Ch.9 What are you to expect? ...

It Must be Expected

The girl and her mother sat opposite me. The girls' black eye kept catching the light. The mother looked confused, unsure why she had been called into the school.

'Thank you for coming in Ms Smith.'

The interview began formally and according to procedure.

'We are worried about your daughter; she has come to school with a black eye.'

Mother and daughter looked at each other, their confusion mounting.

'Are you aware of how she got if?'

The mother clearly did not know how to answer. She looked at her child, what should she say...nothing... so she shrugged.

I waited for a moment, hoping someone would say something. I really did not want to articulate the information I had been given, thinking that it was about to cause some serious upset and anger.

Eventually, tentatively, I broke the silence, 'Her friends think her boyfriend did it.'

'Well, yes.' said the mother. A look of relief on her face that it was nothing 'more serious'.

It was my turn to look confused. She knew. She was not shocked, or horrified. She knew.

'They have been together for a while now... she knew it would happen sooner or later... she probably annoyed him.'

The daughter nodded in agreement. She had told me she was okay and her mother had validated her ascertain. The unacceptable black eye was 'okay'. It was just part of having a boyfriend, of being a woman, of being 'loved' by a man.

The mother and daughter were so accepting. This behaviour was a normal part of relationships. It was what happened when you were lucky enough to have a man. This child had been taught it was normal and it was to be expected.

Sitting there, I realised that her mother had been taught the same thing, and probably her mother before her. Just as my mother had taught me that violence was wrong, and I had taught my daughter the same thing... this family told a different story.

The pig dog smirked at me.

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Intimate partner violence can be normal if it remains shrouded in silence. Children learn from their world what is acceptable and what is not... how do we unwrap that silence with respect and care.

Kate Bricknell