Mum made sure I had lots of happy memories growing up. One of my favourite days was spending time at a soft play centre and going down a slide really fast. I was 6 years old.
I have lots of sad memories too. All of them involve my dad. I didn’t feel very safe. Dad did lots of things that scared me. He would punch holes in walls and once kicked my brother’s door off the hinges because he wouldn’t let him into his bedroom.
I kept my feelings about what I’d seen at home to myself. School weren’t very helpful. They thought I had behavioural problems and sent me to a specialist who didn’t understand me.
"I saw him raise his hand to hit mum and I was worried about what he’d do. "
My worst memory of growing up happened when I was 9 years old. My dad was shouting really loud and calling my mum lots of really awful names. I saw him raise his hand to hit her and I was worried about what he’d do so I got in the middle to protect her and push him away. We moved out of the house that day and went to stay with my Nana.
I started to pretend to be ill at school so I could go home and be with mum. I was afraid that my dad would turn up and felt scared about what he’d do.
My school nurse asked Lynsey* from the NSPCC to come and see me. She talked to me about their Domestic Abuse: Recovering Together (DART) programme and how it might help me. Lynsey was the first person who spoke to me about the violence like an adult rather than a child.
At the first session I got to meet other young people who had seen the same things and had similar feelings. I started to feel a bit more normal and realised for the first time that I wasn’t alone.
"It helped me to understand that bottling up things wasn’t a good idea."
My favourite session was where we made a volcano bottle bubble with vinegar and baking soda. I’d filled the volcano with words that described how I felt about my dad and lots of glitter so that when the volcano bottle burst it helped me to understand that bottling up things wasn’t a good idea.
It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
''It was like a visible change in him''
JB’s mum Scarlett describes how the DART programme helped them heal
I was 25 when I met JB’s dad Steve*. I’d just come out of an abusive relationship and I’d had a lot of negative experiences with men. Steve was really lovely with me, I thought he was different.
When I became pregnant with JB, I saw Steve's behaviour change. He started to comment on how I dressed and became a lot more controlling. He would encourage me to go out for a drink with friends, and then when I got home I’d find out he hadn’t given the children any dinner and they’d gone hungry. I soon lost contact with my friends and stopped speaking to my mum. I was the only wage earner then and the pressure to supply for our family was really intense. I had a breakdown and started to suffer with depression.
"I realised I hadn’t been able to protect my own kids from Steve’s abuse."
He started throwing things at me in anger, whatever was close at hand like ornaments and crockery. There were times when he was lovely to me. It would catch me off guard and I’d feel guilty for thinking bad things about him. I was depressed and on medication but I couldn’t see the reality of what I was living in.
JB turned into a sullen child, who really struggled to be happy. He found it difficult to communicate how he was feeling, and was very critical of himself. The final straw was the day Steve raised his fist to hit me and JB got between us and stopped him. I realised I hadn’t been able to protect my own kids from Steve’s abuse, but something clicked that day, and I knew then there was no going back.
"Without the NSPCC’s help and the DART programme I can guarantee we wouldn’t be in the happy place we are now as a family. We both feel so positive now and JB is happy. I feel like we’ve healed."
We were referred to DART by JB’s school nurse. The programme helped JB massively. Probably the biggest change I’ve seen in him is that he likes himself now and doesn't blame himself. Once his anger had gone, and his self-esteem improved, it was like a visible change in him. He seemed to walk taller and be more confident. Without NSPCC’s help and the DART programme I can guarantee we wouldn’t be in the happy place we are now as a family. We both feel so positive now and JB is happy, I feel like we’ve healed.
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Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART™)
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Names have been changed to protect identities. Any photographs are posed by models.