Sir Patrick Stewart spoke candidly about the “shame” he felt growing up as a witness to domestic violence.
On the UK chat show “Loose Women”, Stewart confesses he felt “ashamed” to speak out about the abuse his mother suffered at the hands of his father, a “weekend alcoholic” who came into his and his brother’s life after the war.
“Suddenly there was this big, hairy man in the house. Increasingly things became more and more difficult,” he says, adding that his father never directed his abuse at the boys. A former officer, Stewart explains, in hindsight, his father had been dealing with post-traumatic stress from the war.
“What I only learned about a few years ago was that he had suffered what the newspapers described as severe shell shock. Of course he was never treated for it – what we now call PTSD,” he says. “He was a weekend alcoholic and it was partly brought about because of his transformation from Regimental Sergeant Major to basically a semi-skilled labourer with no authority at all.”
Patrick says he was dedicated to working during the week but things would fall apart at home on weekends.
“He would come home from the pub or the working men’s club. We would hear him singing. He loved to sing. The kind of songs he was singing would give us an advance warning of the mood he was in,” he recalls. “Very often it was bad. He would initiate arguments and then those arguments advanced into something more extreme – violence.”
The 77-year-old actor confesses that he and his brother became experts in “something children should never, ever have to deal with” – judging when an argument would escalate into physical violence. “At those moments we would go in, we would just try and put our bodies between our mother and our father,” he remembers.
He and his brother would have taken the blows for his mother if it had been an option, but sometimes merely stepping between them was enough to cull the abuse. However, the deep shame he felt kept the boys from seeking outside help.
“One of the problems of domestic violence is that shame attached to it – for everybody, for the victim and the abuser and the children, too,” he adds.