Confession: My Teenage Son Beats Me Up

When Sarah and David’s son Paul was diagnosed with autism aged four they were devastated and swore to protect and care for him always. Ten years on, it’s Sarah who needs protection, as Paul regularly attacks her.

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My Teenage Son Beats Me Up

It’s so hard to admit what’s happening behind closed doors and that I’m scared of my son. Teenage violence towards parents is a terrifying phenomenon.

I’m small and very slight and my son Paul is now 6 feet tall and solid so he can really hurt me if my husband David isn’t there to stop him.

The first time it happened he was 11.

We took the boys, Paul and his younger brother, Mark, to a museum although we rarely do things as a family but it was early and we thought it would be quiet.

David suggested he went for coffees as we didn’t want to risk going to the cafe in case Paul got agitated.

Two minutes later a big noisy family group came in and within seconds Paul lost it, screaming and throwing himself on the floor.

I could feel my nose crack, tears were pouring from my eyes and I could feel the gush of blood

Mark turned his back and I tried to calm Paul while the family gazed at us in horror. Paul was thrashing around and I was trying to put my arms round him to console and restrain and he punched me right on the nose.

I could feel it crack, tears were pouring from my eyes and I could feel the gush of blood. One of the men said something like “Stop this at once!” but Paul kept punching me in the head over and over.

Everyone gathered round helplessly and then David appeared and dropped the coffees on the floor as he rushed to grab Paul.

It was humiliating pandemonium, with one of the men shouting at David that Paul needed a good hard smack and David yelling “F*** off, you stupid b******, he’s autistic!”

All the way back to the car David held Paul like a prisoner and Mark just said over and over “I hate him. I wish he wasn’t my brother.”

It took weeks to recover. I had two black eyes and my nose and cheeks were bruised and neither Mark nor David could look at me properly until my face was better.

When Paul was a toddler he was cute, with a solemn little face and curly blond hair

David was worried about me being in the house alone with Paul when he came home from school but he has to work as I gave up my job to be at home with the boys.

When Paul was a toddler he was cute, with a solemn little face and curly blond hair.

He was quite controllable as I could remove him from any difficult situation easily. When Mark was born my sister helped a lot, as Paul clearly hated the change to his routine.

When he was formally diagnosed I thought there would be support available to help us all. I was so naive and hopeful.

David wanted to find out everything about the condition in the hope of a cure. I just wanted someone to tell me that with the right approach he could have a lovely life.

We came home and Mark was toddling round the living room, laughing as my sister tickled him and pleased to see us. Paul was tired and started banging his head off the wall and making the strange screeching noise which indicates he’s distressed and it might take hours before he calms down.

I burst into tears and David walked out of the room and slammed the door.

Our house is like a fortress with every window and door bolted

Everything we do is centred on Paul’s condition which is really hard on Mark.

Our house is like a fortress with every window and door bolted, anything potentially dangerous shut away and even ornaments or pictures now taken down.

The third time Paul swept his hand across the mantelpiece and shattered everything on it I decided it wasn’t worth the bother.

Paul won’t sleep by himself and although David takes his turn at sleeping with him through the weekend I’m completely shattered most of the time as Paul wakes if I move at all.

I can’t sleep properly and I wake continually because I’m stiff and sore lying in one position.

The hitting started again when he turned 14. There’d been a lot of tension with him at school and I’d been in and out for countless meetings.

I asked about respite care and was told quite sharply it was unlikely because Paul was loved and cared for and not in any danger.

Then he beat me up. He punched me over and over in the face, constantly hitting me as I tried to defend myself

Two days later he followed me around the house, coming up close to me, making a humming noise. He does this to David sometimes or to strangers and David hates it – he says he does it on purpose to irritate but I don’t actually think Paul knows how to annoy someone deliberately – but he never normally does it to me.

Then he beat me up. He punched me over and over in the face, constantly hitting me as I tried to defend myself. Then he stopped, sat down on the couch and started leafing through a store catalogue.

I was scared to move in case he started again and lay huddled on the floor till David and Mark came in. My lip was so badly burst I needed stitches and again my face was a total mess.

That was the end of any relationship between my sons. Mark hates Paul and won’t listen to us trying to explain how frustrated he is at being unable to communicate.

David goes into work early as Paul seems calmer in the mornings and goes to school.

David tries to get home with Mark an hour after Paul is dropped off. I’m always on edge.

If Paul does hit me when I’m alone I curl up in a ball on the floor to protect my face and if David’s in he physically stops him and shuts him into his bedroom. He lashes out at David but since David’s taller and bigger he can hold him back.

Sometimes I feel that if Paul wasn’t here it would be a blessed relief and that’s a terrible way for a mother to think

Mark goes to afterschool care so he doesn’t get in the middle of any violence but he says he wishes Paul would die and that broke my heart because I know Paul only hurts me because he is in such pain himself.

It also broke my heart because sometimes I feel that if Paul wasn’t here it would be a blessed relief and that’s a terrible way for a mother to think.

I went to the social work department with my battered face and begged for help and we now get two nights respite every six weeks.

I didn’t tell anyone else he was attacking me but he tried to hit my sister so she can’t babysit anymore. David and I never go out as a couple and we devote all our time to Mark during respite.

I live from respite to respite and I never think about the future because that’s the only way I can cope with this life sentence.

All names have been changed.