Silent Cries: a child’s account of living with violence

Amongst the many factors that have been identified with regard to children’s violence to parents, the experience of living with domestic violence has been found to have significant prominence. Yet the way this influences children’s behaviour is itself multi-layered and will vary from family to family.

The normalising of violence, anger and disdain for the parent who failed to protect themself or the children, “stepping up to the plate” once the abusive adult is no longer in the household – these are the links commonly cited, but we hear less of the child who fights back at the time in attempts to protect one parent from the other. A book, which I was sent this week, opens up this aspect of parent abuse, in what the Yorkshire Post described as “an intensely moving account” of domestic violence through the eyes of a child.

Silent Cries, by R. Ryrie, tells the story of a child who understood from a young age that her role in the family was to protect her mother – from her father and even from herself. This included, for her, verbal and physical abuse towards her father, as she saw it, to save her mother’s life.

When Nan died it hit Mum hard, they had always been together, the drinking and clubbing was a few times a week now so Mum was getting beaten more and I was getting more violent towards my Dad because Mum was in no state to handle him as well. (page 13)

Three things struck me in particular:

*          The consistency with which the author speaks of her continuing love for her Dad – but not for “the hulk” that he became when violent,

I was glad he was my Dad because I thought some of my friends’ Dads were really scary.” (page 15)

*          Her sense of personal failure because although she had kept everything else going she was unable to stop her mother being beaten,

*          Her reasoning for never seeking help,

You don’t keep things secret it’s just that there is no point in saying anything so you just deal with it…. why would I ask for help when it wasn’t me that needed it. (page 57)

The way in which abusive family members continue to speak of love for each other is often a puzzle to those outside the situation.  This book gives useful insights into the thinking and watchfulness of a child growing up with violence, and the value she placed on her own life. It explains the difficulties faced by children in school, or in making their own relationships. At the end the author surprises even herself as she learns to live with acceptance and love.

If you would like to purchase a copy, you can do so by emailing this address. The book costs £5.99 + p and p

If anyone else has books they would like to share, I would be very interested to hear about them and post links as appropriate.

8 Comments

Filed under Book review

8 responses to “Silent Cries: a child’s account of living with violence

  1. There are many children in these situations.

    The problem has no simple solution. The child who sees and experiences violence, which is displaced to a place that is not hers /his (protect mom) possibly will be trapped in the cycle of violence.
    What leads to that child who protects mom, to stick and insulting mom when he/she is 14-16 ?

    I encourage to think and investigate about this problem (Is not easy to give the answer…..)

    José Alberto Llamazares
    CENTRO HOBETZEN (A.E .BERRIZTU / DFB)

    • I will send you a copy of the book!

    • I run an organisation working with families, males, females, children young people associated with domestic abuse. My observations are not many parents we work with have any intention of causing their child any emotional damage or wanted their children to witness abuse.
      We have learnt to view things from the child’s eyes which has contributed to our success in working with young people.
      Each child is an individual and how they perceive things and how they react within their environment is treated as such. Whatever age, each child has a right to their own thoughts, opinions and to be safe, supported and fulfilled.
      A family of four children would all have different accounts, feel different emotions and behave differently. This is where professionals are needed to engage with the children and families to identify, challenge the distorted beliefs the child may have developed in their home environment.
      When we are working with a child or teen displaying aggressive behaviour towards a parent, there may be multiple reason and these are a few we have come across. It is not always because the child is angry, however without any intervention it may well result in this. It could be a mixture of learnt behaviours and fear.
      For example, some children living in domestic abuse, will witness one parent consistently behaving like a robot, day in and day out from birth. Always conforming and no matter what abuse that parent has, they still get up and continue with their routine. While the routine is in place the child is content, because to them, everything is normal.
      Throughout that child’s life they have heard you can’t cope without me, the kids will be taken away amongst other detrimental comments. You usually find the conformer is very isolated, hardly goes out or talks to people so therefore the child feels isolation is normal for their parent regardless of the perpetrator allowing them to do what they want.
      When this changes and either parent leaves, the routine changes regardless if the victim is starting to change positively and starting to have the life they should be having. The child has never seen this behaviour before and insecurities surface. All they have heard resurfaces and they may think that the parent can’t cope.
      The only way the children know is control, manipulation, aggression to get the parent back to what they know. In their mind, the children do not get taken. The only choice they have is to step in and get the routine and behaviour of the parent back, as they believe is normal. The child will believe this is bad and scary for them and fear people thinking their parent has lost it.
      Any child will do anything to protect their family and they know when the perpetrator was at home and behaved the way they did, everything seemed safe for them to stay at home. This may escalate and once a child learns how to control it becomes more about their needs. The young person maybe seriously offended about being compared to the parent, the perpetrator as in their eyes they wouldn’t hurt the parent that badly.
      Nobody has explained to these children that normal behaviour is people can go out, have friends, and even wear makeup. The children work things out with the knowledge they have on relationships.
      We have families who expect the traditional ways for girls and boys. I am still working with young parents who have different rules for their children. They will clean the boy’s room and the girls have to do their own as well as chores. This is basic information that some families need as this is generally passed from each generation and some young females have worked with, who display aggressive behaviour and have witnessed domestic abuse fight back, with the only way they have learnt to express themselves and to be heard is showing aggression.

  2. I’m sorry (a problem with the idiom) I meant:

    You are very kind!

  3. After reading “Silent Cries” I can see the situation of many children who have to live a violent reality.

    I think that for a child it is abusive to have to defend his mother from the blows of his father, I think it’s abusive for a child to live with the threat of traumatic rupture of the family, I think it’s abusive for a child when parents pass up their adult responsibilities. Why ?

    Because, perhaps unintentionally , the father and mother are not available to meet the needs of their children, just are looking at their conflict. Thus the child’s emotional development may be affected (it’s true : not always).

    I do not blame, this is not a moral level, but I want to point out that everyone has a responsibility in the conflict and violence, and when there are daughters and sons that responsibility increases.

    Being exposed to a scene of violence within the family is a risk factor that we must identify (the people who work in this field). This is not mathematics, these are human relationships, but … Why in these five years attendeing families where children assault their parents have we had more than 35 % of cases where there has been or there is domestic violence?

    • Thank you for taking the trouble to read the book and to comment – in a language not your own too!
      While exposure to domestic violence is not the only factor in child to parent violence it remains the case that it is significant for many families. In Britain we have really only begun to take this seriously in terms of protecting children in the last ten or so years and we still have much to learn, both in terms of how the child is affected and how best to support the parent.

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