‘I can still remember her screams’
NRL great Luke Lewis has revealed the traumatic moment he watched on helplessly as his mum was the victim of domestic violence.
The premiership winner with the Sharks and Panthers has finally shared the painful memory in his tell-all autobiography Cool Hand Luke Lewis, released last month.
He has now admitted the trauma was buried down deep inside him for many years and was only truly confronted when he first began working as an ambassador for the White Ribbon foundation during his NRL career.
The 35-year-old, who retired at the end of the 2018 season, has now shared the full tragic story, in a column for Players Voice.
The story details how, while still in public school, Lewis and his sister were on several occasions forced to watch on as their mum, Sharon Harrison, was assaulted by her partner at the time.
He writes that one night in particular, where his mum was "dragged around by her hair," is something he has never been able to unsee.
It will never leave him. "We lived with domestic violence in our home for quite a few years," Lewis wrote.
"The man wasn't my father - I haven't really had a chance to meet him - but someone Mum was with while I was quite young. There were a lot of bad times, but there's one night in particular that has always stayed with me.
"This person hit Mum right in front of me. She was so close to where I was standing I could've reached out and touched her. She fell to the ground and he pulled her around the loungeroom by her hair, threw her into a room and slammed the door shut. I can still remember her screams.
"He was ripping the place up. It was like a home invasion, but the crime was being committed by someone who lived with us. The walls were getting smashed, doors were broken, glasses were being thrown around and broken all over the kitchen.
"It was an awful night. There were a few like that.
"I had so much anger and frustration in me. I was only little, but it still killed me that I couldn't step in and stop this person from hurting my mum."
He has also revealed it took the special care of his primary school principal at Doonside Public School, near Blacktown in Sydney's west, to keep him from falling apart at the time.
The tragic scene continued for years. Lewis says he was scared to sleepover at his friends' houses in primary school, worried about the safety of his mum and sister back at home.
Burying it down was the only way he knew to survive.
To this day he says he doesn't know how his mum endured through the trauma, but she did.
One day, Lewis says, he came home from school and the source of his nightmares was gone. Forever. He simply assumes, his mum found the courage to end the relationship.
It's not hard to see where he got the courage from to step out onto the football field with broken bones - or to return to the football field after receiving treatment for a thyroid cancer scare.
He told NRL.com this week he simply hopes his story might help a few people in similar situations to the one he experienced as a kid.
"Talking about the domestic violence stuff was pretty tough. Purely because it brings back so many memories," he said.
Fortunately, both he and his mum have had enough fun and heart-warming memories since then to write a book. The trauma of domestic violence is just a small chapter in his incredible journey.
"She would be pretty proud," Lewis said of his mum.
"I had a chat to her the other day and she got to sit down and read the book and she was crying. I said, 'What are you crying for'?
"And she said, 'It just brings back so many good memories".