As Patrick Stewart's iconic Star Trek character Capt. Jean-Luc Picard once said, "We are who we are, and we're doing the best we can. It is not for you to set the standards by which we should be judged!" Yet for years, actor Patrick lived in fear that he might be criticized for not stepping in to help his mother when he was a child and his alcoholic father would beat her. "One of the problems of domestic violence is that shame attached to it," says the British acting legend. "For everybody, for the victim, and the abuser, and the children, too."

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Patrick and his mother.

Born in 1940, Patrick, 77, didn't meet his father, Alfred, until he returned from service in WWII. "What I only learned a few years ago is that he had suffered what the newspapers described as severe shell shock," says Patrick, whose dad was part of the Dunkirk evacuation. "Of course he was never treated for it — what we now call PTSD."

Patrick's dad held down a job as a semi-skilled laborer but would drink heavily on the weekends. While he never laid a hand on his two boys, he spared their mother no mercy. "We became experts in something children should never have to deal with," he says. "Listening to an argument and judging when it would transform into violence."

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Now Patrick is trying to put an end to the cycle of violence by supporting a bill in the UK that would help victims of abuse. "Unlike my time, there is aid available now," he says. "There are 24-hour help lines. Call one — you need not be alone."

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If you or someone you know is suffering domestic abuse call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org.