Maybe because I have been there. I'm so glad your mother got out and that you went on to create a healthy life and a healthy family. Kudos to you. Thanks for linking up to Speak Out. Much love to you, my friend. xo

Diminishing Lucy said...

Oh Bern. I remember the reference to the plate chucking incident. But the fear from his malice. Not a funny anecdote.

Huge hugs to you. Your kids know an entriely different normal. xx

So Now What? said...

Thanks for your comments and Anon, don't be hard on yourself. And please don't get me wrong, I still scream and yell sometimes when I could handle it very differently. I think the thing is we are aware and doing our very best to not repeat the cycle even if we sometimes fall down.

Cheers guys xx I really do appreciate you reading x Bern

Megan Blandford said...

Such an important message, Bern. Thanks for the beautiful words - hearing more about it will help others to speak up. x

Yvette Vignando said...

Bern - it sucks to think of any child having to go through that - let alone you my friend. What a harrowing story. So glad your mum had the resources to take you away from all of that. And thanks for sharing a powerful and meaningful post. xx

bigwords is... said...

Thanks for sharing your story with such honesty Bern I truly hope it helps someone find the strength that so many woman draw upon in these harrowing moments. Much love to you beautiful x

Madam Bipolar said...

Sounds like my family as well. My mother would never leave my father. It became her normal.
Thanks for sharing, Bern.

Miss Pink said...

Oh Bern. There are far too many children in this world who have had to witness violence.
I think the verbal and emotional violence is the worst though. It eats you from the inside out.
I am so glad that your mother was able to flee from the situation and protect you and your brother. Too many people stay, with best intentions to work things out but they forget that exposing children to that can be more damaging that leaving.

Melc_1911 said...

That is very brave of you to share this story. An awful experience. Your mum must be an amazing lady. Would have been extremely difficult back then. I remember the table on Christmas day at mine, full of Xmas lunch being upturned with the lot smashing on to the floor. There were other incidents but I was 5 or so with this one and it still brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. I hated christmas growing up as it only brought stress and fights. It was only when I had my own two kids that I was determined to make it a special time. Helps too that the in laws are mad for it! Domestic violence does shape who you are when you witness it as a child. Good on you Bern for overcoming these childhood experiences and bring who you are today

Bugalugx said...

Had a marriage very similar to your mum's.
Alcohol can do awful things to a family, unfortunately the problems exacerbate the longer you continue to put up with the abuse.
Best thing to do is to leave.
Your mum was very brave to make sure her kids were safe. xx

Linda said...

I know it's a serious message when what you write isn't something I giggle at. (Please take that as a compliment for this post - and for all the ones that *do* make me laugh!)

I'm glad you posted this Bern.

Nicole@MyIdeaLife said...

I can't imagine what this must have been like or how it still sits with you, your brother and your Mum. But if the stats are correct this is a lot of people's normal :( Thanks for sharing and highlighting this so beautifully - Nic xxx

Janine Fitzpatrick said...

Thank you for sharing such a personal story. The impact of living with an alcoholic parent can resonant long into adulthood for many. Good on your mum for having the courage to leave.

Smudgeblurr said...

Hey Bern,
I have lived through a violent relationship and thank my lucky stars every day that I had the courage to leave (luckily there were no kids involved) You write so beautifully and it is a very important cause to support so thank you.

Take care

edenland said...

Bern ..... just wow. Halfway through reading this my blood went kind of cold and I got freaky goosebumps, in recognition. Good on your mum. And good on you.



Vicky said...

Its disconcerting when you discover that your "normal" is anything but!

Bravo you for speaking out.

I spoke too. x

Olivia Richards said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vegemitevix said...

Terrifying memories! I understand how difficult it must have been for your Mum because my Mum was on her own in the 1980s too and it was still a time when women were blamed for the failure of their marriages. Love to you and thanks for speaking out. I did too. Vix x

a field of dreams said...

Thank you for sharing your story and speaking out. Love and hugs. Here from the Speak Out link.

MaidInAustralia said...

So important to save kids from a violent home life. So hard to get out, must have been hell back then. Thanks for sharing Bern. xo

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

Well done for speaking out. I too lived (albeit for a relatively short time) with domestic violence in the family home. The fear and dread that shrouds the home stays with you forever. x

Faybian said...

That's why I left my ex, so that that sort of shit wouldn't become the kids normal. The turning point was when he threatened to throw one of the kids down the stairs and I finally left when he tried to abort our son. Thankfully my husband who grew up in a perfectly awful home is miles apart from him.

Rochelle said...

Well done for speaking out, takes a lot of courage. What horrible memories. I can't imagine what it must've been like. You and your brother were so young as well.

Denwise aka Denyse Whelan said...

Commenting on phone so sorry if unreadable.
Unwritten Rule
Walking down a busy street, stay on the left.
The LEFT. It's not hard

Unwritten Rule
If you are walking on the left ( or not) DO
NOT JUST STOP nooooooo
Or I will run into you

Unwritten Rule
Please please please... It IS nice to meet your friend but PULL over ( again, the walking people!) and talk elsewhere

Unwritten Rule
Do not stop at the bottom of the escalator and wonder where to go next. I will run you over.

Donitta End said...

I really like the words by the unknown author. They somehow show positivism in a unique and hopeful way. I always try to follow such approach!