Reflecting on her childhood, Tracey Secker recalls striving to please and conform, and internalising hurtful phrases like “Children should be seen and not heard” and “You talk too much,” which shaped her path in life. Her journey, marked by verbal abuse, threats, and isolation, has imparted resilience and a newfound ability to help others navigate similar challenges. She discusses drawing strength from her own experiences to make a difference as The Haven’s Commercial Development Manager.
As a child, I can vividly remember the constant backdrop of heated arguments and an unsettling feeling that something was always amiss, that people around me were perpetually unhappy. I couldn’t help but believe that I was the root cause of these troubles. So, I embarked on a mission to make those around me happy – to make them laugh, to behave exactly as I was instructed, to always do things the “right” way, to be polite, to avoid upsetting anyone, and ultimately, to blend into the background.
The words and phrases I heard only served to reinforce this rigid code of behaviour I had adopted:
“Children should be seen and not heard.”
“Why are you so clumsy? You have two left feet.”
“Be a good, quiet girl, and people will like you more.”
“You talk too much.”
“Not everyone can be pretty.”
“You’re intelligent in a different way.”
“You’re the funny one who makes people laugh.”
These are the words I remember and what formed me as a person navigating the rest of life.
When people speak of domestic abuse, there’s often an immediate association with physical violence. However, it’s important to note that abuse takes many forms. I, too, was ensnared in a web of verbal abuse, the looming threat of physical violence, as well as manipulative tactics like standing over others, grabbing, and, in later years, even violence outside of the family circle. I was used as a go-between by my parents for weeks on end, upset by the looks and ever-present feeling of ‘walking on eggshells’. Coercive control, gaslighting, and isolation further defined my experiences.
However, these trials showed me valuable things: the art of survival, the cultivation of resilience, and the means to cope. Unfortunately, my coping mechanisms haven’t always been kind to me, but I’m getting better at that……it’s a slow process, but it’s progress which is good.
It’s precisely these experiences that have led me to discover what I consider the greatest job in the world. I have the privilege of supporting others who may been subjected to similar abuse. Speaking about my past has not been without its challenges. Revealing these painful truths aloud has a way of making them more real.
Some days are tough. Just the other night, I had an unpleasant conversation with my father. Some may attribute it to his dementia, but I know better. I recognised it for what it was – an attempt to hurt me, and he succeeded.
The very next day I was delivering training session, addressing the critical topic of domestic abuse and how we can support those who face it in the workplace. It was a no mean feat, even though I tried to ensure that those on the training had no idea how I was feeling. I still did my job, with passion, understanding, and lived experience.
We all work at The Haven for a reason – this is mine.