Screaming In Silence is the true story of a woman who, through the strength of her children, found a way to break the cycle of domestic violence and child abuse. It is a story of hope, sending a message out to others around the world who have dealt with, or are dealing with abuse - you are not alone, you can be heard and helped. This book clearly outlines how people can become trapped in the cycle of abuse, often without even knowing or acknowledging it at the time. In a society where more and more stories of abuse emerge each day, it is an important read for those working in the welfare sector and also for those who have ever dealt with abuse directly or indirectly. The author has gone from being silenced to raising her voice in a message of peace, empowerment and hope.
Familiar yet almost unseen shapes flashed by my car in the darkness as I drove desperately for hom. Words chased each other through my mind, becoming somehow more sinister and yet more meaningless as they tumbled and wrapped around each other. The police officer's voice "you need to come home", "search warrant", "AVO", "your daughter", "we will call a DOCs officer", "give you five minutes".
What on earth was happening? Just minutes earlier I had been delivering pizzas, now I was racing for home, unsure of the situation I would find there. As I rounded the last bend before our house, flashing lights lit up the normally quiet little cul-de-sac, marked and unmarked police vehicles were strewn across both sides of the road. It was September 10, 2011, the night I thought was pretty much the end of my life, my world, but actually turned out to be the beginning of a lon, agonising, difficult but ultimately empowering journey.
It wasn't until almost a year later that I realised just how my entire life had led up to that one terrifying, horrific night.......
An escape of sorts however, was provided not long after this incident. I do not recall what triggered the violence on this particular evening, I only remember flashes of the entire night in fact. I know that Mum was screaming at me and striking at my face and head as I curled into my bed, trying to avoid her blows. She then grabbed hold of my arm and dragged me from the bed, with my lower back and hip slamming painfully into the frame of my bed and the floor. Somehow from there I found myself in the laundry, on the back verandah of the house, trapped against the back wall with Mum blocking the doorway and pouring kerosene over me. It hurt to breathe, my eyes were stinging and it felt as though the insides of my mouth, nose and throat were burning. There were numerous small cuts on my scalp and body from the earlier beating and the kerosene bit painfully at these also. I heard Mum asking Dad for a match but the next thing I knew, she was holding the garden hose with it turned on full force, the rush of water forcing me against the wall of the room. It sprayed into my face so powerfully that I thought I would surely drown. Just as suddenly, the water was gone. I slumped down the wall, unable to move, really not caring any more what might happen to me next. I just wanted everything to be over; no more thinking, no more feeling, no more hurting. I was 15 and all I really wanted was to die, my mind, body and spirit could simply take no more.
There is an analogy I quite like – “If you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out to save itself, but if you put that same frog into a pot of warm water and slowly turn up the heat, it could be dead before it realises it is in danger” – I was about to become that frog, tragically taking my children along with me.
Matt was charming, he took us out to parks and to visit his friends Kim and Dave in Berkeley, the next suburb up along the freeway. He had no drivers licence but would often drive to see Dave, saying that he would not be caught. Kim and Dave at that time had one son, and were trying for another child. When Kim fell pregnant, Matt began asking me to have a child with him. I was reluctant, Ahren would be starting primary school soon and I had wanted to find a job and make something of my life. Matt was persistent though, saying it was okay for me, I had children already. He said that he would be with me forever and so I was denying him the opportunity to have a child of his own and to make that child’s life better than his own. He knew all the right buttons to push. Forever put down and told not to be selfish, that other people’s opinions and ideals mattered more than mine, his implication that I was stopping him from ever being able to be a father wore away at me.
Once school had started back for 2011, we again moved into the routine of a new year. One February morning though, I went into Ahren’s room to wake him up to get ready for the school bus, only to find a suicide note on his empty bed, along with an old photo of him enjoying a day out at Dapto Show when he was around 3 or 4 years of age. The whole room seemed to spin around me, this couldn’t be real, and yet I knew with a sickening certainty that it was, that I had to act quickly if I ever wanted to see my beautiful boy again. I raced back into my bedroom, frantically pulling clothes over my pyjamas and yelling at Matt to wake up. He was angry at being woken but I ignored his mood, telling him to get Ashleigh off to school while I went to the police station. In a blind panic, I drove to Picton Police station only to find that it was unattended. Desperately I pushed the “Eagle Phone” button and cried for help when a scratchy voice answered. I had to repeat myself several times before they could understand me, then finally “I am sending the car crew back to the station now, sit tight and wait please”. I sank down onto the hard steps, oblivious to the curious glances of passersby, struggling not to vomit as my stomach rolled and tears poured down my face. It occurred to me as I sat there that I probably should have called 000 from home, but I had felt that I needed to be actually doing something.
I wasn’t left waiting very long, two police officers ushered me gently inside the station. They read the note and immediately swung into action, calling in assistance to search for Ahren. Both of the officers were so very caring and sensitive. They were concerned about me driving myself back home but as I was there alone and they had work to do, there was no other alternative. Back at home, Matt was furious. He stormed around the house saying that Ahren better hope the police found him before Matt did. “How dare he cause all of this trouble? He’s such a selfish little brat” he ranted. I quickly rang Mark, who said he would come straight up, then I called my parents, asking if they had heard from Ahren at all. They hadn’t and so we all began the long wait for news, jumping any time the phone rang. All of Ahren’s friends who could be reached had also been contacted, none of them had any idea of where Ahren could be. Jesykah went out with her father and also with Matt at different times throughout that terrible day, desperate to find her brother safely. Mark’s wife, Marina tried to reassure me but I could tell that she was near as frantic as I was.