Raw data from survey of domestic abuse victims now co-parenting with abuser

I have been collecting data with a simple Google survey posted on Twitter, here and divorcedmoms.com about domestic abuse and child custody.

After a few weeks on social media, here the results from 33 anonymous responders. I have removed page 14 of the results in order to protect the identity of a few responders who volunteered their names and emails.

Feel free to comment if you would like more information or please, take the survey yourself. It’s only 31, quick questions.

Thank you to those who have already taken it.

Pages 1-13

Domestic abuse & child custody cases without names- Google Forms

Pages 15-17

Domestic abuse & child custody cases pages 14-17 – Google Forms

 

Are You Open About the Abuse?

Dear Readers,

I’m writing a story about women who no longer hide that they are an abuse victim. Are you will to be a part of an article I am writing about this subject for divorcedmoms.com? If so, please msg me at Thriving in Crazy Land on divorcedmoms.com. I would like to interview as many women victims of domestic abuse as possible.

Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,

J.B.Cole

When your abuser is in the public eye, it all gets a lot worse

Sept. 12, 2014 _ Over the last few weeks, I have watched the NFL Ray Rice saga with uneasy interest because not only is it tragic and unsettling just to watch such a video, my abuser is now on twitter tweeting about it as an expert NFL sports writer.

He is on a national stage, a guest on sports radio around the country, pontificating and judging about the players involved and their missteps and crimes.

I try to stay clear of his internet posts and really stay clear of him in general, but I have stumbled on his words a few times in these weeks.

It is enough to make me sick.

I pray that Janay Rice is staying away from all the media attention and internet comments. I pray that she is with people who truly love her and are showing her they care.

Victims of abuse can be retraumatized as quickly as a war Vet jumps from loud noises years after combat. It sucks.

I have shed more unexpected tears in the last few weeks than I have in many years. Suddenly, I’m caught of guard by a comment, a new item or watching my 15-year-old face when he sees the video as it pops up on TV during his morning bowl of cereal.

I wish that we lived in a world where domestic abuser are not allowed to get away with it. I know that Ray Rice hasn’t. In fact, I actually feel very good about the way society is generally responding to this incident. I mean, its very hard not to be shocked by a video of a man cold-cocking his girl in an elevator then dragging her out like a rag doll with little concern or remorse. But, I think finally we are turning a corner on acceptance of this crime. James Brown’s comments Thursday night were so comforting.

But, this incident also shows me again just how much my ex has gotten away with it and lives with little consequences. Even in this case, my case, where there is no he said she said. He is on court records admitting to all of his abuses, including choking me while I was 9 month pregnant, spitting on me, attacking me over and over. Actions that if he worked for the NFL, would get him banned for life. Instead, he has a national soapbox, a national platform, where he gets to play holier than thou and draws an interested crowd of thousands.

No one tells him that he is wrong. No one tell him that he is a criminal who has no right to do anything about this and he should keep his mouth shut. Using this issue as fodder for his public persona hurts me, and his two children, who struggle still with the pain of domestic abuse in their family, and is yet another moral and ethical line he crosses with ease. Just as shocking as prying his hands off my throat or watching an NFL football player punch is wife unconscious.

In the end, I have turned again to what helps me process this, writing and sharing my story.

And remember to be grateful. Grateful that I got out, not away, but tonight I go to bed in my own space that doesn’t include him. I also am grateful that I am not him. It does occur to me that he is like a wax-wing bird flying to close to the sun. If he is ever outed after the pressure he put on player after player, the NFL and now Goodell, the NFL commissioner, well … my guess is that there will be hell to pay.

I am grateful that I don’t have to live with that.

 

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.

 

The rise and fall of an abuser

August 24, 2013 _ As followers of this blog know, I have been in a relationship with an abuser for more than 20 years and have been victimized and survived many forms of abuse found on the power and control wheel.

My abuser, someone I believe to be a narcissist, has used me over and over as a way to build himself up in ways that are both “normal” (such as marrying me and become a part of a family) and abnormal (such as beating me in order to feel dominance).

He has also played me in order to gain attention of any kind, including negative attention, just like a small child might act out. It doesn’t matter to him if he reaps a harvest of admiration, respect, sympathy, or anger, distain, fear or pity. To him, all attention is good.

Healthy people tend to want positive attention, not negative, respect not pity. But, a narcissist will take their “supply” in any form because it all puts them at the center and that is the goal.

For my abuser, he has spent his life trying to find a place of belonging with people, but that place must be a position of power, control, and as the center of the relationship.

Narcissism is the ultimate form of self survival because no matter the environmental circumstance, narcissist can twist it to serve them and provide their supply.

I have been through a lot of drama and trauma with my abuser, my ex-husband and co-parent to my children. When I first met him, he was pumping the well of pity and sympathy. He told his story of a child of horrible abuse and neglect. He was poor, disorganized and tormented, but somehow was rising above his station. He played on half-truths to pull pity out of others, for example he told how his father “committed suicide” on my abuser’s first day of his senior year of high school. The truth later revealed to me by his mother, was a bit different and suicide was not the cause of death. But, my ex learned that when he told the story, people, generally women, dropped their walls and immediately empathized if not pitied him. I was one of those women.

Later, sometimes in the same day, my ex would spin another narrative of a man, who was “raised by wolves” (he used to say with a sly grin), and pulled himself up by his bootstraps to ultimate fame and success (He became a nationally recognized NFL sportswriter for a major media outlet.)

No matter the version of the story, he never gave anyone credit for his success, not editors who gave him a break, not friends or family, or wives and children. And he always blamed others for his hardships. His mother was to blame for his childhood. Editors were to blame for not recognizing his superiority. And of course, me for causing him to abuse me.

When I left my abuser eight years ago, I left a man who began to play the sympathy card with anyone who would listen. I left him because I got skinny and was shallow enough to take his children away from him. To me, he played the “I’m so sorry and you had to leave me” card, which I actually believed for years that he meant.

After his sources of supply changed, his story changed. Now I was the abuser and he left me. He was superior and deserved to be treated that way by everyone, including me. He was the better parent, more reasonable and educated. He did everything he could to get above me in every respect. It was during this time that he sued me for custody of our teenagers (and of course didn’t get much in our settlement more than what he already had.)

But the act of the suit was the high for him, not how it worked out. Because the circumstances don’t matter for my abuser. The details are just the cards he has been dealt and he will decide how to sort it all out to come out on top. In his world, he will always win so the goal is always a moving target.

Today, my abuser is on the downward spiral of life, lost his job three months ago, limited income and just got hit with a $30,000 college bill for our 18-year-old. (and that is just for one semester)

He is on thin ice with his children because they are getting older and have questions about his actions. They love him for sure, but he is falling off the towering pedestal.

God only knows what is going on with his current wife, but my guess is that if he stays unemployed much longer, his wife is going to loose her patiences and begin to question his lies. I know first hand how that can turn out for her.

As my ex faces the rise and fall of his life, I have a good idea of what he is emotionally juggling. But, of course, it is only my guess. I am doing my best to keep my distance as much as possible. As he seeks pity instead of respect, I won’t become a source of that for him. I know better.

And even through he has hurt me in more ways than I can count, I am still vulnerable by my own feelings of empathy for this broken man. I feel sorry for him for sure. And I am still stocked that anyone could go through life so detached from other human beings and only concern themselves with themselves.

However, I have accepted that it is true and my ex is broken beyond repair and his relationship with his fellowman is one I would never want. No matter how much damage he has done to me, he hasn’t broken my heart to love, feel and grow. What a blessing, thank God.

In the end, abusers’ ups and downs through life will never bring them what they really seek, to fill the holes in their hearts, a deficit that they can’t even understand, but know they want.

I used to say to my ex-husband, and it used to drive him crazy when I did, “Please just be real with me.” It made him mad because it is the one thing he will never get.

Victims can learn to understand the play field

Aug. 12, 2013 _ I spent some time this weekend with a friend who is divorcing an emotional abuser and she wanted some advice in putting in writing their parenting plan for their 5-year-old daughter.

As I helped her navigate this complicated form, I was able to relive my journey through family court and the fear and ignorance I had back when I believed the court system would protect myself and my children from an abuser.

Standing in the shower this morning, I realized there was something here worth sharing with all those other women trying to move through family court with an abuser.

(Just a quick disclaimer: I know that don’t all abusers are men, some are women. And I know that all state courts are not the same. My journey was in Florida and it is important to understand your own state laws.)

The first thing to know is that despite any police report or other evidence of abuse, family court will begin the case and hope to stay in a place that believes that both parents are equally entitled to raise the children and that both parents have the same rights to decide how the children are raise.

That is very important to understand. No matter how much you were abused, the family court in Florida wants to believe a falsehood: That a wife abuser can be a good father.

Take a minute to yell about how stupid that sounds and sucks, and then move on. Because, you can’t change that premise, no matter how wrong you believe it to be.

The next part of that premise, is that the family court doesn’t believe that a child should spend more time with the mother than the abusive father. In fact, the family court sort of believes that the fathers in this state have been unfairly treated by mothers and their attorney’s, so they might be bias to cutting them some slack and giving them more importance.

The family court also assumes that mothers are more likely to fight irrationally for control of their babies, like a mother bear who protects her cubs, and that is not necessarily a good thing for the kids. In other words, the court is likely to assume that you are crazy, hypersensitive and unreasonable in protecting your children. They are going to assume that you think your kids are in danger being with your ex because you are an over zealous mother rather than a victim of unthinkable trauma.

And these are the reasons why you need to get it together and in an hurry for court. Because we know that those assumptions are not correct here. Just read through my blog to find one story about just how an abusive man can hurt his kids.

Nevertheless, you have two choices here:

1. Accept this and learn to work within the system or

2. Fight very hard to prove that your ex is dangerous (and by the way, courts, judges, parent coordinators, mediators and even your own attorney do not want you to do this.)

If you choice number 2, you better have a boatload of proof and lots and lots of evidence that your ex has hurt your child in the past. You will also need a lot of money to pay a willing attorney. If you don’t, and really even if you do, the courts aren’t going to like it at all and that means that they are going to question your parenting for having done it.

Courts want to believe that you are willing to finally work with the father of the child now that you are out of the trauma of the marriage.

I know, it is ass-backwards and doesn’t make any sense to a good mother, nor is it easy. And, choice 1 is completely different than choice 2. If you try to go down the choice 1 route, and then switch to choice 2, you look like a liar. If you stay in choice 2, you look crazy.

The only good news is that if you start down choice 2, let’s say with your attorney, switching to choice 1 makes you look like someone who has learned and is willing to accept her situation in the eyes of the court.

Please don’t misunderstand me … this pisses me off to no end. I think the legal system is very flawed and rewards lying and manipulations and doesn’t really deal with what is best for the children, but I learned to accept this and that helped me heal from the trauma and do my best in court.

Abused mothers have a very narrow road to walk through family court and so much is at stake. And my biggest problem with this system is that it further traumatized an abuse victims. Victims have been through hell and are not given a chance to heal and process what has happened to them at the hands of their loved one.

And then, they are thrown into an arena that completely dismisses the abuse, not because they don’t believe them or want to be fair, but because they don’t care. How depressing is that.

Instead abused mothers have to enter court with their abusers and have to wipe away the trauma without help and suddenly pretend that the co-parent on the other side of the room isn’t the guy that beat them senseless. Now that is crazy-making.

And if the mom tries to protect herself from that ass who beat her by keeping distance, she is treated as through she is putting her needs over her child’s.

So, what to do. Learn as quickly as you can to accept it so you can protect your child. It took me therapy, friends and a good lawyer to do get centered enough to handle the court process.

I will write later about how I handled the court system. But, the best thing to do is to find someone who can help you process the unfairness of all of this, because you need to be at your emotional best when facing this process. Good luck and bless you in your efforts.