“Many times I thought about the knives that were downstairs. And I wondered if he was going to kill us while we slept.”
The one speaking is Lisa and she is referring to James, her 13-year-old son.
He says the teenager became so violent during the confinement imposed in the United Kingdom last year during the pandemic, that he feared for his life.
And it seems that Lisa it’s not the only one.
A family support service in Wales has seen an increase in domestic violence of “children against parents”, with cases of children as young as five years old.
Nick Corrigan of the Parallel Lives organization says that “being locked in together” during the pandemic exacerbated the situation for many families.
Lisa claims that when things were at their worst at her house, she insisted that James’ two-year-old brother sleep with her for safety.
The woman says that shortly after the UK lockdown was imposed in March last year, James’s demeanor changed for the first time, from a “model son to a loving older brother” to a domestic abuser.
“He stayed in bed all the time,” recalls Lisa, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.
“I once wanted to pick him up to cook a chicken with the family.”
“He just got mad for no reason, went into the living room and threw the dog. He just picked it up and threw it.”
“The dog squealed and I just held it.”
James, whose name has also been changed to protect his identity, used to affectionately refer to the family dog as “his son.”
So the fact that she could turn on her beloved pet made Lisa fear that she might hurt either of them.
Lisa is one of a growing number of parents who faced domestic violence from their children during confinement.
Some parents reported televisions being thrown at them, while in other cases parents were sometimes left in need of hospital treatment.
For Lisa, her son’s attack on the dog was just the beginning. Her violence began to escalate and she began to feel like her “prisoner.”
He later feared that James might hurt his younger brother.
Besides being unpredictable, his violent outbursts also they were becoming more controlling.
One morning when they were late to leave the house, Lisa yelled at him from below to urge him to hurry up.
“I had just had an operation on my hand,” Lisa explained. “He insulted me and said, ‘I’ll be down in a minute.’
“Then he ran downstairs and grabbed my hand so tightly that I thought he had opened the wound. He knew I had been operated on. He wanted to hurt me in a way that people would not see or so that there would not be a bruise.”
Lisa soon discovered that James himself was being bullied by his classmates.
Like any mother, she was distraught and desperate to help, but James’s giddy demeanor meant she felt like she was no longer in control.
He notes that one of his saddest moments was finally pleading with social services to they will take your child.
He explains that he still loved James and wanted to help him, but he no longer recognized his son.
“Everything was going from bad to worse quickly,” he says. “I felt like everyone was judging me for having such an aggressive, horrible child.”
“It was like he was letting me have control when I felt like it. So if I punished him on the wrong day, it was my turn to punish him.”
Lisa says that she was often forced to lock herself in with James’s brother in his room and dial the emergency number, but they always told her that things weren’t bad enough to intervene, because James himself was living in an ” safe”.
He says he contacted councilors, deputies, charities, social services and the police, but they all told him that nothing could be done.
Ultimately, both she and James were offered a place in a course run by one of the only child violence against parents support services in Wales, and that is something that, she says, helped “beyond belief” .
Parallel Lives indicates that they saw a one-third increase in cases of child violence against parents since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The project, funded by the UK Home Office and overseen by the Welsh Violence Prevention Unit, shows that the effects of lockdown are still being felt more than a year later, with affected families across all sectors of society.
And most have never experienced any form of domestic abuse before.
“We have seen cases where children have thrown televisions at parents. We have seen cases where parents have been attacked with hammers, kitchen knives,” explains Nick Corrigan, director of Media Academy Cymru, who runs the Parallel Lives program.
“Each of these cases could be fatal,” he says.
Corrigan notes that it can be assumed that “being locked up together” has aggravated the situation for many families.
“We are receiving cases from people every time more Youngers”, said. “In the last week, we have been referred to cases of five-year-olds.”
The program coordinator indicates that most of the children’s aggressions stemmed from an unmet need; in James’s case, the fact that he was harassed was a factor.
“They don’t wake up one morning and want to be like this,” says Megan Davies of Parallel Lives.
“They are showing these behaviors as a form of communication, of saying ‘something is happening, I need help.’
“Unfortunately, they often don’t have the vocabulary or mental health to verbalize how they feel.”
Lisa says she firmly believes that without help her son would already be under the guardianship of the authorities or in jail, most likely for a crime against his family.
“James has learned empathy on a deeper level,” he says. “Now he wants to help himself again.”
In fact, James, who was able to continue living at home, supported Lisa in her decision to speak up about what happened last year.
Lisa states that they are both now willing to do whatever it takes. to prevent their relationship from being so bad again.
And at the same time they hope that their story can encourage others to know that things can improve.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.