You’re not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage. - Alex Elle
In loving memory of my twin brother.
It has been a difficult few years; mourning my brother’s loss. We were born to a white mother; our father was Iranian but left her, whilst pregnant, and returned to Iran. At the time, we were known as the ‘half cast twins’.
We have all seen many changes to legislation - human rights. I could say with conviction that, had my mother’s situation have occurred today, the matter would have been managed very differently. The expectation on her, to marry, would be in breach of one or more of her rights. My brother and I were taken from her at birth (or shortly after) by the local authority and placed in an orphanage, with an expectation that she got married before they could consider us being placed back in her care.
My mother had been exposed to significant trauma as a child; born to a mother whom she never formed an attachment with, who beat her, humiliated her and ostracised her from her 3 siblings. Her mother struggled with mental health and her father was an alcoholic. Added to this, her mother and family ostracised her further due to our heritage and the shame she had bought on to the family.
She then met the man of her dreams; the man she hoped was going to protect, be a father to her twins, and love her. However, he was an alcoholic, had allegedly suffered significant trauma as a child and had been humiliated and beaten. He was the known ‘hard man’ and he had a reputation. However, he went into the Navy at a young age and presented as an articulate and intelligent man. When my mother and this man presented as a married couple, to take us home, my brother and I had been in the orphanage for a year. I was then placed in hospital for a further year, due to ill health (this has never been confirmed), and my brother returned to his would to be parents.
By this time, my mother was pregnant (with our now younger sister) – she was white, had blonde hair and was their pride and joy. BUT my stepfather wanted a boy and so the abuse began; physical, emotional and racial abuse, subsequent hospital visits and exposure to alcohol misuse. While this was going on, both my mother and stepfather were dealing with instability due their mental health as both were desperately trying to manage their childhood trauma. This culminated in my brother and I being exposed to years of significant domestic abuse. We witnessed my mother being badly beaten, her black eyes, her screaming and begging for him to stop - she was exposed to every form of abuse. I will never, ever, forget her screams and the terror that permeated throughout the house.
Our stepfather was also racially abusive towards my brother and I and his hatred was evident from very early on. He made it known he hated us and our colour; he constantly referred to us a the ‘Black Bastards’ and more. We also lost our identity; visually, to most, we would have been identified as white but within the home, and family, we were black. My stepfather would often be in a drunken rage and come charging for one of us saying he wanted to kill us. My mother would beg him not to and would be beaten in her attempt to
protect us - if he didn’t get to us first. At night, we would lay in our beds petrified that he would get us; with our hearts pounding, we would go to bed dressed in the fear of having to jump out of the window. Some nights we never slept and had to get up, for school, as if all was normal. We had no understanding of normality.
Despite my mother trying to protect us, we were also her target. We knew we only had my mother but she also knew this, and sadly used this.
There was no consistency with anything; everything we did was dependant on their mood and they always justified their actions. They would remove our lower clothing and beat us; mainly with a belt but from time to time also the wooden spoon, the slipper or the hand. Verbal humiliation became the norm; when they shouted, I recall wetting myself with fear. My brother had washing up liquid poured in his mouth; we both had to stand biting on soap, had Tabasco Sauce poured into our mouths, were force-fed, strangulated, hung up with a dog collar - no love or warmth was shown toward us. We weren’t allowed to talk to each other and when my sister was doing her homework, we weren’t allowed to be near her.
However, our sister was treated very differently; she would go on holidays - we wouldn’t. She was loved; she had both parents to care for her and still does. We had no one. By no means was she exempt from it all; she was mentally abused, and experienced physical abuse, but not at the same level as we experienced. Ultimately, my mother’s only power was us – my brother and I. Her mental health was extreme; there was never any consistency and she embellished with the only power she had in her life - us. The chaos within us, has left a mark throughout all our lives. I don’t believe any of us has ever healed; we have learnt to manage it - but never healed. Our mother abused us in a different way to that of our stepfather. From an early age, we were sent stealing with her friends. She was always kind when we brought back ‘good things’ so we learnt, early on, to ‘please’ her.
Social services were involved with us throughout our lives. We were regularly spoken to, and asked, ‘Is everything ok?’, but through pure, and utter, fear - we always said ‘yes’. The fear of what was out there, and knowing how much we were hated due to our ethnicity, was terrifying. Our mother and stepfather often said we were lucky they got us out of the orphanage because no one wanted us. The emotional turmoil my brother and I went through was immense.
I remember my brother being referred to as the ‘Psycho Child’ as he had problems. He was often seen bruised, he’d have a bloody nose and, as he had asthma, he would often be seen gasping for breath. One of my saddest recollections was my stepfather saying, ‘Let’s play football’ and he would kick the leather ball directly into my brother’s face; my brother would cry and blood would spill. Then, there would be another kick of the ball but this time to my brother’s head. Our stepfather loved this game and my brother would say he didn’t like it but was laughed at and told he was a baby. On one occasion the neighbours reported seeing my brother frantically crying in the garden. He would have been about 5 or 6 years old at the time. They said he was crying with a bloody nose and they saw he was trying to bury a pair of boxing gloves. When they asked my brother, what was wrong, he just said he didn’t like playing the game because it hurt him.
Due to the trauma that my brother experienced, he started to express himself through his behaviour. He started lashing out, he was aggressive, had regular visits to the GP due to his ‘alleged’ mental health, was expelled from school for poor behaviour, had a lack of concentration and violent behaviour. He regularly ran away from home, not returning until early hours and was subsequently beaten. At that time, there was little empathy extended towards him and he became the ‘psychotic child’.
Still at a young age, my brother was then removed to a boarding school. Each time he returned home, the visits were fuelled with anger and regular beatings; he hated coming home. On these visits, we weren’t allowed to talk but he always asked me how things were; I would minimise it because I knew he would worry.
As a teenager, my brother was plagued with regular visits from the police and our parents deflected all responsibility to my brother and his unruly behaviour and anger; no one linked his behaviour to their parenting. By this time, our mother was addicted to Valium and was struggling with her own mental health. She was also an alcoholic and desperate to find love. She tried to use my brother to protect her and he was consequently beaten. So, when my brother ‘misbehaved’, she would ring our stepfather and he would come over and beat my brother. I would hear his screams, begging for the beatings to stop. When social services phoned, our mother would say ‘oh it’s ok, he has quietened down now’; there were no questions as to what may have happened.
These parents became the victims of my brother’s behaviour! No one explored further, or challenged them. No one heard us or protected us. No one knew what was really going on in our home; what went on in our home - stayed in our home. On the two or three occasions, that we did disclose, we were beaten and called liars; told that we were being ungrateful, we were unwanted and worthy of nothing.
With these occurrences, I was referred to as sneaky, sly and a liar; my parents knew what to say to deflect from themselves, and because of our contrasting behaviours, their explanations were deemed plausible. Years later, my mother advised me that she used to go to the GP and tell him how much she hated me; that she was addicted to Valium and that he was aware of the domestic violence and her mental health. Yet no one spoke with him.
That was a glimpse…
As an adult, my brother was left with a mind full of chaos; pain, hurt, anger, stolen identity, a childhood with no stable carer for guidance, limited education, criminal history and limited choices. His journey to escape the childhood trauma was overlooked and not even considered; the alcohol, drugs, aggression, criminal activity became a feature from his early teenage years.
In his 30’s, when he became a father, his pain became more evident. He would look at his baby girl and cry; wanting explanations for what they did, the how and the why. It all became so real for him - our vulnerability as children and a parent’s duty to protect, as he would for his child. My brother then started to experiment with heroin which eventually became his crutch; he had found a way to escape the pain. Initially, he said it was the first time ever and that he felt safe and comfortable.
Once my brother told me that he still heard bangs in his head, that he still feared someone coming in and getting him, that he slept with the light on and that he rocked himself to sleep as we did when we were children. He would cry and hug me; apologising for not protecting me. He said what they did to us was unforgivable and that he couldn’t understand why no one had challenged them. He said it was like a sadistic game that we were never able to win; we never understood their rules. The childhood trauma was still very much alive throughout his/our adulthood.
The heroin suppressed all of this and sadly the magnitude of his heroin addiction became justified due to the escape it gave him from his childhood. One therapist said that maybe it was the heroin that actually kept him alive; and from that point I got it. I empathised and never looked at his journey the same again.
My brother then went from being the childhood ‘psycho’ to the adult ‘addict’. His identity again stolen due to society’s perception of a person struggling with trauma, now an addict to heroin. As with the child displaying aggressive challenging behaviours, he was the ‘psycho’; he had choices but chose to behave in such a manner. He was now an adult struggling with an addiction and again society stated he had a choice.
But as with society’s management of childhood trauma he was ostracised, sent away, and in adulthood labelled again but this time as an ‘addict’ and outcast with a fitting label.
Who was he and what could he have been? Who is responsible for his untimely passing? I did ask the coroner to put ‘child abuse’ as a contributing factor on his death certificate, but they said ‘no, he died from an overdose of heroin’. My argument to this, is that the main contributor to his untimely death was triggered due to ‘child abuse’.
This is only a snippet of his journey; the violence, the mental cruelty, his scars both physical and emotional. We are socially constructed beings so, I ask you, ‘In the absence of such an abusive childhood, would he have been labelled a psycho, an addict?’ I also ask, that you consider what the causal link, to both labels, was. I believe, in the absence of the childhood abuse, that he would still be with us. We need to remove labels and look deeper; don’t just assume anything.
In times, where we are given timescales to complete assessments, I am aware of the constraints. However, I ask that no one ever refers to a child as a liar; always consider the parent’s childhood and possible trauma that could impact on their parenting. Become aware of the impact of trauma on parenting and the indicators within a child’s behaviour. Become aware of services to signpost adults exposed to trauma and never under estimate the fear of a disclosure. We learnt, from a very young age, that a disclosure wasn’t an option unless we were guaranteed physical removal from them. Had we felt safe, and had alternative (safer options) available, I believe my brother would be alive today.
I ask, when you look at anyone struggling with an addiction, that you consider their journey; remember they are, foremost, a human being that should not be ostracised. We need to reconsider the way in which we offer support. They are not just an addict; they are a human being struggling with an addiction to a very addictive drug. I appreciate childhood trauma is not always the causal link but what I do ask, is that you consider that no one would ever voluntarily chose a life being addicted to any drug.
I do not blame any system (family, school, children’s social care, police, health etc) as I am aware from my own journey, that when two parents/carers are intent to harm - they will. I believe this synopsis of a stolen childhood evidences that.
This heartfelt submission was shared anonymously due to its sensitive nature. If you would like to contact us about this personal experience or anything related to social services and children's care, please feel to get in touch. We have members available who would be willing to support or answer your questions.