They may not mean to, but they do

The piece below is something I wrote a few weeks ago, my response to an invitation in the Guardian to send in A Letter To Your Father for publication this weekend. I lost the details so never got around to emailing it in (story of my life) but today it’s on my mind.


“I saw you today for the last time. There were no goodbyes, no fond farewells. But this time I know: we will not meet again. I’ve been asked many times over the years, why do I still see you? I had no answer, but I’ve wondered what would be the final straw that broke this camel’s (bruised) back.

This afternoon, it happened. You beat me in my own home, in front of my children. It turns out that was too far even for me.

As I grew up, the scars on my body mapped out your rages. You broke my arm from sheer frustration at my inability to ride a bike. I was four years old and terrified, but your daughter had to be the best. At everything. Years later, you broke my nose with a single punch when I told you I had a boyfriend. You wanted to be the only man in my life.

Tonight, I recognise that familiar sickening sensation of another broken bone. Collarbone, this time. I’m too exhausted to get it taken care of tonight, but tomorrow, I will get treatment. And this time, I’ll tell the doctor what really happened. Because I’m no longer afraid of you.”


That was nine weeks ago. I was lucky, it could have been so very much worse. Even the bone was only chipped, there’s a tiny scar by my left eye, but nothing which screams out a beating. Physically, I healed fast; bruises fade faster than memories. Carrying a shoulder bag still hurts, as do passenger seatbelts, but nothing much else. My children seem to be dealing with it, more or less, processing it in their own ways, at their own levels. I’m surprised how much lighter we all walk for the decision not to see him again. Much as I’m mortified by what they saw and heard that day, if they hadn’t been there, I doubt I’d have acted this time either.
Because despite a heavy dose of morning after guilt and doubt, this time I did speak out. First to the doctor in A&E, then to the police. I thought I’d lost the capacity for astonishment, but I was blown away when they took it seriously. When you’ve been told all your life that you’re the one to blame, you learn to believe that.
The CPS have now charged him with assault. I’m praying someone persuades him to plead guilty, because I don’t think I’ve got the courage to stand up in court and speak out.

Writing this post took minutes, but pressing publish is taking me several hours.
Irrationally, I worry about ‘admitting’ to what happened. Yeah, I know, it’s not my fault, etc, etc. But I don’t like the idea of being seen as a victim. I don’t want a label. I really really don’t want my children to have labels.
But the flip side is that this is a part of me too, just as much as islands, stones, hills, knitting and Guides are. People who don’t know what he did are never quite going to understand who I am.
It’s the reason why when everybody else sits around chatting about seeing or phoning or missing their dads today, I’m staring silently into space, seeing scenes from a past that’s very faraway indeed.



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20 responses to “They may not mean to, but they do

  1. Heather

    I’ve tried to write lots of things but as always when it matters I can say nothing at all.


  2. dawn

    I’ve been thinking of you all day today knowing that it must be unbelievably hard for you. And if you want and if I don’t have unbreakable commitments I will support you in court if you need/want me to.
    Holding you tight and sending love and hugs

  3. You are very brave. And you are still you – labels do not define the person.

  4. Vikki

    I’m so so sorry that you’ve had to deal with all the crap he’s put you through over the years, and I’m sorry that the children had to witness it, but I’m very glad that you found the strength to take action against him, and to remove him from your life.

    You are a wonderful, strong, loving person, and I have so much admiration for you. You’re giving your kids the happy loving childhood that you didn’t get to have, and I’m so proud to be able to call you a friend.

    Hugging you gently and sending chocolate and yarn

  5. I was thinking of you today ❤

  6. Like Heather I don’t have the words to say but wanted you to know I’m here if I can do anything to help/distract.

    And yes to what Mrs R says too! Hugs xxx

  7. Kathryn

    Like Heather, I don’t have any words other than how brave you are. X

  8. Katherine

    It sucks frankly. But you are teaching your children that his way is not the way you deal with conflict and that you will stand up for them and you know it’s bloody important having that.

  9. Gem

    I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through this, but grateful that the police paid attention and are doing their jobs. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that they convince him to plead guilty.

    This doesn’t change who you are, or apply a label, at least not in my mind. It reminds me just how strong you are.

    *hugs* xxx

  10. Brave woman – I am so glad you have done this.

  11. cara

    There are no words to say other than I’m thinking of you.

  12. Stella

    Part of me cried, and part of me cheered.

    I make the same offer as Dawn. If you need me to be there, and nothing else is in the way, then I am. I can be a pair of eyes to return the glares, the maker of brews and supplier of chocolate, a hug and a shoulder to cry on. Whatever you choose.

  13. Derrick

    You are very brave and I am impressed with how you have dealt with this…what strength of character you have…go you xxx

  14. Lynn

    I have to admit that, without knowing any of this, you were one of the people I thought would find it a hard day for different reasons to me 😦 Vikki and Annabel and others have said pretty much what I wanted to say, so just *whiskyhugs* and listening x

  15. Sugar

    I, too was thinking of you on Sunday, as I struggled with a mix of memories. You are brave, braver than many other women I knoq. Glad you have been able to walk away finally. Keeping your sb’s safe is imperative and you are teaching them that violence doesn’t solve problems. Much love.

  16. Liz

    I’m so glad you spoke out. You are awesome *hugs*

  17. Neil

    Sh*t. Of course I had no idea… You have your freedom now. *hugs*

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