I miss my auntie. We used to be quite close; she knew about the abuse, of course, and some things took place on her miniature farm. But in a lot of ways, I don’t care. You can’t be in that family and not know about the abuse, I’m fairly sure, and I’ve long since lost hope that any one of them would try and speak up for me…
But my auntie did, sometimes. I remember she would sometimes offer me quiet tips or advice, or would shout my grandmother down. My grandparents clearly favoured her over my father, despite the fact she was more rebellious and headstrong. Maybe this is why. Maybe they admired her somehow, or maybe they loved the fact that despite being so headstrong, she stood by what they did. I don’t know.
On one occasion there’d been a terrible row at my grandparents’ house, where I lived. At this point in my life I had a moped, and it was therefore easier for me to escape – “I’m just going to get some petrol,” I’d say, and dutifully would show them my empty petrol sign. They never knew the sign had long since broken… I whizzed around to my aunt and uncle’s, who lived ten minutes away, and ran through her front door where a whirlwind of happy dogs met me. I burst into tears and cuddled each of them, and then heard “eyup mate! Just come from the house of fun?”
I told her I couldn’t take it anymore. She rang my dad and said “Jade’s staying here. It’s emotional torture what they’re going through, and it’s not right.” Somehow, she got him to agree. I allowed myself to relax – free at last, I thought. I imagined living the rest of my teenage years with my aunt and uncle, looking after the horses and doing as I pleased.
It was short-lived. Barely minutes later my grandmother rang, and it took her less than thirty seconds to make my aunt back down. My aunt sighed and said “I’m sorry Jade, but I can’t legally take you from them.” I wanted to scream, “they’re not LEGALLY my guardians! There’s no paperwork for it! My dad is, and he said it was okay…” but of course my Dad had already given up fighting for me, not in the mood to deal with his wound up mother.
I felt sick driving back. I knew I was in for huge trouble, as did my aunt who let me go back alone. She actually said “I won’t come with you. I can’t be doing with a row.” At the time I thought nothing of it, but now I feel nothing except anger and bitter betrayal. She was a woman. Nobody is ever in the mood for a row but she knew the situation I was going back into, as a minor, and let me anyway. I can’t remember much of that night, except I woke up at some point with blood in my mouth and a sharp pain in my abdomen, and bruises on my back. When I looked in a mirror my eyes were glazed over. I had all the answers I needed.
Another time my grandparents were rowing, and my aunt did actually turn up. I heard her screaming “this is not fair on the kids!” but she was backed out of the house. She rang me to see if I was okay. But then left it at that. But at least she tried.
Once my Dad actually tried to get us out of there, much to our amazement. I’ll never forget little Jasmine practically bouncing down the stairs with her bags of close, innocently joyful that her Dad had finally come to rescue her from this mess. The whole event had started because I’d dared say I was spending some time with my step-mum at the weekend, which made my grandmother jealous. My poor sister with her bags full of her most precious belongings, and her wide smile despite her tear-stained face. She’d heard what had happened to me. She and my brother had been upstairs and heard me screaming and sobbing. What that must have been like for them breaks my heart…
My grandmother had been screaming at my dad, who’d called her a “selfish cow”, “alcoholic” “pathetic” and other stuff which simply stunned me. She’d slapped him a few times and my Grandad had actually left the house. My dad stood firm, “I’m taking my kids.” At this point my sister came down the stairs, clutching her bags, and smiling at me. My grandmother couldn’t stand to see her happy about leaving. She shoved my dad out of the way, ripped the bags from my sister’s poor arms, and emptied them. She screamed all sorts of crazy emotional abuse as she threw my sister’s beloved items around, and ended with “I BOUGHT THIS STUFF. IT’S MY STUFF, NOT YOURS. YOU’RE NOT TAKING ANYTHING!”
My sister sobbed. I literally saw her heart break as everything precious to her was thrown around like trash. I desperately wanted to kick my grandmother and grab my sister’s stuff but the whole situation had frozen me solid. My younger brother was the one to act. He yelled at my grandmother, ran forward, grabbed my sister’s hand and ran out of the house. I followed immediately, and we all bundled into the car, trying to console my poor terrified and distraught sister.
Getting out of the drive was fun. My grandmother stood right behind the car so that my dad couldn’t move. We screamed at her to move and for our dad to do something, but my grandmother just laughed and yelled more abuse. I thought I was going to be sick. At one point I just wanted to push my dad out of the way and run her over. I was terrified that at any moment our grandfather would re-appear and then we’d be in major trouble.
Somehow we got away. My dad proudly told our step mum how he’d stood his ground and how over the top our grandmother had been. Nobody asked how we were, that I can recall. He promised us we’d never have to go back, and the children believed him. I didn’t, and sure enough we were taken back just two days later. We all went for a family meal to play “happy families.” It made me sick.
The breaking point was about 6 months before I left for university. I can’t even remember what started the row. We’d been out and had just returned home. I was walking up the stairs when I heard my sister scream. I span around and my grandmother was inches from her face, taunting her and yelling. She’d had too much to drink, as ever. I shouted “GET AWAY FROM HER!” and ran down, grabbing my sister’s arm and pushing her behind me. There started a night of hell. In some ways the less physically traumatic stuff are the worst, because it’s harder to dissociate from for a start…but also because my siblings would be present for the emotional abuse, and victims to it as well. Because it was emotional abuse, the hurt ran deeper somehow.
I tried holding my sibling’s hands but my grandmother screamed “no hugging! NO HUGGING! I’m talking to each of you separately, not all of you together!” She had major power issues, and it was starting to leak. I held my siblings’ hands even tighter and stared her in the eye. I was terrified but by this point trembling with fury. I’d simply had enough. At one point I was standing on the top of the stairs, and she at the bottom, and she yelled “COME DOWN HERE. I WILL NOT LOOK UP TO YOU!”
My grandad bundled me in the cupboard underneath the stairs. It was dark and cramped and I could smell alcohol on his breath. I tried not to gag. “They’ve been naughty, Jade. Stop trying to defend them. They need punishing” he hissed. NO way was I letting him touch them.
“I saw nothing. I’m defending what is right. I will always stand by the kids. Always.” I saw his lip tremble and braced myself for a punch in the face. He just shoved me instead, and stormed out.
I ran upstairs before he could, and grabbed the kids. I pushed them into the upstairs bathroom, and locked the door. Seconds later my grandmother thumped it. We yelped. I told them to get into the bath. The room was small; I did a quick calculation. If the door came bursting open at least one of us would get full impact. I had to choose between hoping she wasn’t strong enough, or actually letting her in whilst we were trapped. Nightmare. I watched, holding my breath, as she pounded the door again and again. She screamed like something possessed. “LET ME IN!!!” The hinges were not going to be strong enough, I saw in horror as one moved just slightly. I had to let the crazed woman in, and the only barrier between her and the children was me.
“Stay in the bath…” I murmured to the kids, whilst I opened the door and braced myself. She ran at me like a bull, grabbed me by my shirt and shook me violently, slamming me into the corner of the cupboard behind me. The corner jammed into my back repeatedly as she shook me. Agony. “GET OUT!” I screamed to the kids. Jasmine had been frozen, screaming in terror, but ran at my command. She was out. Jason suddenly jumped at my grandmother’s arms, “GET OFF HER! GET OFF HER!” he yelled, his voice cracking with fear and tears, but strong with his anger and courage. Suddenly my grandad appeared out of nowhere, raising his fist to Jason – “do you want some?” Jason thankfully backed off, and my grandmother let me go. Jason dashed out, I turned to leave and hissed “don’t you ever fucking touch me again.” My grandmother shoved my back, hard, and I fell into the window opposite me. Thankfully it was closed and locked.
I rang my Dad at this point, sobbing. He wouldn’t come. Told me it was my responsibility; that I had caused it. I screamed at him, “WHEN WILL YOU GROW UP AND BE A FATHER?” and he hung up. At this point I heard my brother yell for me. I dashed to his voice and found him, pale faced, pointing at my sister. She was lying on her bed and struggling to breathe. Asthma attack, or panic attack…it didn’t really matter; I didn’t know where her inhaler was. My brother had rang our actual mother for help. I’d had nothing to do with her for years, but the kids still did. She was on her way to get them out of this mess, and for that I was grateful.
My grandparents found out she was on her way, and suddenly the mask came on. My grandmother tried to gently speak to my terrified sister, “come on lovey…deep breaths…what’s the matter?” I glowered at her, shaking with anger and fear. How dare she. The mother arrived, and I told my sister to “go.” She glanced at my grandmother, who glared at her, but she ran anyway. She ran down the stairs and straight out of the front door into our mother’s open arms. My brother followed immediately afterwards.
I was alone. My grandparents had actually lost a battle, however. Someone, who’d usually be on their side or at least deliberately blind, had turned up and rescued the children. I sat at the top of the stairs, shaking violently and crying.
In the end it was my singing teacher who saved me that night. I was about to commit suicide and she rang me, and calmed me down. I couldn’t tell her what had happened but she could tell it was bad. “Please just hang on until the morning…” So I did. I went into school and my singing teacher wordlessly wrapped her arms around me whilst I sobbed. I cried non-stop for hours, until I was sure my ribs would break but they didn’t. I wasn’t just crying for that night, I was crying for everything up until that point. At 17 years old, I’d finally snapped. The kids were safe and never coming back to the grandparents, and so I could finally cry for everything that had happened. I could finally let some of the emotion out.
The whole event was reported to the child protection officer, who sent an email around to all staff saying that the children had left my grandmother (who worked at the school) and could all staff please bear in mind that this is a difficult time for the grandmother; please can no questions be asked and please can people offer her support at this difficult time.
I had no words. I obviously wasn’t supposed to know about the email, but I did. It felt like the ultimate betrayal. A few days later the child protection officer told my brother off for misbehaving. She knew what had happened but never asked him about it, just told him he needed to stop misbehaving. He came up to me in tears later, “nobody is on our side, are they Jade?” It broke my heart.
That night still haunts me, and I’m not entirely sure why. For me personally, it certainly wasn’t the most horrific thing I’d gone through, by any stretch. But I guess it’s because that event was the first real time an abusive episode was reported to someone who should have protected us, and instead protected our abuser. I think it’s because of that…that’s why I can’t let go of it. I moved in with my father and my siblings moved in with their mother, where they remain. My sister has started recovering memories…the other week she said “I remember they used to hit us. It wasn’t all just emotional, was it?”
It’s so hard knowing what she’s going to remember, and knowing nobody is around her to support her. She’s gone on self-destruct mode to cope with the bottled emotions, and although social services and the police have been involved, she’s too scared to seek proper support due to the constant betrayals.
There was an investigation last year, which led to nothing. The whole thing confused me because nobody really knew where the initial allegation had come from, but the police said me. This made no sense because they started investigating (unknown to me) before I said anything to the police.
However, since that investigation, several people have turned their backs. My aunt has never spoken to me since, and neither has my uncle. My step-mum is quite two faced, but generally leans more towards what my grandparents want. My Dad simply wants me to “move on” and “forgive” my grandparents for everything that they did, because he’s in a difficult position and doesn’t like it, apparently. “They did everything out of your best interests.”
If that’s the case, then they’re sicker than I thought, frankly.
Most of the family have disowned me, without a word. The remaining two adults are supposed to be my parents but let me down continuously. I remember once they got rid of a dog because it was too “difficult.” I adored him but he’d been bred as a fighting dog and so sometimes he needed discipline. But he had a soft side. I thought about him the other day and realised something. I am too difficult because I speak out. I am too difficult because I refuse to just forgive my grandparents for the trauma and damage they have caused me. I have told my Dad I suffer with PTSD, had to stop my degree, suffer from terrible flashbacks and depression. My words are meaningless, because his parents are “stressed” about the whole thing, and ultimately he will always support his parents.
I think people wonder why I try, with my parents. Why bother? Why don’t I just let them all go, and start a new life without them? I share those feelings, if I’m honest. But it’s extremely hard to just step away from your parents, even if they have caused damage and even if they continue to betray you and hurt you and undermine your hurt. One day very soon I know I’ll have to make that decision; carry on hoping that they’ll become parents and support me, or let go of them and start a new life. I know that’s coming soon, and deep down I know what the answer will be…and it makes me sad. I’m already grieving for the relationship I should have had with my parents, but never had and never will have.
In some ways I of course feel relief that the hold over me will be broken, and that finally…at last…someone will have broken the cycle that’s lived through that family for generations. I will not let myself be put below abusers, and I will not become one or be blind to them just so the “happy family” mask is clear. I will be the difficult one, because this cycle needs to be broken. My brother has been promised money so he’s suddenly back-tracking on everything he’s said, leaving my sister even more alone up there.
I need to break the cycle and show them what we deserve. What anyone deserves.
And I need to show the abusers that they won’t hurt me anymore. I won’t be betrayed anymore and I won’t let them play with me like I’m some doll. I am already in such hideous pain and despair, how they could possibly want to cause anymore is beyond me. How they could cause more is also beyond me, because frankly I don’t think that’s possible.
But I won’t let the pain and their abuse and betrayals and vile behaviour grind me so far into the ground that they’ve won, yet again. They aren’t going to win with me.