Since my father died, I have an abundance of old notes made about his incessant nitpicking and abuse. On February the 4th 2005, my father picked an argument with me over the smallest thing. The note highlights how trapped I was in his company, the fear that encroached me and the endless demands he made.
He has guests coming in the evening. His routine of obsessive cleaning is taking place. I’ve locked myself in my bedroom. I’m too scared to come out and be forced to be a part of his army drills. I can hear him coughing loudly downstairs. What’s wrong? Something’s wrong.
I went downstairs, he called me there. He was waiting. There was a mark on the floor. My make up. He found it while he was hoovering. He saw it a while ago but it’s not his job to clean it. It’s mine. He needs to prove a point. I made the mess. That one little mark on the floor. A quick wipe is all it needs but I have to do it. Me. He told me to mop it up today before his friends come. I’m fed up. I want to retreat back to safer ground – my bedroom. I went upstairs mumbling something under my breath. He heard.
“What??” he shouted.
“Nothing” I replied.
He bounded up the stairs behind me. I quickened my pace.
“WHAT DID YOU SAY?”
I shut my bedroom door. I was safe again, “Nothing!” I shouted back.
“If you are nasty then I will be nasty. If you are good then I will be good”.
I’m 23 in under a month. What kind of a father days that? He has never treated me like a daughter, never. He never lets me feel anything, I’m not allowed emotion. I have to be a robot at all times. I cannot cry, that’s wrong. I cannot get angry, that’s wrong too. I can’t even act like a child sometimes. I’m not allowed ‘bad moments’. I have to be perfect. I have no free will. He keeps using money as a threat. If he ever gives me anything he has accounts for how much, when and where. I can’t breathe! Let me breathe.
This was how my father behaved nine years ago. Yet right up until his death he never changed. He had the same attitude towards me till the very end. He held all the power. Not any more.
You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again.
I have always said that my father did not physically abuse me. However, after delving further into the term “physical abuse” and all that it stands for, I am shocked to see that my claim is not true. He was physically abusive. I just don’t have any visible scars. In my quest to research the different aspects and consequences of abuse, I have fallen on new information. I have always believed that physical abuse was to be violent. The person on the receiving end would have scars and visuals to prove their abuse.
Research has led me to realise that there are many other appearances of this kind of abuse. My abuser was extremely threatening. If he did not get his way or I was disobedient, his threatening behaviour would follow. His deep, bellowing voice would resonate through the house or in public and the way in which he ordered me closer and breathed down my neck, talking at me through gritted teeth, all added to his aggressive demeanour. His physical stance and how he towered over me, making sure he had all the power as I cowered into the shadows. The way he would lure me into believing I was safe, even making a joke or choosing a lighter topic of conversation first before launching into his fit of rage and sudden burst of apocalyptic anger. The constant threats of harm against me that he made, telling me that I needed a punch – that it would “sort” me out or to go and kill myself to make his life easier. I never thought of it as physical abuse at the time but telling your own child to commit suicide must be classed as that. Oh and it’s abhorrent too.
His reckless driving and aggressive behaviour in the car all adds up to physical abuse. He put my life at risk every day I spent in that car with him. Every day I anticipated his anger and waited for another explosion. He deliberately chose the car as a place to shout and rant at me as I (in his words) had “no escape”. I wanted to release my seatbelt and fling myself out onto the open road many a time. The thought seemed better than enduring his continuous barrage of contempt.
A key part of physical abuse that I never recognised was how my abuser prevented me from seeking medical help or care. If I needed a doctor, he had to know the reasons why. When I refused, he exploded. The moment that stands out the most is the day of my massive Asthma attack in 2009* where my father refused point blank to call an Ambulance in the night for me, implying that I was seeking attention and being dramatic. The other option was that he drive me to a hospital at 1.am. He refused that too. He never felt worry for me, or fear for my life.
The way he would sharply raise his hand to my face holding it suspended, mid air, inches from my skin – surely that was physical? Yes, he never released it and let it slap my across my cheek but how can what he was doing be classified as anything else?
My father was an abusive man.
In every way.
* See post Notes.
The first piece of paper that stood out to me was one sheet. On it was four columns written in pencil. Perhaps not writing in pen gave him the opportunity to erase his words. However, I must’ve found it before he could.
The paper read something like this:
Week Ending 16 Nov/23 Nov 27/11/02 – cheque £176.25
” ” 30 Nov 29/11/02 £92.71
” ” 7 Dec 5/12/02 £92.71
The list carried on until 14/01/03 where the final transaction he had noted down was a bank transfer.
I had saved a vital piece of what I always knew he was doing. Those times where he would leave my opened bank statements outside my bedroom door apologising for accidentally opening them himself. All along, he was noting down the activity on my accounts. He was saving his sordid records and following my life with vengeance. Why and how could my money matters mean so much to him? This list and the dates suggest I was twenty years old. I was still studying and not earning. I wasn’t hiding anything from him but his suspicious nature would always control the way he behaved.
He never treated me as his daughter even though he constantly raved about trust.
But does this seem like trust? How could he betray me so badly? My personal life was not mine. He needed to know it all.
I was angry when I discovered this. It had taken the betrayal further. I knew he was monitoring my money but I was unaware he was taking notes too.
It’s pathetic really.