The following is a guest post by Tim Austin from ‘I Just Wanted a Dad.’
Domestic Violence: It Shouldn’t Hurt to be a Child
As a young boy I would lay awake in my bed in the morning with the blankets pulled up to just under my chin dreading hearing the sound of my dad’s car coming up the street. My heart would start quickening when it did, it would start racing when I heard it coming up the driveway. When I heard the key attempting to find its way to open the door I would pull the blankets up over my head. He should’ve been home many hours earlier after he finished work but the pub was his calling. As he took his first step inside the yelling and fighting would start between my parents. I would cry as I laid there under my blankets. I would hear the saucepans smashing into the wall after my mother had missed her target. When the fighting would stop I then had to make my way out into where this had all taken place as I had to get ready for school. I was so scared getting out of bed I use to feel like my legs weren’t going to work. I would sheepishly turn into the kitchen & see the holes in the wall from the saucepans and whatever else had been thrown. I would burst into tears. I was scared again and so sad. My father’s response would be to offer me a Mars Bar that was in the fridge,he would purchase them on the way home from the pub. I was young and so I didn’t know or understand why this atmosphere and environment was what it was but the way it made me feel told me that it just had to be wrong. Like I think all kids do I pretty quickly shifted my thinking to how it must have been my fault in some way. I’d tell myself that if I hadn’t been naughty or if I had just kept my room cleaner than maybe this wouldn’t happen. Kids will almost always find a way to blame themselves for the situation.
My wife and I had our first child (son) when I was 34 & then our second (daughter) when I was 36. It was, is and always will be the two most amazing and special days of my life and I will thank my wife forever for making me a Dad and us a family. I’ve never tried to parent or father in a way in an attempt to make me different to my father. Both my wife and I have a belief that says our children are entitled to a free, safe & loving home environment & we are the ones that are responsible and obligated in seeing that they are afforded exactly this. I had been suppressing so many memories and recollections from my childhood and it was really confronting when I would see our children do something that would act as a trigger for something to be released from my vault. An example was when our kids were making a Milo by themselves for the first time. I literally stood there like a statue as they simply and competently went about it. When they got up off the floor with their drink and walked towards me they stopped when they got to me and said, “it’s not that hard Dad”.
My reply to them was, “I’m glad it’s not guys.”
I sat down with my wife and said to her that I’m curious as to why that moment caused the emotion that it did for me. I pretty quickly discovered that it was because I was always too scared to do or try anything at that age because I was to scared that if I made a mess I would be punished. It would be fair to say my fathering style is quite different to how my father went about it. I was more than happy to change the bub’s nappies, bath them and feed them. When my wife got up in those crazy hours when it’s still very dark to breastfeed our kids I would get up as well and just sit there with her. When she stopped breastfeeding I would get up and do the feed whenever I could so that she could sleep. There are many but doing these feeds are some of the greatest memories I have of our kids as babies, it was bonding at its best for me. Their reliance on you as a parent is scarily beautiful and it would melt me as they would suck on their bottle whilst looking straight up at me.
My determination and passion for helping women and children who have or are experiencing domestic /family violence is very much driven by what I witnessed and was subjected to as a kid. I know how it made me feel and what the consequences of being a victim of it were. I always wished and hoped that my mum would leave the evil that was my father but deep down I knew that she never would or could. He had emotionally beaten her to a point where she was a robot who lived her life by the commands of his voice. It still saddens and hurts me today that I never got to know who she truly and really was. I started my FB page so people could purchase my story that I documented in an e-book format in the hope that it may be able to help others who have or who are going through this unacceptable crime against humanity. Although it feels like it, you are never alone as a victim or survivor.
As a country we need to be a lot more real & raw about how we discuss & act on this widely accepted & acknowledged EPIDEMIC. Domestic /family violence saw me think about suicide as a 15 year old, I began self harming at the same age and also started out on a journey of extremely strong and deliberate self sabotage that lasted more than a decade which among other things included smashing up cars, fighting and alcohol abuse. I had a mentality of, “if no-one else cares about me why should I”. At 27 I took what I believe was an ecstasy tablet. My body starting shutting down, I was very lucky. I asked myself the next day why I chose to do this and my response was, “I don’t want to die, but I don’t care if I live”.
On the day my e-book went live I completely broke down and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and also P.T.S.D later on whilst in therapy. All diagnosis were given and attributed as a direct result of what I experienced growing up. I have to manage these conditions still today but life is good. When you are a victim of domestic/family violence you start to die from the inside out the very day it starts. The message I’d like to send to everyone reading this is that time is a great healer – your mind and body can and does go through a regeneration process. We are all stronger than we know and we all deserve to be happy, safe and free.
Love & best wishes.
To purchase a copy of the ebook ‘I just wanted a Dad’ click here:
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 000 immediately. Help is available from many services in Australia. The following Domestic Violence Lines are gateway services that can put you in touch with the service right for your needs, or provide a listening ear. They are all available 24/7 so regardless of the time you can get support.
1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732
The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line is a free telephone and online confidential service for any Australian experiencing or who has experienced domestic or family violence and/or sexual assault. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Translating and Interpreting Service
National Call 13 14 50 and ask them to contact 1800 RESPECT
National Relay Service (for callers who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment)
TTY/Voice Calls – phone 133 677 and ask them to contact 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732
Speak and Listen – phone 1300 555 727 and ask them to contact 1800 RESPECT
Internet relay users
Visit the National Relay Service website and ask them to contact 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732
Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT
02 6280 0900
Domestic Violence Line
1800 65 64 63
DV Connect Women’s Line
1800 811 811
Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service
1800 015 188 or 03 9322 3555
Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline
08 9223 1188 or 1800 007 339
Domestic Violence Crisis Service
1300 782 200
Domestic Violence and Aboriginal Family Violence Gateway Service (including Domestic Violence Help Line)
1800 800 098
Family Violence Response Referral line
1800 633 937
08 8945 1388