TERRIFIED: Children should not have to cower in their own home.
TERRIFIED: Children should not have to cower in their own home. Stock Image

Domestic violence through the eyes of a scarred child

HE was five when it happened the first time.

His mum's new boyfriend's older son tied him up with a cord and "put fire ants underneath me".

He was frightened, scared and he was too young to know how to handle the situation.

This would be the beginning of four years of hell for a Sunshine Coast boy we will call Nathan to protect his real identity.

Today Nathan is 16 and helped Community Solutions launch Domestic Violence Month at its head office in Kawana.

He looks like any normal teenager, but like thousands of women and children as well as men on the Sunshine Coast, he is a domestic violence survivor.

The Suncoast Cooloola Outreach Prevention and Education (SCOPE) has revealed a snapshot of how many people end up in a courtroom on the Sunshine Coast, looking for orders to help.

This is only a snapshot of the real picture because many, including Nathan, never confide their abuse to an authority until it is too serious to hide.

SCOPE co-ordinator Angela Short said the service had assisted 1149 aggrieved clients in its domestic violence court support program in six months between January and June last year.

The service also had received 2590 "contacts" in that time period for information referral and service.

Nathan knew everyone who hit him and his little brother. It always happened in the home.

The first time his mum found out about her partner's son's abuse, "everything went pear- shaped". But she moved on to another partner, who was "exactly the same".

"He used to also hit my little brother and I would try and protect him," Nathan said.

One of the boyfriends he said "used to punch me and beat me up while pouring chilli sauce down my throat".

Police intervened when one of the boyfriends "hit me in the head four or five times".

But this man was later killed in a car accident and never had to front court.

Nathan and his younger brother ended up in foster care, but later their father found them and Nathan has been enjoying a violence-free existence ever since.

Despite his experiences, Nathan hasn't lost his trust in men.

This is why the Community Solutions "Be Cool... Not Cruel" new billboard appeals to him.

The artwork, created by local artist Sue Martin, shows two hands, with one pulling the other.

Nathan helped with the creative thinking behind the work.

"As much as the stuff I went through, there were people to pull me up," he said.

He will also "never" raise a hand to hurt someone else when he becomes an adult.

His advice for children living in a home where domestic abuse is occurring is not to keep silent.

"You need to talk to someone and seek help anywhere you can," he said.

"I didn't know about the help services then. Now I'm part of Community Solutions. Don't hide stuff. Get it out."

Community Solutions manager Tendai Dawkins said the Be Cool... Not Cruel initiative aimed to highlight the importance of healthy relationship ideals.

"The importance of establishing healthy relationship ideals, and increasing self-confidence among our young people will shift their attitudes and behaviours to promote non-violent norms, close peer and positive family relationships," she said.

"The Be Cool … Not Cruel initiative seeks to reinforce these messages through open discussion with positive role models, and to create sustainable support networks.

"Importantly, the young participants in this project (including Nathan) have been very involved in sharing their ideas on what safe and respectful relationships mean. Their insights have been translated into an eye-catching artwork by a local artist, so that the Be Cool… Not Cruel concept can be shared with the wider community."

Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month 2016 finishes tomorrow.

*For 24-hour support in Queensland, phone DVConnect on 1800 811 811, MensLine on 1800 600 636 or the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

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