Lucy's Story
In the underworld, drugs, violence and abuse all go hand in hand. Its a hateful world

I went through HAIP’s groups and found out that although I had made so many bad mistakes, so many things were done to me that were wrong. It helped me put the pieces together about why my mother was like she was and why I’m like I am.

I became a facilitator and then the women’s coordinator. Then we adapted the women’s programmes for teenage girls who were playing up for their mothers because they blamed them for what was going on in the house. The mothers weren’t doing the violence but the daughters hated them for letting it happen.

Most kids come to the 10-week youth programme through Child, Youth & Family or the police, but the occasional parent rings in. The boys who attended a pilot school study had been singled out as the naughty boys, but they began to call themselves “the course boys” because they loved coming and learning the stuff that every child should know, and they wanted their girlfriends to learn it too.

We have offenders and perpetrators in the programme, but as far as I can see from my life’s experiences we are all victims to start with, so I don’t come on heavy with them. The object is to teach them to identify violence and abuse, to let them know it’s not their fault, to develop strategies to keep themselves safe and seek support, and to change the pattern in their own lives and break the cycle so it won’t go on to the next generation.

It starts off with a one-on-one evaluation in which they talk about themselves. Then we look at history as far as violence goes – that once men were legally allowed to hit their wives and children and now they’re not. They often say, “Really? Are they not allowed to hit us?” They think what happens in their own homes is normal.

Then we look at the different types of abuse – psychological, physical, emotional – and the effect it has on the mother. This is not about blaming fathers, just putting it out there that mothers haven’t got any control over the violence that is done to them. You’d be amazed at the number of women who were hit by their mothers or both parents, and the number whose mothers don’t believe them when they tell them about sexual abuse.

These kids don’t have to put their hands up and own anything. But if I open up, they will too. I tell them the truth about me. I say, “I’m not a teacher or a social worker, but I know a lot about domestic violence and abuse because I’ve been an abused woman, and I’ve been an abusive mother. I’d do things differently now, but I didn’t know any different then.”

We look at guilt and grief. Nowhere are we taught about grief, that you can have this pain and this anger inside you that makes you an angry young man. If you’ve had things happen to you when you were a little boy, you have grief. You don’t wake up and think “I’m so full of grief today”, but the feeling and the anger of these emotions stay there and they grow. I ask them, “What do you think this built-up anger might come out as?” And the answer is “violence”. Then we can talk about how violence is not the way.

Because domestic violence has been rampant in our society for so long, kids who grow up with it don’t know there’s a different way.

These kids have taught me so much. I thought I was hard, that no story could make me cry. Then I started working with youth and you’d be amazed at the number of times after work I’d just sit in my office and cry because of what is happening to our kids.

At the local high school they are fighting over different areas of the school and streets that belong to different gangs. And they are prepared to die over it. A boy was stabbed, and I had one kid from that gang, and one from the opposing gang, in my group. If you’re in a different gang, no one’s got any feelings of empathy for you. The only reason kids haven’t got guns is that they can’t get them. I’ve had two plastic guns pulled on me in groups.

Just this week I saw two girls give another girl a beating in the supermarket car park. I couldn’t jump out and intervene because of my back, but I drove around and saw this girl half limping, half crawling through the mall, and I said “hop in”. This was in broad daylight and there were quite a few adults standing around, but nobody stopped that fight. The problem is getting worse.

I’m married again – for the fourth time. I met my husband when my son Clive was in jail. He went away for seven and a half years when he was 17 for a home invasion – which he did because someone hadn’t paid up for drugs.

I was way past a man getting close to me again. But Clive used to talk about this guy who stopped him fighting and had been a good influence on him. One day he said, “Can my friend come out on our visits?”. This man had become a Christian about the same time I had and he’d had a similar life to mine. He’d also been abused as a child.