Tom's Story #TimeToBeKind

We are halfway through our #TimeToBeKind campaign and have been touched to see so many kindness stories come through. What’s even more humbling is that our campaign has inspired people to share their stories for the very first time like Tom, from south Wales who wishes to remain anonymous. See below for Welsh version.

The following account is written in first person and contains content that may upset some readers. If you are looking for additional support, click here for a list of organisations you can contact.

“I come from a working-class family; my family are good people. I had a good start in life, and believe I was loved and cared for as a baby.

When I was four or five years old in 1974, we moved to a council house and my parents took on the management of a Labour club. That’s where I have my first memories of alcohol issues and domestic violence. Mam was beaten by my Dad, plates and other items were regularly thrown; it was an aggressive and violent environment. They divorced soon after. Naturally, I thought that the abuse had stopped.

Shortly after, Mam met my future Stepdad and we moved into a one-bedroom house. The house was away from family, in the countryside and close to a traveller camp. The travellers’ caravans were of a higher standard than our house. We had no bathroom, only an outside toilet.

I was enrolled in a local school, but I don’t remember being there much. My Mam and Stepdad would take me with them to the pub everyday where I’d just sit in the corner. Neither my Mam nor my Stepdad worked, and both received benefits. This is when the drinking started to get heavy and they’d have regular, physical fights. My Mam was often badly beaten in front of me.

I recall one time, after yet another beating, my Mam and I were kicked out of the house. There were no pavements and we were barefoot, so we had to walk over stones and cobbles to get to our neighbour’s house. The neighbour was very kind to me, and I would often stay when there was trouble in our house.

Fast-forward to 1980, I was ten years old and things had got worse. Our gas and electric were cut off, so we cooked our meals on the coal fire in a pot and we bathed in a tin bath in front of that fire. I remember the chimney getting blocked and black smoke filling the house. I went to school stinking of smoke and was bullied as a result.

The house became unliveable, so we moved into the empty house next door as squatters. I recall doing my homework by candlelight in the living room. It was like being back in time. There were rats everywhere and one that would try to gnaw its way through the bottom step of the stairs into the living room - we even gave it a name.

When Easter came around, I lived off Easter eggs given to me by family members for a week. They had no idea we had no money for food. This situation was hidden from them.

My Stepdad was often violent and aggressive, and this didn’t stop as I got older. Once, he threw my clothes into a river that ran outside the house. Another time he killed my kitten by stepping on it. It seemed like there was no stopping him.

Following years of violence and arguments, I moved out completely and stayed between my Nana and Great Gran, often sleeping on their sofas for weeks at a time.

My Mam would come for me and persuade me to go home, always full of promises that it will never happen again, but it almost always did happen again.

When I was 14, after another drunken and violent episode at the flat, I phoned my Aunty and told her what was happening. She came to get me, and I remember running down to the car in floods of tears when she arrived. She drove off and took me to live with her. That was the last time I lived with my Mam.

Mam battled with drink for the rest of her life. She was admitted to the psychiatric ward for alcohol addiction on three separate occasions.

After moving in with my Aunty, I started to make good friends at school. They all did well in school, and I didn’t want to be any different, so I tried hard which paid off as my grades were the highest out of all the boys in my year. From that point I thought that I could make something of my life. Anything was possible.

I managed to get the grades to study for a BEng in chemical engineering. Finally, at the age of 19, I felt I had escaped, and now it was time for me to make my own life. I completed my degree and went on to do a MSc in safety, health and environmental management.

Despite being able to move on with my life, I still have many scars from what I have been through. I suffer from anxiety and depression and have been on long term medication. I also have a difficult relationship with alcohol, having abstained for a total of three and a half years. I still struggle to come to terms with the events of my childhood 40 years later.

On the other hand, I have had a successful career and have been with my husband for almost 18 years and married for nine years. It hasn’t been easy, but he is very understanding and supportive. Sometimes, I wonder why he stays with me.”

BlogSarah Kersley