Fiona's story When the emotional abuse at home became too much, Childline provided a sympathetic voice

Girl sitting on stairs

"When I was 9, my mum met a new man. At first I really liked him and looked up to him but things started to change shortly after he moved in with us. My mum and I were really close and I think he was jealous. He was drinking a lot and started being mentally and sometimes physically abusive towards me.

"He would just start picking on me for little things, or even nothing. I did my best to avoid him, but if I couldn't, he would just start yelling at me.

"I was set a rule that I only ever went into the kitchen for food, at certain times – and if I missed that slot, I went without – but I was too afraid to go downstairs in case he chased into the kitchen after me as he always did. Bawling at me, backing me into the corner until I was whimpering and crying, he would just laugh at me and walk away, satisfied by my distress.

"Despite all of this, the hardest thing for me was seeing how he behaved towards my mum. He would shout at her about me and they would have huge arguments and I just couldn't handle it.

"It felt like it was all my fault. My name was brought into everything and he made sure I heard every word."

"I was shut up in my room, hearing his aggression, fearing for my mum's safety, and it felt like it was all my fault. My name was brought into everything and he made sure I heard every word.

"I started escaping from the house to go to the phone box, where I would will myself to phone Childline but I always chickened out. Eventually things just got too much. I was having thoughts about killing myself and knew I had to speak to someone so I finally plucked up the courage and called.

"After ringing a few times and speaking to different people I started talking to someone called Jane at the base in Rhyl and we got on really well. Although she couldn't change what was happening to me, just knowing that she was there to listen made me feel like I was less alone and brought me back from the brink. Knowing that I would speak to her every week at an arranged time gave me something to hold on to and look forward to.

"Just knowing that she was there to listen made me feel like I was less alone."

"Around this time I was also being bullied at school, and when I went to talk to the head of upper school about it I ended up telling her about the situation at home. With her help I started seeing a counsellor but I was still calling Childline because I often found it easier to talk to Jane. The difference was that I could call her when I was in the middle of my situation at home instead of being detached from it.

"In the home environment I had no-one: I was prevented from speaking to my mum. He would come charging upstairs and sometimes literally pull her from my room, or burst in and demand to know what was happening. I felt so isolated. Talking to Jane on the phone was like having her in the house with me, the only time I felt safe whilst I was there.

"Jane made me feel like I was important, like I did actually matter, unlike how my mum's partner made me feel: bad and worthless. Talking with her helped me keep my head pretty straight. With my mum's partner getting inside my head, setting me up and making things up, I almost started to doubt myself, and question whether I had done something wrong, when in actual fact it was him, planting things and telling lies.

"I'll always be grateful to them because without Childline I don't know what I would have done."

"Jane even praised me for achievements and little things I did. That made a big difference because it wasn't really coming from anywhere else; I know my mum would have wanted to, but she had to tiptoe around just as I did. I really felt like Jane was a friend, although I understood and fully respected her limits and her role. Being able to talk to someone meant a lot to me, even when we just talked about life in general and basic things.

"I was scared about discussing how suicidal I felt with anybody in case they told my mum, or hospitalised me, but I felt able to talk to Childline about it and Jane always asked if I wanted her to contact somebody. Before any call was ended, she would always make sure I was ok, and set up when we would speak again.

"We eventually moved house to get away from my mum's ex-partner but what he did will stay with me forever. I don't call Childline on a regular basis anymore but I still keep in touch with some of the people at the base in North Wales. I'll always be grateful to them because without Childline I don't know what I would have done. "


Names have been changed to protect identities. Any photographs are posed by models.

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Emotional abuse

Children who are emotionally abused suffer emotional maltreatment or neglect. It's sometimes called psychological abuse and can cause children serious harm.
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Evidence Based Decisions

Reviewing family situations to protect children at risk of harm.
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