The following story, by Anna* is a deeply moving and courageous account of her journey through violence. As you will read, she continues to work towards non-violent relationships and has found various ways to achieve her goals. We thank her very much for her generosity and commitment.
I was having trouble with my son. He was a teenager, 15 years old and I was worried because he was beginning to act like his father who was never a good example, he has a hot temper. I thought I could handle my son, could correct him, but the older he grows the stronger his temper becomes. He is not a bad boy, but he has his moments. I try to speak to him nicely, gently, to reason with him but in the heat of the moment he can’t control himself.
My son gets aggressive. He uses language to defend, to attack, to humiliate, even towards me. He’s always causing trouble with his two sisters, he pinches or pushes. I never leave him and my little one alone. When he is angry, I don’t know, he could hurt my little daughter. He’s a big boy and I want to avoid that occasion. I wanted the violence to stop. I wanted to get a message to him that violence is not for my house. I was desperate to help my son and I thought to myself ‘I didn’t want aggression or violence’. I don’t think my son would reach the stage of physical violence because he knows that my husband has a restraining order against him. With violence there is always a price to pay and it is no good. It has to change. I want him to grow up a little bit gentle and considerate of family life and family needs.
When I came to the Breaking the Cycle group it helped because it made me realise that there were some people worse off than me, and also that I had to change my attitude sometimes. I am a compassionate person. I am not sarcastic or ironic but the group helped me see that when you give an answer you can sometimes give the wrong impression, so I learnt how to answer differently sometimes. For example if my son is nasty I don’t tell him off immediately at that bad moment, I wait and call and talk to him later. This is better because he tells me more. He tells me why he behaves. He communicates more when we are calm and relaxed. He used to say ‘You never listen, you don’t listen, and you don’t listen’. And I say to him ‘how can I listen if you push everyone around or you yell?’
Now I stay quiet, calm, then go back and talk again. Sometimes I can give some answers. He hasn’t changed a lot. He responds positively and then he forgets because on another occasion he behaves exactly the same. I keep on speaking calmly. In the end the decision is mine about what to do. Here the group respects your freedom, respects your choice. They say you don’t have to put up with this.
In my culture love is important. When you create a family you have to face all the challenges and struggle to keep the family unit. We try to keep the family united despite problems, sometimes we keep the family even though there is violence or abuse, but you do change. You emigrate, you integrate with people and customs from other countries and other ideas so in a way we are lucky because we can consider the best of both cultures.
Also in my culture you do not tell outsiders the problem in the family. Only the mother of one of my son’s friends knew my son had some problems. Sometimes she would talk to him and I could see a difference. It was very hard to come to the group but I was desperate to help my son and I thought to myself, I don’t want aggression or violence to continue.
I thought maybe I was doing something wrong, I thought I don’t have my family here, maybe it is something that I do. I had to make all the decisions even when my husband was home. My son keeps on telling me that it is my fault. I think it is my job to communicate better so that he learns to communicate. If I can solve the problem with communication, he will learn and when he’s older he will solve a problem the way we did,
My son understands that it is his problem too. He knows I am going to the group and every time I purposefully leave things out for him to read. When my son was with a group of friends over the holidays, a boy got bashed. My son hadn’t taken any part in the beating but he had been there so I took him to meet the boy and his father and I wanted him to apologise and show remorse. He has learned a lesson.
I want him to understand that despite the difficulty, despite the violence, there is a way out, to solve a problem, there is a way to compromise. My daughter hates this word compromise. She thinks there is nothing wrong with me. She thinks I’ve been a hero. She told me she wouldn’t be as patient or considerate as I have been. She tells me that she will never do what I do, but we’ll wait and see when she is a mother.
* Name and photo have been changed to protect client privacy.