Actor Patrick Stewart wrote an illuminating column in Friday's Guardian about his childhood as a victim of domestic violence in Yorkshire, England.
Stewart's father was a regimental sergeant major who was as well-respected for his military achievements as he was feared by his family for his violent temper.
He was an angry, unhappy and frustrated man who was not able to control his emotions or his hands. As a child I witnessed his repeated violence against my mother, and the terror and misery he caused was such that, if I felt I could have succeeded, I would have killed him. If my mother had attempted it, I would have held him down. For those who struggle to comprehend these feelings in a child, imagine living in an environment of emotional unpredictability, danger and humiliation week after week, year after year, from the age of seven. My childish instinct was to protect my mother, but the man hurting her was my father, whom I respected, admired and feared.
Luckily, as Stewart grew older, he found his refuge in acting. On the safety of the stage, he described, he could escape into other places, times and personalities. But Stewart is not alone in his experience. One in four English women will experience domestic violence at some point in her lifetime and every week two women are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. To combat this, Stewart became a patron of Refuge, a british domestic violence charity.
Thanks to Refuge's tireless campaigning, attitudes have changed. Police tactics have improved and most men are no longer able to get away with beating women. Yet the statistics still make for grim reading. More than two thirds of the residents in Refuge's network of refuges are children. I cannot express how sad - and angry - it makes me to think that we still cannot ensure the safety of women and children in their own homes.
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