The truth behind domestic violence
Sixteen-year-old Zuni is one of thousands of teenagers who have experienced domestic violence in the UK. Here she talks about her traumatic homelife and how she eventually broke the cycle of abuse.
Zuni’s story“I first noticed that something was wrong when I saw my mum crying. She had just divorced my dad in Pakistan and started going out with a new man in England. As the relationship developed she would often come home with bruises on her arms and cuts on her face.
"When I confronted her she’d just shrug it off and say nothing. Then one day I caught him red handed; slapping her and pulling her hair. I was about eight years old at the time and was really frightened. He said that if I told the police something bad would happen to me so I didn’t do anything about it.
"This carried on for about four years during which time events took a turn for the worse, when my mum married him and gave birth to my younger sister.
Petrified“One of the reasons why my stepdad was so aggressive was because he was already married and had another family. He would move between our houses and my mum and him really argued a lot. He didn’t like her going out on her own and was possessive. When I tried to interfere he would play mind games to intimidate me and then try and beat me up. The worse attack came when he hit me so hard that my mum had to take me to hospital. I was bruised all over and my face swelled up like a huge balloon. My ribs hurt and I’d also wet myself because of the shock and stress. I remember being examined by the doctor and that’s when the social workers became involved. Unfortunately when it came down to it I was too scared to blame my stepfather for the attack so we ended up going back home.
Escape“The next few months were pretty miserable and I felt like I was living in some kind of nightmere soap opera. At the age of eleven I was all but five stone and verging on chronic anorexia. I was also missing lots of school and being badly bullied. People thought my family were weird and didn’t understand what I was going through. To be honest I didn’t feel I could tell them the truth because it was so awful.
"Then the crunch came when my stepdad beat up my mum so badly that she didn’t want to have anything to do with him anymore. I remember packing our bags in the middle of the night and traveling to stay with our family up north.
Depression“Although I should have felt happy leaving my stepdad I actually felt depressed. Part of it was because I felt guilty for not telling the police about the violence earlier. As a result I tried to kill myself. Looking back now I know it was wrong particularly after what my mum had been through. She was the one that had to endure his temper and then find me unconscious with a bottle of empty pills by my bed. Thankfully I survived the ordeal although I now have long-term liver damage which I am not very proud of.
Recovery“Four years on and I am now feeing more settled and optimistic about my future. We no longer live with my stepfather and I regularly see a counselor and take medication for my depression.
"I left school with no GCSEs but I plan to go back to college in September and then get a good job. It’s funny because although I’m only 16 I feel like I am a much older person and would be good at counselling other people in my situation.
I enjoy writing poetry and reading lots of books. My mum, sister and I are all very close now and talk to each other about how we feel and if there is ever a problem. It really helps not keeping how you feel bottled up inside and makes us all feel stronger."
- For more information about domestic violence and young people visit The HideOut.
- Freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge). Tel: 0808 2000 247