MY STORY: Some scars don't fade with time
IN a few weeks I will be 44 years old.
Around the date of my birthday the same questions will begin bombarding my brain, just as they have my entire life
Will she remember my birthday? What does she think of me? Was there a time that she loved me?
I ask myself why. Why does she matter so much? Why do I taunt myself over a woman who showed me nothing but hate and disdain when I needed love and warmth?
I don't remember the earliest beatings because, quite simply, my brain was too young to contain the memories.
I know she flogged me in my first few years because the welfare office charged with overseeing my case gave me access to the documentation it kept.
Among the papers is a page with an outline of a human torso. Multiple hand-drawn ink circles mark the locations of the bruises on my tiny body.
My growth is not punctuated by the normal milestones of childhood - first days of school, graduations, birthdays or Christmas.
Instead the markers are those of domestic violence: me cowering against a wall, protecting my bare back and buttocks as she swings her arm down; the wide leather belt searing across my flesh; her voice counting the lashings ... 31, 32, 33, 34 ...
A fist to the face, my head slamming into a wall.
Standing face against the wall for hours on end, unable to use the toilet or get a drink of water.
Hunched over a cold linoleum floor, scrubbing away the dirt with a toothbrush.
Finger bones crushing as my hand is slammed by a fridge door over stolen biscuits.
My face rubbed into urine-soaked sheets, punishment for wetting the bed.
And so it goes on.
My mother was a big woman. I was a small child.
I am the fourth of eight children and the first of five girls.
My father was rarely home and they divorced when I was about five.
My mother adored my three older brothers and my three youngest sisters.
Something snapped, though, when I and my next sister were born.
We were always hungry, dirty, covered in welts and bruises and rarely at school.
And when we did attend classes, no one seemed to notice the dishevelled little kids in the filthy clothes scavenging food from bins.
I escaped by running away at every opportunity.
Once found, the authorities sent me to foster and children's homes, but I was always lured back into her shadow by promises of change that never came.
And back then, mothers were not pursued by the police - the focus of the welfare organisations was returning the child to them as quickly as possible.
By the time I reached 22, I realised her promises of change were empty and pointless and I finally found the strength to cut all ties.
Even then I feared her, I loathed her and I loved her in equal parts. And the sad thing is, I still do.
The scars of domestic violence fade from the body, but you cannot erase them from your brain.
I was one of the lucky victims - I survived to celebrate many birthdays. Many women and children do not.
Already this year 17 women have been killed, allegedly by their current or ex-partners across the country.
Now is the time to take a stand.
Governments must introduce strategies that will start saving lives straight away while ensuring programs are in place so generational change takes place.
But it's not just up to politicians and community leaders.
You and I are the most important weapons in this war.
If we see abuse, let's report it.
Let's offer a helping hand to the victim and let's make sure the perpetrators know we are not going to take it anymore.