Smacking was part of a continuum of violence for me
Laura Beveridge says children need protection from any form of violence
“You haven’t hit me in a while, Dad!” said my 10-year-old self to my stepdad.
“That’s because you’ve not given me a reason to hit you,” he replied.
Little did I know that my nana had threatened him after she found out that I’d been hurt really badly. I had a few weeks free from gut-wrenching fear and raised palm prints on my legs. That was a confusing period of time when I felt privileged for just not being hurt for a while.
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The violence at home didn’t just affect me and seeing my mum get hurt was more painful than anything else I experienced. But domestic violence is complex. The man that abused my mum and I also taught me how to tie my shoelaces, he brought me fudge bars home after work and made my mum laugh. I called him ‘Dad’ because he was the only father that I knew.
I know there are many loving families out there that smack and use physical punishment with their children, thinking that this is the right thing to do. But for me, smacking was part of a continuum of violence when I was growing up.
It started with little smacks, then escalated to belts, then knives. To this day, I still feel uneasy around knives. Smacking didn’t just leave marks on my skin, it left me with emotional scarring. Being hurt as a child changed how I viewed the world, the fabric of my confidence was left fragile, easily torn.
My worry is that many children who are being abused will feel like they can’t speak out because violence is a normal part of our culture. Smacking was very much a part of my childhood and it was widely accepted as part of life in the community I grew up in. I remember having chats with friends about having to rush home or we’d ‘get a smack’ or ‘a leathering’.
For some, I believe that it would’ve been a smack and very likely was regarded as justifiable, however, I believe that children need protection from any form of violence.
If I hadn’t gone into the care system, I think I would’ve continued to believe that violence in my family home was just a normal part of childhood. I remember repeating the words ‘I’m sorry’ thousands of times and I learned how to survive, to say ‘thank you’ and just be grateful for being alive.
Over the last two years I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on my childhood before and during care. I remember meeting my children’s rights worker, Lorraine, just six months before leaving care and telling her about my experiences. Lorraine advocated on my behalf, informing me of my rights and telling me that I deserved to be heard, to feel safe and be valued.
We have an opportunity to make it crystal clear to children that violence of any kind is unacceptable. With John Finnie’s Equal Protection Bill and the ground-breaking domestic abuse legislation, we have the chance to make childhood a space where harm has no place.
Relationships were key to me finding out that I was a person deserving of love. But even at the highest points in my life I’ve had moments of panic that I could lose it all, like the time my stepdad stopped hurting me and I worried that it would be short lived.
Love made me grow, understand and make sense of my childhood. Love also gave me the strength to be myself and take a risk when I knew it was time to change direction.
The last two years at Who Cares? Scotland has been incredibly life-changing for me – having been a care leaver to then embarking on a new path as a development officer was one of the bravest moves I ever made. But in January I started to think about my plans for the future. With an unconditional place at Strathclyde Law School, the next steps were in place.
But amid all the excitement, my mental health took a dip. I felt low during one of the highest points of my life.
This time I got curious about that and went back to therapy where I discovered the triggers that were sending me back to that fight or flight feeling. I now understand why I feel like that and refuse to let it hold me back.
So, I’ve just taken a big risk leaving my job at Who Cares? Scotland. I’ve also deferred my place at university until next September. And this next year is about spending time with my little girl before she starts school.
This year is a space to reflect and prepare for the next exciting chapter. I want to continue to influence change as an independent consultant, as a woman unafraid to take a risk.
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