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Living with the aftermath of the 'under the same roof rule' - a survivor's story

One Woman's Aim To Get RecognitionFor Those Who Suffered Under The Same Roof Rule 

- A Personal Story & A Mission For Change


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Copies of Beaten but Unbowed (memoir) by Karen Braysher available for the press upon request.

This article is available for media placement. We hope that it inspires you to consider writing about what life was like for survivors of domestic abuse in childhood before the ‘Under The Same Roof Rule' in 1979 - a situation that is still having such a deep impact on so many adults in the UK today. Karen is available for media interview, comment and editorial commissions.


Sunday August 28th1977

Summer Bank Holiday

I had been out all day with my friend Tracy, who had been staying over for the long weekend. We had been playing Stool-ball in a nearby village, listening to the radio as Elvis songs such as Way Down were dominating the charts. It was 12 days after Elvis had died in Memphis. To us, Memphis seemed a world away from the contrast of an English summer - not quite as hot as the previous year - during which my Dad's temper was at boiling point. This would be one weekend I could never forget; the date 12 days prior remains etched in musical history 16thAugust 1977, the day Elvis died.

The date is vital to me, as I have been able to calculate at least one of the times my father physically abused me. I remember it clearly, as my head crashed to the brick kitchen floor and his boot connected with such force onto my 15-year-old head. I momentarily stopped living in real time, the event caused everything to slow down until he stopped. Blood was dripping from my ear and warm urine ran down the inside of my legs. I heard Tracy running down the stairs making for the door declaring, "YOU ARE ALL MAD". August 28th1977 is the only date I can find in my head of which I am certain of. The other dates and incidents are a blurry fog to me, but why is this so important?

If any family member (such as my Dad) abused me "under their own roof" it was then known as a "domestic". Police regularly referred to it as a waste of their time. I know from personal experience. They had no power to stop this vile ritual I was forced to endure - like many children growing up before the 1980s - throughout my childhood until 10thOctober 1979. On that date, a domestic then became fair game for intervention. The only hope a child had prior to 1979 was social services removing you from an unsafe home. In my case, they didn't. Neither did they take me to hospital for injuries to be assessed. It is now accepted wisdom that children's heads are delicate and still growing both inside and out; at 15 I was small in stature and vulnerable to my parent's violent outbursts and psychologically damaging behaviour.

For years I had flashbacks, tormented through the day, constantly daydreaming. At night, I hid under the covers, as I couldn't escape the nightmares. The "domestic" abuse shaped my schooling, my early work life and left me lost, not knowing who I was. I tried to kill myself three times in my mid-twenties, the confusion surrounding what had happened to me in my own home baffled me. Did it happen, I would question? Was I just mad? I couldn't decide if my mind was playing tricks on me. Years passed, something was very wrong, the doctor prescribed counselling, which was when I first spoke of these visons. My father had passed away by then, my mother continued to convince me it was all in my head.

Having accessed my medical records for the first time in 2016 I noticed the horror of the text a social worker had written to my then GP relating to the violence I faced. I was shocked, and immediately started to ask questions of the authorities and the police. I wanted to access my social services, police and school records. After repeated attempts, digging around in archives, it was deemed my files had either been lost or mislaid. How convenient.

I have fallen foul of ever getting my justice, as it wasjusta "domestic", it didn't matter that Bipolar 2, Dyslexia and double-vison had developed, the law failed to protect people like me in the 1970s. Successive governments have side-lined the debate to change the date in which The Criminal Injury Compensation scheme can compensate adults who were abused before the landmark date of October 10th1979, leaving thousands of British people with a history of child abuse to cope with. Many of those who were abused in their own homes by their own family members now suffer with mental illness. Like me, they are becoming yet another statistic of the broken Mental Health Services in the NHS. We are suffering from both ends. I am a volunteer Service User Governor of a NHS Mental Health Trust and know that so many patients of my era had a terrifying childhood - leading to loneliness in adulthood. Some are fortunate, they have managed to successfully navigate adulthood and have a safe family set-up of their own. Many haven't. MPs have called for change to this notorious ‘Under The Same Roof Rule' to no avail. The policy needs to change for victims of historic abuse to get justice - as part of the healing and recovery process. Just stop to think about all those minds that were damaged, all that heartache, before the change in policy on October 10th 1979. Services in the NHS are broken and do not look to get fixed any time soon. I have lost out. Thousands upon thousands of others are walking around damaged. With compensation, patients could buy treatment, not always a palatable thought - to go private, but it could be an option for those the system has failed and is still failing 40 years on.

Have you been affected?