What does domestic abuse really look like?

bruised woman

Another season, another domestic abuse story in the headlines.

Another movie star/athlete/politician or otherwise stand-up guy has been accused of harming his partner.

An another week of doubting and bashing the alleged victim.

In has been just a few weeks, and  Amber Heard has already been painted as the antagonist by too many after she reported that her movie star partner, Johnny Depp, beat her up. Their story is just beginning to weave its way through the justice system, but the court of public opinion is driving forward on a predictable timeline. Media outlets are already digging through her past to discredit her allegations, while giving the microphone to Depp’s supporters.

In the United States, we have a Constitutional presumption of innocence. This seems to only apply to the alleged abuser _ not to the alleged victim.

For some reason, we have an impossible time believing that the guy we “know” could be capable of beating his partner. It is much easier to believe that the alleged victim must be a lying gold-digger or some other kind of degenerate willing to fabricate a lie and blow up her world for some sort of gain or revenge.

This presumption is despite studies and statistics that show one in every three women will at some point in their adult life be the victim of intimate partner abuse and that one in 10 men have abused a partner. Studies also show that cases of false accusations of domestic abuse may only make up as few as one percent of all cases.

Maybe we struggle to understand this because we still believe that domestic violence is more a couple’s dynamic problem that criminal assault with a victim. Maybe we are invested in maintaining our opinions of the accused abuser.

Maybe we don’t understand what victims are truly going through.

In my case, I was physically abused for 10 years by my then-husband. He beat me, choked me, stomped on me, threw me, spit on me, slapped me, grabbed me, threatened me, shoved me against a wall and bruised me many times.

We were a middle-class couple living in suburbia with lots of friends, careers, children, a mortgage, a mini-van and all the other signs of an American family. In front of people, we looked normal with “normal” baggage. He was a nationally known sportswriter covering the NFL.

But every day of our 15-year relationship, we were in a complicated and psychological dance between victim and abuser that was stressful for me and our children. As a result of this, I suffered for years from PTSD and my children have emotional pain they are just beginning to understand.

If anyone would have looked through the windows of our four-bedroom home, they would have seen me alone with our children most of the time. My ex spent very little time with us, even when he was in the house. When he did, there was rarely shared happiness.

Though I can’t speak for my ex, I know that my relationship needs weren’t met and I was incredibly lonely and hopeless on a daily basis. When tensions escalated, often it ended with some form of violence.

One of the last incidents of abuse, I walked into his home office and complained about something I don’t remember. He was upset with me for it and wanted me to leave him alone. I leave his room and instead continued bitching. The next thing I knew, he shoved me with quick force and I stumbled, uncontrolled across the room. I couldn’t get my balance and I fell onto a small loveseat. He jumped on top of me. I balled up to protect myself as he pummeled me again and again. When he finally stopped, I pulled myself up off the sofa and fought to get out of the room while he followed me screaming in my ear. When I got to the door of his office, I turned around and shouted back at him. He hacked up the mucus from deep in his lungs and spit the wad in my face. His mouth was inches from my face. His eyes showed the hate in his heart.

I experienced dozens and dozens of violent acts equally as dramatic, scary and traumatic for years.

The only feeling I felt as I wiped his spit off my face was shame.

I kept our secret for more than a decade and never called the police or told a single friend.

To do so, would be to blow up the family I so wanted.

When I finally left, his abuse continued. Living apart helped put an end to the physical abuse but the verbal and emotional abuse and intimation increased.

Domestic abuseAll while he maintained a public persona of a devoted family man, an accomplished sportswriter and a friend to many. He still paints himself that way and fools a lot of people. He has thousands of Twitter followers who read about his opinions on NFL players who beat their partners or his pride as a father to our children. But, I know the truth. He is an abuser. He doesn’t deny it. If anyone asks him, he tells the story of how hard it is to live with what he has done. However, he doesn’t tell me that. He continues to make threats, diminishes my pain when he can and discredits me to people in my life when he has the opportunity.

Abusers want you to believe their spin and the story we’ve help create about them. And they are excellent actors and liars.

The next time the news breaks with another sad story of domestic abuse, I beg you, please don’t jump to conclusions that lead to victim blaming. Please just take a step back, but not a step away mind you. Victims need your support, desperately. Abusers need your condemnation. Children need a society that knows how to handle and end domestic abuse. Silence and turning the other cheek doesn’t do it.

Please insist on investigations that are thorough and conducted by trained professionals. And please help stop our collective denial that domestic violence isn’t real or that we don’t have too large a segment of our society willing to exploit others for their own gain.

 

 

 

 

Please help with this anonymous survey

Dear victims of domestic abuse,

I am collecting data about how domestic abuse continues after separation and in particular how abuser can often use children in their efforts to gain back control and power in the relationship.

Please consider helping by taking the survey, a Google form document. It is anonymous, and no way for me to track your information, unless you give it to me. If you do, I will not share it with any third party and only use it to communicate directly with you.

Take the survey by clicking this link.

And thank you for reading this blog, a much needed and useful therapy that has literally saved me from craziness.

Be safe. Be well. Speak out.

Thank you.

 

It has been awhile since I’ve posted

June 22, 2014 _ I am a survivor of Domestic Violence and Abuse, recovering from PTSD, a mother of two wonderful children, 51 years old, divorced, a writer, businesswoman and unfortunately co-parenting with my abuser under court-order.

It has been 20 years since I was first physically attacked by then husband, 9 years since the last time he attacked me.

It has been one day since he last emotionally abused me. He did it by creating a fight with me while our child is in his care by telling me that our child is upset with me over my parenting style and a “decision” that he fears I’ve made. When I wouldn’t engage with his abusive texts, he contacted the parenting coordinator and told her to call the judge and report me as neglecting my duty to communicate. I asked to see our child so that I could hear the concerns directly, my ex said no.

After 20 years of abuses my ex has expressed, the details aren’t really all that important anymore. There are so many incidents of controlling, malicious behaviors, that they blur together.

My brain works very logically. I want to understand relationship dynamics because I want to get along with everyone. It is part of my co-dependent nature. When sudden trouble shows up in any of my relationships, I am immediately disturbed and begin the exhausting process of pealing the events and actions back so that I can understand how we got off on the wrong track.

However, relationships with some people don’t work, no matter the path it takes. Some people have problems, to say the least. And that notion has always been hard to get my head around. I’ve always believed in the fantasy that with enough, acceptance and explanation to avoid misunderstanding, people’s better nature will win out and relationships will run smoothly.

That fantasy has caused me years of pain.

It took me just about half a century to learn that some people are very broken and their better nature is hopelessly entangled in their own fear and personality disorders and impossible to operate normally, and

I don’t have the power to cause anyone to operate through their better nature.

Some people aren’t waiting to clear up a misunderstanding.

Some people don’t want relationships to run smoothly.

Some people don’t care if another person is hurt, or worse, want others hurt.

I think that fantasy is one many hold. I don’t think that I am alone. In fact, I’ve seen many people believe that my ex, an admitted abuser who relishes dominating people in every way, can be reasonable, even kind and loving if only he is in the right circumstance.

I’ve seen that in many domestic abuse cases. So much of our society believes that abusers are abusing because of circumstance and not because they are criminals. It doesn’t compute to believe that a person can follow the rules of society, like marriage, jobs, children, etc., and still be a criminal.

My therapist said it this way to me, “Crazy people still go to the grocery store.”

So true.

The danger in assuming that all those people milling about the grocery store are sane and reasonable, is that we afford a lot of latitude to sane people _ we don’t have protecting boundaries in place for ourselves and for our children.

Last night as I worried about my child, I forced myself to watch a sad movie. It is a trick I have to make myself cry _ really. I have to find ways to make myself cry when I’m worried about my children and my ex because if I don’t, the fear of trauma is trigger in me. Years and years of abuse means fight or flight reflex is easily accessed with who knows how many extra synapses created in my brain. Crying, feeling sorry for myself, actually helps way more than my normal reaction … to problem solve (part of the reflex).  But, years and years of abuse, means that I want to problem solve way more than I want to feel sorry for myself.

So, I force the feeling to come using tricks, designed by my therapist. Watching sad movies, listening to sad songs, photo albums … Essentially, I am forcing myself to feel the real feeling behind all of this.

I am sad that I was abused by my children’s father. I’m sad that I won’t grow old with my children’s father. I am sad that I couldn’t stop my children from having a fucked up childhood. I am sad that my children are forced to navigate life with an abusive father. I am sad that he won’t ever get better.

Feeling the real feeling helps me to no end. Oh, it sucked last night as I cried my eyes out. But, just a few minutes later, I felt a lot better and I accept that there is no problem solving I can do, no fight or flight reaction that will change the truth about my situation … that my ex, the father of my children is a criminal and the courts and society don’t truly acknowledge domestic abuse as a real crime against a person.

Even the term, “domestic abuse” downgrades the crime. “Domestic” implies a lesser crime that just assault. It implies that there is something within the control of the domicile that caused the abuse, rather than the truth, that one person has criminally assaulted another. And in fact, it is worse that stranger assault, because within a relationship, the victim doesn’t have boundaries in place to protect against abuse. Instead, there is trust that abuse won’t happen.

The terms we use actually help keep domestic abuse going and let the abuser know they can get away with it.

One day, I hope that we stop calling it domestic abuse and start calling it what it is: assault.

My ex is a criminal. Make no mistake.

He was never arrested, because I never called the police. And frankly, with the laws in my state, it is really possible that we both would have been arrested if I did call the police, even though I was the attacked.

When abuse means attack and emotional abuse means conspiracy to harm another and corruption of a minor, then we will making some progress.

But, we aren’t there yet.

The movie I watched to set off my healing, cleansing tears was Philomeana … a true story about an Irish women who had her son taken away from her  at an Irish home for unwed mothers run by the Catholic church. On her baby’s 50th birthday, she tried to find him with the help of a journalist. She did find him, except, that he had died years before as a result of AIDS. In her search, she finds out that the nuns had sold her child out from under her, without even able to say good-bye and when she finally confronts one of the aging nuns who did it and showed no regret, Philomeana instantly forgives her. Wow, powerful. This poor woman, I thought as I cried a river.

But, back then, the church believed a fantasy too. That this was best and Christian. How truly sick is that, well really sick. But, an entire institution thought it was OK.

Thank God I didn’t have my children taken away from me. Thank God I didn’t go through that hell.

With time, and awareness and understanding, I pray that we as a society come together and change the collective fantasy that domestic abuse is something within closed doors and between two people and therefore is none of our business. I pray that we realize that abuse is criminal and criminals should not go through life without additional boundaries.

Criminals have been given the same choice as all of us. They could have navigated their lives and pain without taking it out of others by committing crimes against others. They had the same choices as you and me. To make mistakes, to get angry of course.

Those who attack others have shown their colors. We should believe them and act accordingly. Today, would we give those nuns the keys to the nursery? I don’t think so.

Watching Philomeana forgive that nun, reminds me that forgiveness is best. But, wow, so hard to do. However, forgetting is not required and boundaries should never be loosened.

To all those women getting bruised today, hang in there and get help. You need it and deserve it.

How to cope and recover after domestic abuse

Nov. 16, 2013 _ Domestic violence reeked havoc in my life, my children’s and to this day, eight years after the last physical assault, still weighs on my heart. It doesn’t help that I must, by court order, have limited contact with my abuser, the father of my children. Imagine being forced to communicate with someone who beat you up, assaulted you, called you every name in the book, betrayed you and repeatedly used you _ it sucks.

But, today, I’m healthier emotionally than I have ever been and it is in large part due to great counseling from a very well trained domestic abuse counselor at my local DV agency. With therapy, I am processing the trauma of abuse and healing from PTSD, a condition I never through applied to me.

If you are involved in some way with a domestic abuser, my prayers are with you. I know that your life is harder than most realize. I hope that you will seek help from a very good therapist who understands domestic abuse.

Here are my tips to learning to cope and recover:

1. If you are still living with your abuser, please make a plan to leave as soon as you can. If you have children together, it is very important to meet with an attorney first, before leaving. Many states have antiquated family law that doesn’t yet recognize the facts and dangers about DV. You need to get as much custody of your children as you can and have as much in writing as possible. Please don’t live in the fantasy that you will be able to work together post divorce as parents. Sadly, your abuser is more likely to use your children as a way to continue to control and get power.

2. Get help from your local domestic abuse service. Google domestic abuse and your city to find out who and where you can get help. You need help from people who understand the difficulties you face. Domestic abuse is a crime and like most crimes, it results in a traumatized victim and a demented criminal, and that is hard enough of course. But, with domestic abuse, the victim is often falsely accused of causing the abuse and held at least partly responsible for the dynamic. The legal system, friends and family can cause further trauma, as a result. A good therapist can help you process all of those feelings in a way that can help your recovery. Please don’t try to go it alone. I think it is impossible to recover without the help of good people in your corner.

3. Grieve the loss of your “traditional” life. This means, you must walk through the pain of grief, which is not easy to do after going through the pain of abuse. But, grieving is a healthy step, one that we often gloss over. It is Ok to cry about your disappointment, fear and pain. No one gets married believing that they are going to end up in a mess. It sucks and you deserve to have a bunch of days in tears over it. The best thing about grieving is that when its over, days, weeks, months later, you will feel so much better and the clouds will begin to clear.

4. If you have children together, spend a lot of time working through every parenting issue you think you might face in the future and get it in writing now. The more you have on paper, the less chance your abuser will have to continue to abuse. Get as much spelled out as possible about the kids’ schedules, schooling, medical decisions, activities, church, vacations, drop offs and pick ups, and so on. Don’t spend too much time trying to control how your ex cares for your children, no matter how worried you are about his judgment. Judges don’t like parents who try to control what an ex does with the children. But, when it comes to how you two work together, get it in writing. Abusers love gray areas, because it gives them a way to fight. Abusers really enjoy fighting.

5. Build a new life in ways that make you happy and brings joy. Go back to school. Get a new job. Move. Take care of yourself. This is one of the hardest goals to achieve because it takes two things most victims don’t have, money and time. But, it is so important. Do your best to find ways to take care of yourself and don’t judge yourself too harshly. You have been through hell and you need to understand you aren’t perfect.

6. Cut people out of your life that judge your marriage with the abuser. You do not need anyone in your life who wants to “stay neutral” or think that have a ligitimate opinion on your life together. They don’t.   You need to surround yourself with people who love you, support you and have only the best comments to say to you. If someone wants to tell you how to get over it, get along with your ex or how to feel, you need to find a new friend. Victims are often co-dependents, and really bad at recognizing a good friend vs. a bad one. Tell yourself over and over that you need supportive friends and family only at this time. It is no time to give your time to the wrong people.

7. Work hard to keep distance between you and your abuser. For safety reasons, you need to distance. No contract or limited contact is advised for emotional and physical safety. Work hard at breaking the ties that bind you with your abuser. It takes time, but keep at it. You will be thankful when you finally realize your abuser is completely out of your life.

 

Recovering from trauma ain’t easy, but you can do it

August 25, 2013 _ When I started writing this blog a few years ago, I did it as a way to get out my thoughts and feelings revolving around my abusive ex-husband and the pain I felt about co-parenting with him.

It was also a very visual way for me to face what had happened to me in my violent marriage and sort through it, understand it and my role in my abuse.

Abuse, and especially violent abuse, by a loved one is incredibly traumatic. My husband hurt me in every way possible, including being 100 percent willing to deceive often, on big issues and small and with no regard for how that might effect me.

This blog and all the research I’ve done through the years, has helped me tremendously understand just what was and is happening to me and what responsibility I have had through it all.

But, no amount of writing and research has been more helpful in my journey to heal, than simply letting go of the gravity on my emotions and letting myself weep.

Trauma isn’t about personal responsibility or making sense of anything. Trauma just happens and it sucks and that is worth a good cry. And each time that I have allowed myself to sob over the unfairness, loss, broken fantasy, and randomness of being a victim of abuse, or for that matter, anything else, I begin to feel better and to heal.

The world tell us that domestic abuse is a couple’s dynamic issue, one that can be fixed with the right combination of therapy and personal resolve. Not true. Domestic abuse is and always will be the victimization of one partner at the hands and mind of another and in most cases, it is a crime.

It is no more about a dynamic between two people as is a robber and his target or a rapist and the quivering victim.

And the feelings surrounding domestic abuse suck. Who would want to feel it. No one I know. That is why so many victims bury the crime and continue with their abuser. To realize that you married, procreated, sleep with someone who is a criminal without morals, ethics or a desire to honor you is awful.

It is much easier to believe that your abuser is just mentally or emotionally challenged and means well.

When I finally realized that my abuser is dangerous to me no matter what I do or how I treat him, I started to truly get healthy and I began the journey to build my life again, this time with weathered eyes and a scarred, but wiser heart.

I credit my therapist with my true recovery because she walked me through the healing process, which is the grieving process.

The education and this blog helped me understand what was happening and that helped me believe it was worth it to face the pain. I stopped blaming myself and started to see just how random it was to marry an abuser.

Oh sure, I am a “type” that hooks up nicely with an abuser, but for all the best reasons. I’m empathic, tolerant, loyal, understanding. So because I have those traits, I should land with a criminal? No, even I see that. I certainly have responsibility in my marriage. I wasn’t perfect. But, I’m not responsible for abuse. No victim is.

Leaving a door unlocked doesn’t mean you invite everyone into your home to steal your things.

Real recovery for me came with the tears I shed when I realized that I wasn’t responsible, which means, I couldn’t find a way to change it, him, to make it stop. I realized that I was a victim, not responsible for the pain and trauma that was coming my way. Any more responsible than a victim of disease or an accident.

Then, my sobs were about the unfairness of it all. I wanted just what everyone else wants, a peaceful, happy life with family and friends. My version included a long, happy marriage with the father of my children. But, I didn’t draw that card, any more than my nephew didn’t draw the card that included a life without Type 1 diabetes.

Grieving that was and still is my ticket to emotional health and happiness.

All the cliches are true: Life isn’t fair; getting knocked down isn’t the trick, its how you get back up; make lemonade out of lemons … and on and on.

But, I couldn’t get there until I allowed myself to face the pain of the true trauma: That I trusted a man who used that trust against me and hurt me again and again. That it really hurts to be hit by my husband. That it sucks to be lied to by my partner. That someone has the right to use my precious children as pawns to hurt me and mess with my heart. That the court, i.e. strangers who didn’t know my children, had a say in how I was going to raise my babies. That I wasn’t going to grow old with the father of my children. That I was going to get divorced. That I felt really bad about all of that.

I’ve cried and cried on my therapist sofa about all the voices in my head that tell me its all my fault or only what I deserve, too. In fact, that is where she started with me. After I grieved that feelings of worthlessness, then I could move to the above paragraph and cry about that.

Now, I try to remind myself to feel, laughable and trite as that sounds. After I give myself time to cry, I feel better every time.

Trauma needs recovery and recovery comes on the other side of grieving. Not even understanding and analytical thinking does it. My blog has been very helpful for me, but not nearly as much as sitting with a kind and caring therapist who says things to me like, “A feeling is just a feeling,” and “You will feel better walking through the pain.” And who asked me the tough questions with kindness and love, “What would you tell that little girl inside you?” and of course, “What do you want to say to your abuser?”

Those questions began a river of tears and a path to real recovery from trauma. The dictionary says that trauma is a deeply disturbing experience, a victim is someone who is injured or killed as a result of a crime or accident and recovery is the return to a normal state of health or the recovery of that which was lost. How didn’t that make me cry before?

Trauma happens to us all. We are all vulnerable of becoming victims and recovery is possible for every single one of us. I wish you all the opportunity to grieve your own losses and traumatic experiences and I know that you will come out on the other side recovered. Blessings to you all.

I’m changing the name of DV, so that victims will get help

Aug. 9, 2013 _ For 10 years, I was physically assaulted by my then husband and I didn’t believe I was in a domestic violent relationship.

I didn’t believe I need the help of an emergency shelter. I didn’t need the police. I didn’t need anything but answers from someone who figured out our marital problems, so that we would stop having violent incidents.

I believed that I was just as much responsible for the abuse as my husband because I was arguing with him about whatever and I was not able to find peace with my husband. I believed that I was involved in a difficult relationship, equally and maybe mostly, to blame for the downward spiral of our dynamic.

I labeled our relationship “a bad or difficult relationship” that lacked all the good qualities I craved: communications, empathy, understanding, love.

It took a very long time for me to accept that I was in a “domestic violent” marriage and I was the victim of this very common problem.

It took me a very long time to realize that being a victim means that I am not responsible for the abuse I took and I did not cause the assault. I may have played a role in difficult marriage, but I was not the slightest bit responsible for the abuse.

The only person responsible for the abuse was my husband and the reason we had such a difficult marriage is because my husband abused me when he decided abuse was his best offense to get what he wanted when he wanted it.

I was a victim of domestic abuse and that looks a lot like someone who is partly responsible for a difficult relationship.

I was very resentful about being the target, the scapegoat, the punching bag for someone who abuses others. I was hypersensitive to a lot what my husband did because sometimes, what he did really hurt. I was anxious a lot, because I had something to be anxious about. I was paranoid, because someone I lived with would do unthinkable things to me.

I looked a lot like an angry controlling wife to the outside world. I wasn’t though. I was an abused victim in denial and shock about my situation.

I desperately want to reach others, other victims and let them know something they may not want to hear. They are domestic abuse victims, not women (or men) in a difficult marriage.

I keep thinking that the correct term in victims of a traumatic relationship, instead of domestic abuse victims. If we change the name, maybe we will reach more women who know something is really wrong, but don’t know or want to know its domestic abuse.

It seems easier to say you are a victim of a traumatic relationship then to say you are the victim of a domestic abuse.

The key word is victim. Being a vicim of anything means that you were not responsible for what happened to you. I was a victim of violence at the hands of someone who wasn’t suppose to assault me, ever for any reason.

I was a victim exactly the same as if I was the victim of disease. I didn’t bring it on by my behavior. I was blindsided by it.

My responsibility for my own victimization came when I stayed long enough to be hit again. And that is also where it ended. My angry self didn’t cause abuse. I wasn’t in some dance that caused abuse.

I happened to marry an abuser, something I did not know when I got married and got pregnant by an abuser. I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t earn it. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time by no known action on my part.

For all of those victims who think they have to change some behavior, you do, but it is not the behavior he or others are telling you. You need to accept that you are not the reason why you are hit and therefore, you can’t be the reason why he will stop hitting you.

You can make it much more difficult for him to hit you, you can leave and put a very big locked door between you. You can go to the police. You can speak out and let everyone in your life know that you are getting hit.

That is your best hope to make it stop. But, you go ahead and call him an ass, he is. You go ahead and call him a criminal, he is. You go ahead and be mad that you were hurt by him. Who wouldn’t be.

And when you come to accept that you are not just in a bad relationship, you were hooked up with an abuser and you can be OK again. Hang in there.

Forgive me, DV agencies need to improve

August 8, 2013 _ I am very grateful for the services offered by my local domestic abuse agency and the support I have received, but, um, I think the agency needs to make a dramatic change.

And, I think that most agencies need to do the same _ that is, completely reevaluate the goal, the services and the approach. As I write this, I want the hit the delete key and erase all of this and just accept the services that are provided for free! But, to do so would be to deny the feelings I feel and continue the “just shut up and accept it” mentality that got me into this mess in the first place.

So, I’m going to point out a few things that I see and how we can improve services for the victims of domestic abuse.

  1. Do not hold support groups that are lead by young, unmarried college kids who have never experienced abuse. I sat last night in such a group meeting with four other victims. The leader, a nice enough young women, more or less “taught” us how to set boundaries off a printed sheet that included how we women need to give ourselves 30 minutes to meditate or read and stand up to friends who ask too much. Yep, she is right, but the frozen daze on these women’s faces told me something really important _ these women are suffering big time and lessons in self-care is like trying to cure cancer with aspirin. Our group leader was trying her best, but she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t get what is going on. She set up one more voice in the heads of these women that they need to “do” something to make the abuse stop. Really? Victims are victims are victims. It sucks. The only thing a victim can “do” to make it stop is leave. The only thing a young therapist should be teaching a victim of abuse is that it is OK to leave.
  2. Don’t treat women like second class citizens. I love that my local agency hands out free stuff for women of abuse, but frankly the free bread and hygiene products getting handed out sure make me feel like they see me as a victim of life instead of a victim of abuse. I really appreciate the gift of the bread, but I don’t need bread, I need help in protecting my children from their abusive father. I need help understanding a legal system that doesn’t understand domestic violence. I need help recovering from abuse and how it made me feel. I need help dealing with PTSD. Your loaves of bread, make me feel like you see me as incapable. Wow, did I really write that .. Yes, I did. But frankly, treating domestic abuse victims like they are charity cases just keeps the shame alive.
  3. Create programs that help women navigate their way out beyond the emergency shelter. I was financially beholding to my abuser, unemployed, and so on, but I would never have left him if all I had was a temporary shelter. I left because I figured out how to get out without having to go to a shelter. Why do you think so many women stay? This is the alternative? Community living with strangers in a temporary setup with your kids? Who wants that? I learned how to take a blow from my husband. I had some piece of normalcy with my abuser. And hey, I paid the price and got what I got. I’m not saying the shelter wouldn’t have been better for us, but if your agency is saying it wants to help, then maybe you should think about what really will.

Look, I’m not trying to push aside all that agencies do. I use them after all. But, I am saying that there is a mindset that needs changing. Victims are just that, victims of someone’s criminal abuse. They are not stupid for staying with an abuser. They are hurt. And hurt people need help, but the right kind. They need to process the trauma they have experienced.

They need to know that they are NOT the reason they have been abused. They need to know that they can get through this and find joy on the other side. They need to know that there are people, in this crazy evolving world, who understand.

The do not need lessons in life any more or any less than any of us. Think of it this way, imagine what you would say to a person who lost their leg in a car accident in which they were the passenger. Gee, let me teach you how to drive a car so this won’t happen again.

Umm, may be helpful, but that is not what that victim is thinking about.

It’s time to listen to those who have been through it and understand how much it sucks. And if you want to help, well then, ask a victim, “How can I help you?” or simply say, “I’m here.”

I’ll write more about this because there is so much more to say, including, thank you to all those who help and give to victim agencies.

An abuser will use anyone, including children, to control his own world

Dec. 6, 2011 _ I am not a psychologist or have I ever had any training in the field, beyond my college classes more than 20 years ago. But, I believe in the science and I feel that people can be better understood when they are examined through the educated eyes.

A good friend of mine, a social worker, was the first to indicated that my ex-husband and abuser, MAY have a personality disorder. That information proved to be very helpful in my own recovery from abuse and helps me today handle the repeated emotional abuse that my ex-husband inflicts on myself and our children.

I have been through years of therapy, as has my ex, but that statement has never been brought up in that way. Oh, yes, there has been discussions of bi-polar, emotional immaturity, ADHD, impulsivity, poor judgment, medication, and depression, on the sofa of many a therapist about my ex.

My ex-husband’s father killed himself by jumping off a building to end a long, progressive life with bi-polar illness, so often the therapists would assume that my ex inherited that illness.

However, when I took to reading about personality disorder, nothing fit my ex’s behavior more than that. It was shocking. It was also shocking to read that those who suffer on this spectrum that range from narcissists, to sociopaths, and so on, will use anyone, including their own children, to advance their own personal agendas.

And again, the evidence in my case proved this to be true. My ex’s custody suit against me to gain control of our children was way more about him and his current marriage than about our children and what was best for them. I came to realize, as the case progressed and evidence was released, that my ex had painted a much different picture of our life as co-parents to his wife than was true, and the deception had finally caught up to him.

Instead of coming clean about his tales of woe about his unresponsive and sabotaging ex-wife to his new wife, he threw our teen-age children under the bus and filed suit against me to show his new wife that he would finally put to an end the alleged misdeeds of the mother of his children.

His petition read like a paperback work of fiction. He accused me of preventing him from seeing our children, despite his weekly visits, invitations to birthday parties, sporting events, school conferences, Open Houses, and so on. He said that I refused to consult with him about the big decisions regarding our children, even through our phone records showed dozens of monthly text and phone calls between each other and our email accounts were filled with notes back and forth. He said I cancelled visitations with the children, when he cancelled often for work and play, including 4 cancelled scheduled visits with the kids so that he could take a 12-day vacation to Europe … less than a month after he filed suit.

When we got to depositions, and our testimony was on the record, now frozen in time, he painted a much different story, one that was much more truthful and accurate, including telling the lawyers that without me, he could not be the good father he is today and that I was a “wonderful person.” I was so confused to the point of tears and in the arms of my attorney said, “If that is how he feels, then why are we here?”

However, when his wife stepped into the room to answer questions, the picture became clear. She told stories that fit the original petition. She said I refused his attempts to speak to the children on the phone, that I was a “horrible” ex-wife, and I stood in the way of my ex’s ability to bond with our kids. She also said that her husband, my ex, who traveled about 200 nights out of the year as an NFL sports writer, “only occasionally” spent a night away from her home, a town without an NFL team. Not only I, but my attorney was taken aback with that statement, leading my attorney to say “Do you …. understand … your husband’s job?”

But, with that misrepresented statement, and several more like that one by my ex-husband’s new wife, I realized just what had been going on for the last seven months and just why we were going through this very expensive and disruptive experience … my ex was covering for his lies to his wife about our relationship as co-parents and was likely trying to weasel out of pressure she was increasingly applying as their newlywed marriage aged.

As a result, he was willing to use our children, potentially disrupt their lives in such that if he won, our teenage children who had been living with divorced parents for six years and were in their own groove of friends, activities, etc., would have to change houses ever two days. The though of the logistics alone still cause me pain for my children. But, they now have to live with the fact that their father sued their mother for custody. I tried hard to prevent them from finding out, but I don’t know if they did, and I won’t be able to prevent him or anyone else from telling them once they are 18.

I am simply saddened that my ex was willing to use our children in this way. I have seen him use our children as extensions of himself before, but this was pretty low. He never once considered what was best for them and instead was in a jam and decided to use what he could to pull himself out.

Just like physical abuse, the lawsuit was extreme and caused a lot of collateral damage, but he did it anyway. He is willing to do just about anything to handle his own life and get to another day.

I sometimes blame my ex-husband’s wife, but it is hard for that to stick. I’ve been in her shoes and I understand that the stories that my ex tells don’t add up. He is clever enough to cover most of his tracks, but not all and those inconsistencies create confusion and doubt, but in such a way that you feel like you are trying to pin a shadow to the wall.

My ex only shares information about his life with people when and only when he thinks it will advance his daily cause of maintaining his image and creating a false sense of self. He works at it every day, spinning facts, withholding information and out right lying to anyone he needs to to keep his fragile self-esteem from imploding.

He is living the definition of someone with a personality disorder and the reality is that those who suffer from this particular mental illness have very little hope of change. They are too consumed in their skewed and constance sense of self that they don’t believe they have a problem.

Even today, after all the crap my ex has done to me, he will email me to say that has been nothing but supportive of me and responsible toward our children. And I think that he truly believes that.

In the meantime, my children will have to learn to navigate their own lives in the wake of a mentally ill father, who doesn’t see them as individuals, but as objects that he owns. He will likely continue to use them and the best I can do is love them and let them know that they are terrific people who deserve the best.

When they struggle with their Dad, I will let them know that their father loves them in the best way that he can and if it doesn’t rise to the level that they wish for, that I understand. But, life is full of challenges and we can grow stronger in the face of them or we can wither away in self-pity.

I hope that my children rise to the levels of grace, love and forgiveness and I pray that I can be an example of that for them. I hope that I can.