The little boy who hardly spoke a word
Finn is a little boy who hardly spoke a word. He thought his words could hurt people, so he tried to never make a sound. But, although he was silent much of the time, he saw and heard everything. He was six years old.
Finn became sad at bedtimes. He would lie in bed tense, small and still as a statue, and so quiet he sometimes forgot to breathe as he listened to the loud bumpy noises downstairs. His heart was in his mouth as he listened to his Dad shouting and his Mum screaming and crying. Finn was scared of the big voices and the crashing sounds of things breaking. He would wonder if it was his fault, because he knew he could be naughty sometimes.
Finn felt sad in the mornings too. Dad would be asleep. Mum would be waiting downstairs, with Finn’s cereal ready on the table. But there would be no morning cuddles with her. She wouldn’t even look at him. She couldn’t let herself until the swelling around her eye had gone down and the purple bruising had faded to yellow. She would tell Finn later that it was her fault because she made Dad angry.
Finn didn’t like leaving the house to go to school in the mornings. He was always late and the teacher would sometimes give out to him. She didn’t know it was because his Mum was too embarrassed to drive him to school with her bruises, so he had to walk.
Finn hated going home after school.
In class the teacher would talk about the time that dinosaurs roamed the earth and how far away the moon is, but Finn was so tired and he couldn’t find space in his head to listen. He stared out of the window, his mind wandering to terrible thoughts of what might be going on at home while he wasn’t there.
At break-time, he would stand alone in the school yard, looking out at the road. Dad said he shouldn’t tell and he didn’t want to upset his Mum, so he was afraid to talk to anyone in case his secret slipped out. It was easier that way - he would never have to invite any of the other children back to his house to play in case they saw.
Finn hated going home after school. He loved his Mum and Dad so much, but that didn’t stop him getting tearful at home-time. He was always frightened that something bad would happen again.
Finn hid under the table to avoid having to talk or answer questions.
Finn’s story is heart-breaking. Even more so because he kept it to himself, carrying the weight of this huge secret on his tiny shoulders for so long. Unfortunately, it’s a tale that is all too familiar. Domestic abuse is one of the most common issues encountered in our services, present in around 40% of the families we work with. Domestic abuse is less frequently the reason a child is referred to us, but it often emerges over time or is disclosed once a project worker has built up a trusting relationship with the child and family.
Finn was referred to Barnardos by his school. They had concerns about his lateness, his withdrawal from the other children and his lack of concentration. When he first came to his local Barnardos After School Group, he hid under the table to avoid having to talk or answer questions.
Nuala became Finn’s keyworker at Barnardos and tried her best to make friends with him. At first nothing seemed to work. He would not come out from under the table.
Nuala decided that she would read to Finn every day from her favourite storybook about a girl and her magic wand. Nuala wasn’t sure if Finn was listening to the story, but after a few days he began to move out from under the table towards her. Soon he was sitting beside her as she read.
One day, when Nuala had finished the book Finn turned to her and said “If I had a magic wand I would stop my Mum and Dad fighting.” And so Finn slowly began to tell Nuala his own story, finally having the chance to unburden his secret and to feel less alone.