I was around 9 when I began reading Jacqueline Wilson and I fell in love with her work, reading everything I could get my hands on, being the nerd that I am.
In one of her books 'Cookie', the father is emotionally and verbally abusive, playing mind games with the mother and daughter. He constantly shouts and terrifies the mother, calling her derogatory names and even hits her once. The final straw was his message to Dilly, the mother when Cookie is given a rabbit despite his rules and so he deliberately leaves the hatch open releasing the bunny, who is then found by Cookie and her mother, mauled by a fox.
Is this Domestic Abuse? No, was my thinking at the time. From another of Jacqueline Wilson's books, 'Lola Rose' the mother had been beaten by her partner and that was what I had considered as Domestic Abuse.
Picture a victim of domestic abuse. I used to imagine a beaten woman locked in a basement, while a large man towered over her swearing and drinking a beer. I thought this was just a douche father and that Dilly should have left much earlier in the relationship instead of putting Cookie and herself in constant fear at home. I thought that while it is obviously not the mother's fault she should have gotten over it and left.
Towards the end of the year, the school decided to have a week of talks and activities ranging from ‘Mindfulness' to ‘HIV Talks'. In all honesty, my friends and I were not too excited as on Friday morning we trudged our way up to the classroom and got out our pencil cases and books. It turned out to be a brilliant experience. We met Madelaine for a talk about Domestic Abuse. It was relaxed, and filled with brightly coloured Post-It notes ready for our questions. It made us think.
My answer to the question earlier had changed: Was what Cookie and her mother exposed to Domestic Abuse? Absolutely.
Domestic Abuse wasn't just physical but emotional, verbal, psychological, economic and sexual.
There were so many different reasons why the mother didn't 'just leave' and that alerted us to how complicated it is to get out of abusive relationships
If I was asked now to picture a victim of Domestic Abuse, I would imagine a normal person who is strong, brave and has just been through an awful ordeal.
The ‘no-stupid questions' gave my friends and I the freedom to ask questions and the main one that we talked about during break: "Then why did she stay?" It gave us the chance to learn more from why to how to what happens next. It spread awareness showing us the line between the brief unhealthy relationship talk that we had briefly in PSHE to an actual crime.
It was insightful to learn about the different ways to get help if we ever found ourselves in this situation.