As a child, I suspected our neighbours may have been aware of the domestic abuse that went on between my mother and father. It was difficult to disguise it. The volume of their arguments was blatant, the screams of anger echoed through the walls, the tears and cries from us all shook the entire house. No one can deny it was unpleasant.
I had escapes as a child. I could leave the house and play outside ignoring the horror back home. But as an adult, there was no escape.
My father rarely shouted at top volume at me. Instead, he preferred to use a more threatening tone, gritting his teeth and entering my personal space, blocking off any exit or chance to run from him. He was smart.
He just wasn’t as smart as me.
I knew how to change it. How to stop him and shorten the attack.
I just had to make as much noise as possible.
He would never be physical with me, I knew he would never give me what I wanted.
My response to his verbal assault was to shout back at him. If I had the courage to defend myself, which wasn’t often, I would shout as loud as I could to get a reaction, to push him to the edge. He would stop. He would let out a sudden burst of anger and as soon as it was released he would control himself. He could always control it. He didn’t want the neighbours to hear. They needed to see him as everyone saw him – gentle, loving and protective of me. They needed not to see him like I saw him – abuser, violent and destroyer of me.
My volume would spark him to lose it. He wanted me to stop. The abuse would switch and the original problem would change to my foolish and belligerent behaviour. I could handle that. I could storm off from that.
I could escape.
In later years I did reveal many truths about my father to our neighbour. She was understanding in many ways but there were a few words that left her mouth which informed me never to mention it to her again.
“He clearly loves you though”.