He is still my Dad: A story shared by a Virtual Team mate

 I sit here in awe of the mammoth task my team has completed today, one which I doubted that we would ever complete. I am drawn to reflect on the reasons why I did this; why I ran so hard for nineteen days. Sitting here I wonder to myself if I should now share my story. I am deeply concerned of what people may think of me once my story has been read. Would I be frowned upon? Would other runners feel I shouldn't be involved? Am I being a hypocrite? I guess my story is one with a difference; one that needs to be told, one that hurts to tell but hurts even more to lock inside me condemned to silence.

I grew up with domestic violence, my father was a violent drunk, my mother always being the victim; or should I say victor. She spent many years leaving and returning. I was the eldest of three, all to my father. I guess that's what made my mother return all those times. The stigma of having children to different men was not a common practice like it is today. So there were many days spent packing up and returning only to leave again after another horrific fight. 

I loved both my parents dearly, my dad never laid a hand on us kids. But I learnt from early age what impact alcohol had on adults. I didn't like it. I knew what was to come and I dreaded it! 

I chose not to have friends stay over nor would I ever leave my mum for a night. I felt that I was the protector. There were many times I stepped in at the ripe age of 7 or 8. I remember yelling at them to stop, protecting my baby brother from the screams and thuds. I matured very early. I had to. 

I once had to run to a neighbours house in the middle of the night looking for help. My father threw my mother down some stairs and she split her head open on the washing machine. I was maybe 6 at the time. I thought my mum was going to die. I ran back and forth, trying to wake the neighbours up but concerned about leaving my mum. It's one of many nights that will never leave me.

By the time my mother had had enough she had three children in tow. My father had threatened to take his life with a rifle (we lived on a farm) in front of my young brother. My mother drew the line. It was time. We packed as much as we could in a mini van. We left my Barbie collection behind. It sounds so superficial now; but a Barbie collection for a little girl is her world. Yet, I never cried for my Barbies, or ask for them... I never mentioned them. Where we went was so much better than where we had been that; even as a child I knew it was better.

Wewent to reside in a Women's refuge. This was heaven! Life was finally quiet. I was no longer afraid of the night. My mother on the other hand was a ticking time bomb, on the verge of a break down. Three young children. Very few belongings. Alone in a Women's refuge. 

Slowly she rebuilt her life. She made a home for us on the Central Coast; finding employment and piecing together the life she had wanted us to live. Over time she found love again, we became a family, I gained step brothers and a step father that showed nothing but love. We built a house and my mother worked her way into a top paying job with a large business!

Don't get me wrong, life wasn't all roses. My life also fell into shambles. Once I hit my teens, I lost my way. Trying to process what had happened took its toll. My father was in my life sparingly. I still yearned to be wanted by him. Seeking what I thought was love in many other males' arms. I spiralled out of control taking drugs, drinking too much and partying too hard.I hit rock bottom. Step by step I had to pull myself out of the mess that was my life. Eventually I gaineda career, I married, we own our own house and we have a beautiful family. I am growing from my experiences, learning and developing. I am happy now but the clouds still sit on my horizons.

Earlier this year I decided to get involved in the local Women's Refuge, running workshops helping woman get back into the private rental market. I cherish these times and they are becoming very popular! These are also times where I am learning to understand my own experiences. So popular that the youth services have also got me presenting for the youth without families. 

To here the story is common. So many have the same tale to tell. But for me there is a twist. I remained in my father's life. I love him still to this day. Throughout the years he fell into abusive relationships time and time again. But I remained to love him. He has issues, mental health issues, that stem from young adulthood. Why would I walk away from him? He is my dad. One and only. What would it take for you to walk away from your family? I do not want to live with regret. My mother brought me up to love and forgive. It is hard to love and forgive someone whop has caused so much hurt; but that does not excuse me. He is my father.

 

He is currently serving time for DV and other charges. And it was only yesterday that I attended a court hearing. I attended to support him and I regularly visit him in gaol. I don't condone his behaviour and he admits he did wrong. He knows how I feel about it, he knows he has a problem; so I stay. I won't walk away from someone I love needing help and support. I am all he has. His parents are gone, his brother lives interstate. 

I hope you try and have an understanding of my position. My entire life played on my mind every time I ran throughout this challenge. I will continue to fight against family violence and I think that whilst assisting the victims in these situations is the number one priority, maybe a little more effort could go into supporting the offenders. They obviously need help too. Rehabilitation, mental health checks, counselling, the cycles need to stop. This could be the key to reducing the amount of deaths we see each year due to domestic violence.

Thank you for reading my story and thank you for doing something, even if it is as small as running for a cause, to help the children, the survivors and the victors.

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Kate Bricknell