Lucy's Story
My Aunty Maureen was my saving grace and her house was a haven for me
I ran away as soon as I could. I left school at 15 and went to work in a battery factory. By the time I was 17, I was running the winding room. My mother was jealous of the money I earned, and I’d come home and find all my drawers had been tipped out on the floor because she thought my room wasn’t tidy enough – even though the house was a pigsty.

Once I left home, I never let my mother get close to me. But I did let her see her grandchildren, and she was a lovely grandmother. It was as if she’d forgotten everything she’d done to me. And she took all the credit for my being a good mother – which I was in the early days.

My whole life has been spent going from one abusive relationship to another. I thought it was normal. When I was 15, a man of 27, a Vietnam War veteran, took an interest in me. At 16, I ran away and lived with him.

I worked right up to a week before I had my first baby, a week after I turned 18. I had four sons by the time I was 22, and I put my life, my heart and my soul into them. They all learnt to read and write before they went to school, and one got dux of the primary school.

My first husband never hit me, but he abused me financially and emotionally. He had all the money and he was in control of everything. But I thought I was in heaven because he didn’t hit me and there were no arguments. He went off and did his things in the weekend, and I had my beautiful babies so I was happy.

When I was pregnant with my fourth son, we shifted because my husband wanted to be a prison officer. Because I had big babies and had taken a fall with the third one, my pelvis broke with the fourth and I had to go into hospital. I arrived home with a big strap round my hips, and I couldn’t do anything for three months. Then my husband volunteered to work at a prison out in the country – which was typical. He didn’t help with anything at home. From the moment I walked in the front gate, everything was my job and my responsibility.

That included discipline. If my boys did something really naughty and I found out, we’d talk about it and have a family meeting, and then they’d get so many swishes on their bum with the cane in front of everybody.

It was public humiliation and brutality. When I gave them a hiding, I gave them a real hiding. I didn’t hit them in anger, but that doesn’t make it right.

Both of my brothers came to live with us at various times. The little one started living with me when he was 11. I’ve only found out recently that when I went out he’d bash them and get them stoned and teach them bad things. The older one was in and out of jail.

Finally, I learnt that my husband was a homosexual, so we separated. I didn’t go on the DPB. I just worked my guts out looking after other people’s kids, and I made quite a lot of money at that.

I met another guy, and I married him. I needed another baby like I needed a hole in the head, but my husband was so great with my four boys. He didn’t do much else. I was still the main breadwinner.

So we had a baby – and he hated it. He used to say, “Can you stop your baby crying? Can you take your baby over to Mum’s?” That was his mother, and she loved him enough for all of us.

The youngest of my first four boys, Clive, failed to learn. I used to say it was like the station not being tuned in properly. It wasn’t recognised as ADHD back then. The school told me I should punish him if he was naughty at school, but he was a dear little boy at home. They suggested he go to a specialised school so that he could get one-on-one teaching, and I agreed – I thought I was taking him out of a painful school environment and putting him somewhere where he wouldn’t be a square peg that didn’t fit into a round hole.

He thought I’d put him in there to be punished – and they did punish him. It took me over a year to work out that if he did anything wrong they stopped him ringing me. He says they gave him shock treatment. Recently he got a letter from the police because they were tracking down kids because of sexual abuse. He gave them the name they wanted, but he said this man didn’t do it to him because he threatened to “stab him up” if he laid his hands on him. He told the officer about kids being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and being given hidings, and being made to run round paddocks, but they weren’t interested in abuse, only in sexual abuse.

My second husband only hit me a couple of times. Once it was because he’d pinched my smokes and then didn’t bring any home with him when I’d been stuck there with the kids. We had an argument. I attacked him and he got me by the throat and strangled me. I passed out, went unconscious, and woke up shaking and twitching with glass all through my hair. This was all in front of the kids. And guess what I did. I gave up smoking because it just wasn’t worth the hassle. It never occurred to me that he shouldn’t have strangled me. I blamed myself.