Living with an abusive parent

‘I’ve never been in a relationship because I’m scared the person I love will hurt me’

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Parents are supposed to love unconditionally, nurture and protect. If this is the case for you, count yourself lucky.

According to NSPCC research, around one in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused and one in 14 children have been physically abused. And this data only refers to the abuse which is actually reported – the rate of crimes against children and young adults is most likely much higher.

These statistics show that in the average seminar group of 20, at least one person has experienced physical or sexual abuse. And it could be anyone: the quiet girl in the corner, or the loudest guy in the class.

Sophie*, a 19-year-old King’s student, spoke to The Tab about her heartbreaking experiences living with an abusive father. This is her story.


My father has always been a violent man – I remember him hitting my mother from a very young age. I also remember being scared of him, but I’ve blocked a lot of childhood memories from my mind and I don’t really want to go searching down there. The most recent abuse was when we were abroad and my father was hitting my mum, I caught his hand to stop him and he started punching me. I don’t want to get too emotional, but my ears and back were bruised.

I told my mum that as soon as we came back to the UK we would go to a safe-house. We always make these plans but they never happen. My skin has learnt to live with the violence. I really don’t feel the pain anymore – but it’s the mental abuse. Most days I am bombarded by insults like stupid bitch, worthless and slut. When your parent says things like this, it affects you.

Of course, when you have someone constantly hitting you, your self-confidence goes with each slap. I’m 19 and I can tell you that it doesn’t get easier with age – you don’t suddenly become braver with each birthday that passes. At 18 I packed my bags to run away (I’d been trying to encourage myself to leave since year 10), but I realised I couldn’t go because I have a mother who needs protecting. Maybe you can’t always protect her from being hit, but at least you can remove the pills from her hands and tell her none of this is her fault.

I wish someone would sit down and tell me this. Deep down I know I haven’t done anything to deserve being hit or insulted everyday but I still ask, why? Why me? What have I done to deserve this?

I’ve never been in a relationship because I have this preconceived fear that the person I love will hurt me. I’m scared to be in a relationship. Why would I want to put myself through that?

I even cry when I watch movies where the father and daughter are close. I cried during “The Parent Trap” which is lame, I know, but I just found myself really wishing I had a father figure I could look up to. I don’t talk to mine anymore – in fact, I try not to be in the same room as him because I just feel threatened.

My father is very controlling. He expects me to tell him what I am doing, when my seminars or lectures are or how many free hours I have, that sort of stuff. It’s very suffocating. I can’t really go to any society events because most of them are in the evening and, of course, I am home by then.

I also don’t really have time to get to know other people which is really hard because at times I feel isolated and lonely at uni. I just feel like I don’t belong in any of the friendship groups. I feel that I put up a front – I always smile and joke around with people. I try to speak to as many people as I can before anxiety kicks in and I become nervous.


I’m a very private person, so the only people I’ve spoken to about this are my closest friends: I guess they’ve kept me sane all these years. I feel embarrassed to talk to anyone else. I know the university has a counselling service, but I feel too ashamed to tell them all this.

But King’s has helped me indirectly. Those hours that I am at university feels like freedom. I can forget about home and breathe for a bit. I take comfort in the fact that I am doing my degree for myself too. I lack confidence but I do not lack ambition, and King’s is helping me to fulfill this. As soon as I graduate I will hopefully be able to provide for both my mother and myself and leave.

But, until then, my advice to my fellow students is this. Be nice to everyone you meet, because you do not know what happens behind closed doors. What you do that day will affect them, no matter how small it feels.

When someone smiles at me it puts me in a better mood, even if I am on the dreaded journey back home. A small act of kindness goes a long way – trust me.

If you or someone you knows suffers as a result of domestic violence, don’t hesitate to contact the National Domestic ViolenceNAPAC or Samaritans.