Saturday 4 February 2017

We need to talk about Douglas

I have a violent teenager in my house.

There, I said it.

I keep getting told not to talk about it, not to shame him.

Now I know why no one talks about domestic violence.

Douglas punches me.

He smashes furniture, light fittings, walls, and terrorises the children and dogs, not to mention the knife throwing.

But he punches me.

And I take it, because then he isn't punching someone else.

And Steve would like to think that he's tough, that if he sees Douglas punching me, he'll throw him down the stairs.

But he won't. Because, at the heart of it, we know that Douglas is a good kid.

He wants to work harder at his school work this year.

And he's keen to find a job closer to home now he's tasted having his own money to spend over the Christmas break.

But under it all, he is violent.

Not all the time. He's worked hard over the last six months to restrain his violence.

But sometimes it builds up, and he hasn't quite figured out how to deal with it when it goes that one step too far.

I saw it happening yesterday. I always see it happening.

And I stand still when he punches me, because then he doesn't go after anyone else.

Look, I know you don't want to hear me say these things about my child (because I'm the only mother he has ever known. I chose him, just as if I'd adopted him.) but I have to say them.

We need to talk about these things.

Last Sunday, quite by chance, we had 60 minutes on. Not something we normally watch, but it was on. We had no idea what drivel they were selling this week, but quite randomly a story came on about a mum who was being beaten by her child.

I called Douglas out into the lounge to watch, and he did, then when it finished, he left the room without a word.

This story was one of violence. Mum had been beaten by dad, left him and found another partner who she later left. When she was then a single mum of 3 kids, her teenage son started beating her. The story was one of slight redemption, the child felt remorse and shame, but was working on reestablishing a relationship with mum. (He had stayed away from the home, been through counselling and was now working a job, no other details were given.) This then segued into an interview with a Queensland counsellor who said these were quite common behaviours from boys in teenage years because that's how they've seen their fathers behave.

But that isn't the house Douglas is growing up in. Sure, Steve drinks. But he isn't a violent drunk, he just falls asleep on the couch. If anything, I hit Steve to provoke a response from him not the other way around.

Douglas is choosing this behaviour.

Riley was so scared last night, he vomited on himself. The dogs were so scared they hid under the bed.

This is no way to live our lives.

But we don't know what the solution is.

There are plenty of places where women can report domestic violence.

But is that the path we want to head down?

I know I say I'm not shaming Douglas by putting this out to my friends, but if we report these behaviours as domestic violence, are we tarnishing him? He's only 15. Is this a stigma that sits with him for the rest of his life, punching his mum? Scaring his siblings?

Or, do we just grow some balls, and take this step? Call the police next time it happens? As one friend pointed out to me this morning, she's just divorced her husband of 20 years because she finally realised that for all his words the violence was never going to stop. Because his parents never dealt with it when he was a teenager.

I keep telling the psychiatrist at Headspace that I don't want to get a phone call when he's 19 to say he's beaten someone and is in jail. But I don't want to have to tell my family that he stabbed one of the kids, either.

I know what I'll be doing next time it happens.

But, please, can we talk about this?


  1. Oh Cate. I don't know what to say. You are so right that it needs to be spoken about though because you are not alone, though I am sure on some levels you feel that you are. Good on you for starting a conversation about. I wish there was more I could say xx

  2. Oh, hun, I don't know what to advise, other than contacting a domestic violence service. It would be easy for me to say, tell him he has to move out if he is going to continue with the violence, but this is your child. I don't know how I would feel if this was my child. What an awful position to be in. I hope you find the right solution for your family.

  3. Cate, my heart breaks for you, and I don't know what to say. Any choice you make is going to be so so difficult. His future is important, but so is your and the rest of the family's present.
    I've read your blog for years, and lately Facebook, but this post is heartbreaking.

  4. I've got a friend going through this too - her son had to move out because of violence to his younger sister I think. He is 16 and his life is a mess last time I spoke to her but his was drug related.
    Headspace I heard many good things about. You are doing and trying the best you can.
    I wish I had answers.

  5. Oh Cate, I am scared by what you say and it must be hell to see him like this. He's not copying someone else's behaviour, so this had to be a psychological problem of his own. He needs to have this anger management issue sorted. It's easy for people outside to say report him, have him moved out, but you know he has a good side and he is family so there are huge emotional issues. But I think this is bigger than you can deal with and maybe he does need a short sharp shock to make him realise this is unacceptable behaviour towards anyone, not just family. Plus the effect it is having on the younger kids. Keep safe and don't be afraid to call one of the numbers people have given you.

  6. I'm so sorry that your family is going through this. The only thing I can offer is to get him help now, before it's too late - before he is 18 and you can't make the choices for him. Before he hurts one of the other kids, or you again. Before he hurts someone eles. Get him help - even if that means getting him out of the house - it's not fair to anyone else to live that way. I will pray for Douglas and you, every day, and hope he gets the help he needs. And I hope you find someone to help you deal with this too.

  7. Cate, I feel a lot of distress reading this, and I am sensing you've let us all know because you are wanting to find a better solution for us all. Not living where you do, I don't know what is available for you. Here, a family would go to the GP (doctor) and tell him/her and ask for a referral to either the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), or to the Family Therapy Service. Is there an equivalent there? In the meantime, please think seriously about seeking counselling just for yourself so that you can start to feel clearer and more empowered. Thinking of you all.

  8. I feel your pain. I live with a son who too smashes vases, doors,walls, whatever is close by, when he doesn't get what he wants. He's nearly 20, and he just walks all over me ,not literally, just does what he wants, leaves dirty dishes and clothes everywhere. I've told him to move out, and he just laughs at me. It is a helpless feeling, because the last resort is the police, but I just can't do it to him. So sorry I have no solutions to give, just one day at a time. And to the people who want your son to see a councillor, good luck with that. I would have to sedate my son to get him there.

  9. Cate, you have my sympathy and love. Yes it's a "hard row to hoe." My daughter has a 24 son who will likely live with her the rest of HER life. When he was about 7-8 years old he was diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum. He also started hitting when he was frustrated, angry or scared. My daughter had him in therapy and when he was 15, he hit his mother in the waiting room in front of the nurse and doctor. The doctor had to call the police - the hitting of his mother was witnessed. At 15 he had to go to Juvenile Hall. He got a taste of what it would be like if he was arrested at an adult. Puberty in boys often means they get angry more easily and lash out. They have to learn to control the urges (difficult) but patient and consistant responses by the "people in charge" (i.e. parents, teachers, police officers, etc.) will help. And sometimes you have to resort to medication. My grandson will always be on medication; your son may not have to. But be prepared for that to happen. If Douglas was a sweet boy up until age 12 or 13, I believe it is something that will pass and he'll regain his equilibrium and be sweet again. But in any case, the FAMILY will need counceling, even your youngest. They witness what's happening and the tension in the air is always noticed. I hope that NZ has good, reasonable heath care to deal with angry teens and their families. Praying for you and your family.

  10. Cate, thanks for being brave enough to share. Many thoughtful words in the other comments. I don't think I can add to what they've said. I hope you get the help you need.

  11. This post is heartfelt and I can feel the love (and the despair) from here. I think you already know what you need to do and this post is you asking questions of others...who have responded with kindness and love. You need to visit your GP and tell all. It is the first step to ensuring a safer (but very difficult) road for all of your family. This cannot keep happening (you know that) but it also needs professional help STAT. I am so sorry to know that life is so very challenging despite all you have done so far. I hope this help is forthcoming and the the next level of family life.

  12. I read your post on ibot and clicked on previous post because I wondered what it was about. I don't know what I was expecting - not this ... My heart is breaking for you and your son. You need to get help lovely for all your sakes. I read another post this morning on a totally different subject but the way it made me feel was similar. You need to move forward, standing still means things can't change. Sometimes standing still seems like the only option, anything else is too scary. But you need change, I know you know that. Getting help isn't shaming your son, it isn't letting him down. It's giving him and all of you a chance to sort this, please take that chance


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