At home, the dynamic between husband and wife can determine the entire family’s mood.
With a spotlight on the terrible and tragic ways men abuse their wife’s love for them, some Maltese people wanted to speak out about another type of domestic violence: parents to children.
One Maltese 23-year-old graduate spoke to Lovin Malta about her struggle growing up in a household with her violent and controlling mother, how she was forced to lie and cover it up for years – and how it all nearly pushed her beyond the edge.
Warning: Traumatic accounts of child abuse below.
“Open social media today and you’ll see an abundance of ‘stop violence against women’ posts… but why does it always have to be portrayed as man vs woman?”
It’s portrayed like only men can commit domestic violence, but in my case, it was my mum who committed domestic violence.
After spending my childhood and teenage years hiding my bruises and blaming our non-existent pet at home, avoiding any form of connection with people, the day I finally ran away from home was the day I finally set myself free.
‘When I was five-years-old I remember sitting on the staircase and asking God why weren’t things OK… why was my mum always enraged at everything?’
I was very young, but I already knew something was wrong.
“God, give me the strength to go through this… if not, please take me with you,” I used to pray.
As soon as something did not go to my mum’s plan, the trouble would start… I remember hiding my bruises with long winter sleeves during my exams in mid-June.
Back then I did not know I was living the very opposite of childhood. Now that I speak with people and I hear their childhood memories, I realise that I was too young to think that way.
Hearing my mother yelling at my elder sister “Ejja ħa noqtluha! Ejja ħa noqtluha!” (“Let’s kill her! Let’s kill her!”) was the moment I realised that ‘home’ was no longer my home.
I did not know which world I was living in the first two months after running away from home. I was spaced out, felt alone, felt hollow, with no purpose to live. All I could see as soon as I woke up until I went to sleep was a big, black heavy cloud.
During that period, all I wanted to do was end my life, and I tried to more than once. But I was lucky to eventually find people who cared for me and helped me through this.
“The relationship with my mother, father and sisters is not that good now.”
My father has no say at all in our house, and he is too passive to do something about it.
Working from dawn till dusk for us, he presented the opportunity for my mother’s possessive character to take over everything. My sisters felt shy and embarrassed when people started getting to know what was happening, and they decided to keep on hiding what my mother used to do.
My mother used to threaten to leave us out of her will, which is very common in Malta.
Money comes and goes and if I want something I can work for it myself, but our time here is limited. So I decided to choose what is truly valuable.
I have a restraining order against my mother from the court. But I can’t help thinking that, in reality, if something had to happen and I was critically harmed again, who would care about the restraining order?
“People do not understand the mental setback domestic violence brings with it.”
It is not just a few days until your bruises heal, not a few weeks until you get used to it nor a year or two until you get back on your feet.
Domestic violence imprints your life with flashbacks and feelings.
There are days where the blood flow through my veins hurts and the most exciting things on earth won’t let me shine my light. But then I remember what I have been through, and what I achieved, and I move on.
Bruises and sores heal eventually. But mentally I’ll carry this with me until the day I die.
Things have started to change, but sometimes, I still feel emotionally wrecked, betrayed and broken.
I still love them and miss them! They are my family after all!
There are days where I cry and wish I could hug a mother, a father or a sister. But then I remember in the effort and strength it took me to get back up, to move on alone, to study, to graduate and to build myself in the person I am today and I feel satisfied with what I achieved.
“When I heard about Chantelle’s story I felt all sorts of emotions: anger, rage and sadness, but I felt lucky too.”
I felt disgusted by the way people show their anger and greed. Some people need to learn how to control their behaviour when something does not favour them. I am deeply sorry for what Chantelle and her family had to go through. I hope this serves as a lesson to everyone, men, women and children too.
Please, please, please: find help. Let someone know about the situation, a friend, a relative, a teacher, a lecturer, anyone who you think you can trust. There is nothing to feel shy about.
Secondly, do not give up, things can change if you make them change by taking the first step.
In order for me to feel better, I had to accept what had happened to me. Once I did, things got better.
However, I didn’t completely heal from it: it’s part of me now, it’s part of who I am.
Sometimes I still feel sad about it… but just for a few minutes. Soon enough, you’ll see me laughing about something else.
If you have been affected by this story or want to speak to someone about your experiences, you can contact the organisations below.