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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 01:34 GMT 02:34 UK
'I was scared of telling anyone'
Miserable boy
As many as one million children could suffer from domestic violence
Between 240,000 and 963,000 British children could be living with domestic violence, according to a United Nations report.

One British victim - 16-year-old Zina - describes how she dealt with a violent stepfather.

Zina had heard her father hitting her mother, and saw the blood splattered on the floor after the beatings.

Then when she was eight years old, he asked her what time it was and she made the error of getting it wrong.

Zina, from London, said: "He hit me so hard that I fell down and hit my head on the sofa. He then began to kick me. I was so scared that I wet myself."

The violence was to continue, but Zina did not feel she could tell anyone.

I did not want to talk to anyone at school or tell my mother, because she had so many other problems to worry about
Zina

"I was so scared of telling anyone what was happening to me, just in case it got back to my stepfather and he took it out on me and my mother.

"Whenever I saw violence against children on television programmes like EastEnders, I hid behind my mother, because it reminded me of him and that he was going to hit me again."

The violence affected all aspects of Zina's life and her schooling began to suffer.

Trust

"I missed out on three years of education because I was worried about leaving my mum alone with him.

"It also affected my self-esteem and I allowed the other kids at school to bully me and walk all over me.

"I did not want to talk to anyone at school or tell my mother, because she had so many other problems to worry about."

Eventually the school became concerned and when Zina reached year 9, aged 13, they arranged for a counsellor.

At first Zina felt she could not really talk to her counsellor, but eventually opened up to her.

"I did not trust her first, but after a year, I told her everything that was happening to me.

"She became more like a best friend and felt I could tell her everything and no-one else found out the things I was telling her."

Drug overdose

But when she reached year 10 she had a setback.

Although she was still seeing her counsellor, she took an overdose and was hospitalised for a week.

She said: "I had given up on life and felt there was no reason to go on."

Zina was referred to another counsellor, and also received treatment from a psychiatrist and doctor to aid her recovery.

Zina said: "The counselling and support from the psychiatrist and doctor really helped me.

"Also, reading books and magazines I realised that I was not the only one going through this problem.

"The thought that I was not alone in dealing with this was a great source of comfort."

And Zina has advice for children going through the similar problems she did.

"You should not give up.

"If you do not want to talk to someone you know, then there are always plenty of helplines with anonymous people who are willing to help you and talk to you in confidence."

Zina's name has been changed to protect her anonymity.


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