A mum’s story…
According to the Oxford Dictionary a victim is, “A person harmed, injured or killed as a result of crime, accident, or other event or action”.
My son and I lived in a small village. We had both grown up there. It’s the kind of village where everyone knows everyone.
My son, Scot, was 22, engaged to his partner Jane, with a baby on the way. He still lived at home as he and Jane were saving for a deposit for a home of their own. They were busy making plans for the future.
Sadly, that future was not to be, because my son killed a man.
He had friends over, celebrating that he was about to become a father. People who were not invited turned up and when my son asked them to leave things got out of hand.
I was at work when it happened, on a sleepover duty. I found out something was wrong via social media. I called the police, who would only tell me that “an altercation” had taken place in my home and as a result of that, a man had died. They refused to tell me any more than that and for a while, I didn’t know if my son was dead or alive.
The aftermath is difficult to articulate, even now eight years later. Three families have been left heartbroken. I think of them too as I write this.
My son had been charged with murder. His first offence. It would be almost two weeks before I got to see him. But at least I could see my son. I was all too aware that the other mum would never see her son again.
In the immediate hours and days after Scot’s arrest, I lost my home. It became a crime scene, rather than my home.
More importantly, I knew the deceased’s family very well. How could I face his mum in the local shop? What would it do to her, to see me? I knew I could never return to my village.
I was homeless for six months, sleeping on my sister’s sitting room floor. It wasn’t safe for me to return home even if I had wanted to; the windows being smashed twice.
The Local Authority, who I worked for, refused to help me, stating they couldn’t show favouritism toward an employee. If I hadn’t worked for the Local Authority, they would have moved me.
I was off work for six months. My employer was pushing me to go back but I refused to return until I had at least secured somewhere to live. I was forced to return six months later however, as that was the day that I and my colleagues were to be interviewed for our own jobs, under the Council’s “reorganisation”. I remember sitting in the interview not caring if I got my job or not. It seemed so insignificant to what I was going through.
I did manage to secure my post but soon went off sick again. I found it difficult to feel empathy for my clients. Their drug and alcohol issues seemed so small compared to my own.
As time went on, I became so ill that I lost my career. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and couldn’t even get out of bed some days. My health is still poor, but I have learned to cope.
I had to claim disability benefits for the first time in my life. I had to endure the DWP’s medical assessments to prove how ill I was. I couldn’t tell them what had caused my poor physical and mental health.
I had to use my savings when I went on to nil income at work. By the time I furnished my new home, I literally had nothing left. I haven’t been able to return to work so I’m still on benefits, with nothing in the bank. You can’t save when you are on benefits.
I no longer enjoy foreign holidays or nice cars.
My grandson is almost 8 years old. He was 6 weeks old when his dad was sentenced to life in prison. He hasn’t had any contact with him since he was 2 years old, when his mum stopped him from going back “to a prison”. As a mum myself I couldn’t blame her, but my heart ached for my son.
I didn’t see my grandson for a year. Even now, I only see him once a fortnight. He knows nothing about his dad. He used to ask me questions, but his mum told me that she doesn’t want him to know anything, so I wasn’t able to answer his questions. He doesn’t ask anymore. He doesn’t know that I am his dad’s mum, he thinks that I just wanted to be his granny and his mum let me. He has another grandma and a great grandma, both of whom he spends lots of time with, including sleepovers and holidays. I am not allowed to have my grandson overnight or take him on holiday. He doesn’t understand why, and I can’t tell him. All his questions and feelings; swept under the rug.
I have tried to tell his mum that being dishonest isn’t in his best interests, but she is his mum, so I just bite my tongue.
I help financially toward my grandson. I feel responsible because my son isn’t here. I can’t afford it, but I will continue to do what I can.
I am often afraid when I go out now. I constantly look over my shoulder for fear of bumping into someone from my “old life”. I have seen the lad’s mum a few times. She has aged 100 years. It haunts me.
I no longer walk with my head held high. My head is down, so nobody sees me. My head is down because I have lost my pride. My head is down because I have lost my self-confidence.
I struggle to join in family celebrations. I’m all too aware that my son can’t be there. I know that my son is their family too, but they don’t feel the pain that I feel. Nobody feels the pain that I feel.
I can’t join in with conversations with my friends about our children and their achievements. I have so much to say, so much to feel proud of. My son is doing well and using his time positively. There is only so many times I can say that.
My son will be 37 when he gets out. I will be 57. My time will be over, my opportunities lost. All the plans that I had got lost along the way; my sabbatical to New Zealand, progressing in my career, my hopes for more grandchildren, all lost.
I pray that I don’t die while my son is in prison. I hate the thought of him attending my funeral handcuffed and on his own.
My name is Elyse.
I am a family member.
I am a victim.