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

 

This morning, finally, maybe the beginning of social un-acceptance

Sept. 10, 2014 _ I think we might have turned a corner. I’m holding my breath, hoping its true.

Have we, our society, our male role models, reached a point where enough is enough and standing up against abusers is the right thing to do instead of an act not done in polite circles? God, I hope so.

As I’ve followed twitter and news media on the punishment of NFL player Ray Rice and his violence against his wife, I’ve been in tears a lot. It is nice to see players and other men call the abuser out over and over and leave the victim alone. She is not being blamed or shamed because of what he did.

Player after player have posted their comments about the punishment Rice received, and they are blunt and to the point.

Bronco’s player Chris Harris tweeted:

“The NFL should have zero tolerance for domestic violence. There is never a reason for any man to be violent towards any woman.”

Bless you Chris. Your words help so much. Your words will alone will stop some guy out there from hitting his wife. Your words will help heal a victim who thinks she caused the abuse. Your words will help put an end to this crime. Your words will save a life.

Abusers abuse because they can. Because they don’t loose too much if they are caught. Look at Rice. Convicted with a slap on the hand, two game suspension, endorsements in tact. … At first … just a few days later, the consequences of the choice to abuse just skyrockets for Rice. And other abusers are watching.

I know that my abuser, my ex-husband, and national NFL writer, is watching. He said the same stuff as Rice. He is sorry. He is horrified by his actions. He has to live with this horror. He, he, he, he … Never though does he say a thing about what I live with. Nightmares. Flashbacks. Shame. Broken dreams. …. Rough, yes. But, its hardest when I stumble on my ex’s latest sports show or column where he pontificates about the abusive NFL player … hard to watch, so I try hard to stay away from that. Because, when he does that, I know my abuser thinks he got away with it, and therefore, will do it again. Maybe not hit me, but he might sue me, or worse, hurt my children.

This morning, I have a little hope personally that my abuser will keep his head down and leave me alone. This morning, I am comforted by complete strangers, men of the NFL who are standing up and saying no more. This morning, I am reminded that my ex can hurt me again, but I am a survivor who has a good life despite him and because of me, my loved ones, my friends and family. This morning, I am hopeful that we are moving in the right direction and maybe we can put an end to this crime.

Abusers aren’t bad husbands or out of control guys with anger management problems. Abusers are criminals and need to be told over and over again, “NO. You can’t do that.” And they need to hear it from everyone. Not just their wives. That is how it will stop.

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.

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.

 

 

Accepting my journey, my abuser and who I am

Aug. 4, 2013 _ Today, I’m sitting on my sunny back porch, tapping away on my laptop and enjoying the birds flying around my back yard.

My children are with me, safe and sound. My abuser is no where near me.

I am content today and not afraid and when I am feeling this way, I’m grateful.

I don’t always feel this way.

As you know, my ex-husband and the father of my children is an abuser and likely a narcissist, who has spent years and years lashing out at me in so many horrible ways. The worst experience by far, even worse than being strangled, was a frivolous custody suit he filed against me 5 years after our divorce. I was never so scared as I was in those months during that suit.

I had to imagine a future that sent my innocent boys to live the majority of the time with my abusive ex-husband, who has never done anything solely for the sake of his children unless it also suits his needs, narcissistic supply or was some necessary variable in some fabricated plot he was spinning.

But, all of that is past me now, or I should say FOR now. Who knows when he will strike against me or my children again.

I’ve learned, after 20 some years of life with an abuser, that I don’t control his actions in the slightest and therefore, I never know when he will attack again.

I accept that there is nothing I can do to alter my ex-husband’s choices, though for years I believed that I could. He is who is he is, a very dysfunctional and dangerous man, to himself and others and the best I can do is avoid him at all costs.

I used to try to “get back” my life before abuse and get back on the path I wanted to be on … marriage, grandchildren, growing old together …. yada yada yada.

I know now that my path is different than that. And finally, I’m OK with that.

I am grateful.

My path today includes lawyers, counselors, parenting plans, and careful walks with children who are confused by their family.

My path today includes learning to live well despite having PTSD. My path today includes feeling the feelings I have tried to stuff for so many years.

My path today is more about acceptance than I’ve ever had before.

I am a strong woman who is a survivor and I continue to find the good twisted up on this journey.

God, thank you for my children. Wow, I’m glad they are here. The abuse I took from their father sucked, but is so outweighed by the delight of these kids.

I set out today, with new resolve to work hard on this issue that faces our country. I want to spread the word, with other victims today, that domestic abuse needs to stop.

It starts with legislation that prevents abusers to have custody of their kids and prevents forced contact with victim and abuser. It includes shaming the abuser by his or her peers so that they don’t believe they can get away with it any more.

The path I am on now is one that includes pulling together as many people as I can to help end this horrible crime and put families back together.

Together, we can make a difference. Together our voices matter. Together, we victims of abuse, we survivors, can let others know that domestic abuse should not be tolerated anymore.

 

What does domestic abuse look like ….

Did you have these men in mind?

Chris Brown, singer

Sean Penn, actor, director, Haiti fund-raiser and advocate

Charlie Sheen, actor

Aaron Hernandez, NFL football player

Sean Connery, actor

Eminem, singer

Roman Polanksi, director,

Woody Allen, director, actor

Ike Turner, singer

Mike Tyson, boxer

Harry Morgan, actor

Glenn Campbell, singer

Tommy Lee, singer

Bobby Brown, singer

O.J. Simpson, football player, actor

Wesley Snipes, actor

Darryl Strawberry, baseball player

Jason Kidd, NBA star

John Daley, golfer

Mel Gibson, actor

Yanni, musician

Floyd Mayweather Jr., boxer

Tommy Mottola, music executive

Pete Doherty, rocker

Chad Johnson, NFL football player

Terrence Howard, actor

Deion Sanders, NFL football player

Dennis Rodman, NBA player

50 cent, singer

Josh Brolin, actor

Gary Busey, actor

Nicolas Cage, actor

Jose Canseco, baseball player

Randy Moss, NFL football player,

Eric Roberts, actor

Micky Rourke, actor

Christian Slator, actor

Rob Morrison, TV News anchor

 

 

 

 

 

What will stop DV

June 30, 2013_ After years of surviving the trauma of domestic abuse, both emotional and physical, and learning to manage the hurt, damage and pain of my walk being attached to a domestic abuser, I stand today wishing there was a way to make it all stop, for me and for every other victim of this senseless abuse.

Often, when my ex is in the throws of pulling us over the cliff of abuse, I feel a panicked instinct to hold back myself, my kids even my ex from going over the cliff of destruction that abuse causes everyone. My ex makes choices in the moment of his life and doesn’t always think through to the end of how his actions will effect others or even himself.

Abusers, and my ex is not an exception, don’t understand how to live in relationships with others so they watch others and play at being a role. Sometimes, when they have learned well, they can mimic a healthy relationship for a while. My ex has learned how to be a good employee for example and he does this “work” because he wants a certain outcome for himself _ the job that gives him positive feedback. He eats up two forms of feedback 1. Adoration and 2. Fear. That is what he is always seeking from the relationships in his life. Those in his orbit must give him one or the other or both. If they don’t, then he will work to get them to or he will eventually dump them and move on.

I work very hard to provide neither for my ex because I believe today that it is best for all of us, my children, him, his wife, if I am not in his orbit at all. Unfortunately, because of our children, I still am no matter what I do. So, I can never totally leave.

This journey is difficult and taxing on me and my kids. I am emotionally re-traumatized all the time because I care for the well-being of my children. I care that my ex will take us all over the cliff again and again for no good reason. When my ex sued me for custody of two teen-age children, I knew that he was making a horrible decision for himself and not just me and the kids.

I knew that he would not win all that he sought. I knew that had he spoken to me first about what he wanted, I would have come to a form of agreement. I knew that he would have to pay a boat load of money and I knew that the kids would resent the court order that would then dictate their lives. I knew that custody suits don’t leave anyone without scars and I knew that it was a horrible parenting decision to do it.

I also knew that the case would drag on for months and would end sometime in my oldest son’s 17th year, so close to 18th birthday when legal custody dissolves.

To me, the custody battle was a pointless, damaging jump over the cliff that would hurt all of us deeply.

I believe that to my ex-husband, it was an opportunity to dominate me causing me to fear him and it was an opportunity that would be lost with my child’s 18th birthday. He had to act fast in order to capitalize on our child’s minor age and get the last drop of abuse that he could out of me over this.

My ex also found a way to dominate another human being legally and that matters a lot to him. The one thing that kept him from abusing me physically or any other way, was if someone found out that he was breaking a taboo and stained his image. Abusers, and specifically narcissistic personality disorder abusers, link every choice they make back to their own thoughts on how they think others perceive them.

For a very long time, my ex didn’t want anyone to know that he would hit me. He believed that if he was labeled an abuser, he would loose his status in his society. He saw professional football players, many who he wrote about as an NFL national sports writer, get beat up in the press for their abuses of their girlfriends and wives, so he was afraid of that happening to him. He also was able to read that in polite circles, DV didn’t happen. So he didn’t want to be outed.

I didn’t want it outed either. First because I was trying to keep a fantasy going that we could be happy. Then, because I didn’t want my children to have a bad childhood. Until, I finally wised up and realized that silence is what keeps DV going.

In the quiet, hidden corners of relationships, abuse happens everyday because abusers know completely that they can get away with it … that it won’t sink their reputations.

My ex eventually told his new wife that he hit me, but he did it through tears of regret and his own victimization. Of course, I wasn’t there, but between court testimony and his own story he told me, he explained, I’m sure very effectively that he was essentially abused by me and found himself with no good choice but to hit.

An I imagine, because I’ve been there, that his wife is holding onto the fantasy that her husband is not a monster who would hit his wife.

And when his wife bought into the idea that I was evil, of course she would deem me an unfit mother and wonder why my ex wouldn’t want to protect his children from me with a custody fight. Of course, I don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of their lives, but I did hear some pretty unbelievable spin during a court case and heard my ex’s wife speak through clenched teeth about my short-comings as a mom and ex-wife.

And of course, the reason why my ex was able to push and push a custody battle for teen-agers who had lived quiet well and happily for five years post divorce is because he could. Lawyers don’t care about the damage the suit would do to my children. Judges don’t question why a case has been filed even a tenth more than they just judge the allegations. But worse, friends and family don’t want to get involved in the dirty laundry of others.

Most people struggle with their own dramas that they don’t want to engage in others. It is a sad state of our society that we all don’t want to help each other out more. It is so easy to just sit and judge from the position of well, I may think what I think with limited informations, but I don’t want to engage.

As a victim of domestic trauma, I can’t tell you how little I am asked about it. I know it is because people don’t feel that it is an acceptable subject to discuss for any of us. I wish I could tell them, that I want to talk about it. It is helpful to do so and helps me feel it instead of bury it, where it continues to do damage.

I wish people would look at my ex and tell him to his face to stop hurting his ex-wife and children. If they did and didn’t buy any of his bullshit spin, then he would stop abusing. It really is that simple. Abusers abuse because they can. The day they will stop is the day that it because socially unacceptable to abuse …. even more than the legal status of abuse.

The day my ex will stop abusing me and his children will come when he is shunned by people, not even everyone, but by most for doing it. For every person that believes that giving him the benefit of the doubt is helpful, he grows stronger in his belief that he can get away with this very unhealthy coping skill. And that is all that it is for him, when he is struggling emotionally for whatever reason, dominating someone makes him feel better.

If you want to help in the fight to stop domestic abuse, then start by letting the abuser know that it is not OK with you how he chooses to cope with his pain.

Healing through feeling

June 22, 2013_ This morning my pain is intense and my PTSD has been triggered. My children are coming home tomorrow after two weeks with my abusive ex-husband and I am flooded with worry.

My anxiety is not the result of any fact that I know today. I haven’t received a call from my children that they have been physically abuse, or even emotionally hurt. But, my anxiety is high nevertheless.

When I have the time to dig into those feelings, I try to understand what is going on inside my head and my heart. I don’t want to. I would rather avoid facing the wounds inside of me that are caused by having a relationship with an abusive, narcissistic man. But, I know that if I don’t face it and let myself cry,  then I will not be healthy for who knows how long.

So, I sit in the morning quiet and let myself go there:

1. After 20 years plus with this man in my life, I am still in shock and want to believe that the bad half will go away or was all some joke and the good half will be back. I married this man and procreated with him because I wanted it to work, have a family, have what everyone else wants: A peaceful, happy family life to live out. I ignored all the signs, all the lies and hurtful actions of him early on or chalked it up to immaturity. Later, when it got really bad, I put on my “I can love him enough to fix him” hat and dragged us both through an army of therapists … rarely speaking about abuse but instead focused on cooperations, compromise and communication. I believed that the abuse was a symptom of our bad marriage. If the marriage got better, than the abuse would stop. It is hard to believe that I still cling to the idea that some how some way, he will change.

2. Mostly, though, I hear the far off voice in my head that explains how it will go… I will always be a target in the sights of an abuser because, I’m here. That brings me so much pain. Imagine what life would be like if your rapist lived around the corner and had court-ordered access to you. That is what is feels like for me every day. Sure, I can stuff it down a lot, or hide from the thoughts for periods of time, but mostly, I live with the dull ache of a trauma victim who can never quite feel safe. Most people who are not trauma victims or abuse victims believe, falsely, that I should be able to just get over it and move on. I wish with all my heart that I could. I’ve tried, hell, I keep trying. But it isn’t that easy or simple.

I live with an altered life than before meeting my ex-husband. I will always be vulnerable to his self-serving games in some degree and there is not much I can do about it. Because, and it has taken me years of therapy to understand this, I don’t control it. I can only accept it. My ex is an abuser and will always be and only he has control of that. No matter how much I try to get away from him, to run for safety, I will always be tied to him through out children. There is no final peaceful end zone. I now have one minor child and one who is 18 and just because the courts are no longer involved in our older child, doesn’t take away the vulnerability. My ex continues to manipulate our oldest for his own gain and at best, I can only watch in horror and hope that God and my love will help him handle it and understand it and not because co-dependent to a father who really only cares about himself.

3. My stepfather was emotionally abusive and treated my mother and her children badly for 25 years. As a child, I had hoped and believed that one day, the man would be exiled from our lives because my mother would wise up and leave the man. It never happened. Peace for me and my siblings finally came in only two ways: emotional detachment from my mother and the death of my mother. My mom died at a relatively young age and that is what finally brought the abuse by my stepfather to an end for me. I could finally turn away from him for good and never experience the abuse again. I was able to finally process and heal, but it came at such a great cost. I often will say that I would give anything to have my mother back, but I sometimes wonder if I would sell back the peace I have away from my stepfather’s abuse.

4. Most of our society, close friends, lawyers, judges, etc., don’t understand the abusive/victim relationship and just how emotionally damaging and unfair it is. Maybe it is because, like me, no one can quite believe that anyone, especially someone who looks normal, can be so cruel to another person, or a member of their own family. Whatever the reason, I can’t tell you how re-traumatizing it is to have to battle the misunderstanding of the hell that I deal with. Abusers are excellent at redirecting blame and dismissing and minimizing abuse. There is nothing more gut-wrenching that trying to sort through those feelings as a victim. I already blame myself of the abuse I suffer in more ways than I can write. When a loved one, or an attorney or counselor buys into the notion that it takes two to tango or that now that the marriage is over, the fighting should end, a victim just feels lost and hopeless all over again.

My ex shifts the history of our life over and over to suit his current story. His story about himself play out in just a couple of ways, a. his is a miracle who somehow made it through a horrible childhood in which he was seriously mistreated by a drunken mother and absentee father so the standards for his conduct today are lower than everyone else. He should be applauded for everything that he has accomplished since he did it on his own and if he doesn’t know how to act within a family or a circle of friends, he has a good reason. OR b. he is so mistreated by (fill in the blank) that he is entitled to strike back with whatever means he has.

My ex doesn’t stop, ever, to think about how his actions effect anyone, ever, except how they might treat him as a result. He creates a stream of pity and awe from those who he wants to keep around in order to maintain a stream of “love” toward him. This is like the one way street of harvesting a crop. A farmer doesn’t fertilize the field because he wants the corn to feel better or be treated well. He spreads the BS so that the plants will produce for him. This is the same for the abuser.

He also stomps on anyone who he thinks he can in order to shore up his self-image of power and superiority. And only he knows the delicate dance of self-thinking and image project that is necessary to be both passive and aggressive  without ruining the whole think.

5. I used to play a pretty critical role in this dance, I still do in fact, but I’m not in control of most of it. But, when I was married and shortly after, I thought I was able to touch the right nerves to prevent abuse. But, I wasn’t. I used to get hit a lot when I was married. Soon after, my ex was afraid that I would tell what he did to me, so he switched his story to show the world that he was a great ex-husband .. he got pity from others and kept me from telling on him. He found a way to benefit from it all and I thought it worked. Our children had civil parents in divorce and that was my incredible hope for them.

The role I played, and now see, to keep it tolerable …. I would always real him in when I saw he was headed toward hurting me or the kids. I would talk to him and face him. I would confront him and “teach” him … because afterall he always played the role of poor nearly orphaned boy who didn’t know better. I believed him. So, I would coach him or instruct him that his actions, he may not realize, is hurting some people.

When he was unduly harsh in punishment with our children, I would calming speak to him about why that wasn’t a good idea from one single parent to another … and he, would listen, but never agree. I would then make some statement about what consequence might come, maybe to him, if he were to ever hit the kids. Dropping hints that he might not like a visit from the police.

Sometimes, I would try to appeal to his better nature of why he shouldn’t say move is “new” girlfriend into his house the day after he introduced her to our children. Or maybe he hasn’t thought about how that might look to a judge. Sometimes, I would stand firm on issues that I believed were absolutely in the worst interests of our children, like spending weeks away from home in his sole care, where they would have no escape if he began to hit.

But, these “games” were extremely draining and got a lot harder once he married and had a new supply of attention. It became harder for him to keep going with the story-line too. She was very insecure, understandably so, and couldn’t understand why he spent so much time touching base with me. So, the story had to change.

He started making false accusations toward me and picking fights that were based in fantasy. He screamed at me one day in a parking lot, that I had abused him. This was strange only because he never denied the abuse before. Not in front of attorneys, not in front of counselors, not even at a spouse abuse intervention group where he was suppose to be in therapy to stop hitting me.

I knew then, the I was in over my head. I couldn’t keep us with the speed of his spin or the level to which he would sink. I wouldn’t go there. I may have been playing a game with him, but it was with purpose to protect my children and stop abuse. I honored him when he seemed “healthy” and I played to get us to authenticity. I had hoped that by trying to see thinks his way, although I didn’t have faith in it, we could stay somewhat healthy as co-parents.

I set boundaries, not because I was some broken controlling bitch, but because without them, a lot was at stake for us all. I didn’t want to have to call the police and ruin all of our lives. I didn’t want my children to live with the result of going over a cliff because my ex didn’t have the best judgment.

But, judgment wasn’t the problem and trying to mitigate that deficiency was a mistake and pointless.

Instead seeing a woman trying to stay ahead of expected abuse, both emotional and physical, for herself and her children, society sees a woman who is crazy, holding onto the past, and bitter.

6. Family law is broken and society is responsible and that sucks. Call me what you want, bitter, resentful, damaged, crazy … it doesn’t hurt me as much as the reality that for me and my children, we will always have an abuser in our lives … a man who will may hurt us for any reason at any time and with no warning. A few miles from my home, my abuser lives and that thought can cause my anxiety to skyrocket. It is not fair that I am forced to co-parent with a man who has no limits to how he will hurt me if it suits him. But, it is true and I do not have the power to change it. When we first divorced, I moved 6 hours away from my abuser. Less than a year later, he moved three miles from my home, tried to socialize with my brand new friends, and lied to our old ones. He sued me twice, first for child support reduction despite his new job that more than doubled his income, and then for custody of our teenagers five years after our divorce. He abused me in this way because he could and still can. He is allowed to use the court to harass me as much as he wants and as long as he has friends and attorneys who tell him he is right then he will keep it up. I have to live with this daily and it sucks.

7. My ex is not well and won’t likely get well so this is my life. It casts a dark, muddy light on it that I would do just about anything to make go away, except the few actions that would work … walking away from my life or my children. I wouldn’t give up the children, their birth, their happiness for anything in the world. Nothing would cause me more pain. I have sacrificed my life in many ways for theirs. Oh not like some hero … far from it … I have been a mess many times with my children. Weak and broken and lost. But mostly I can be strong for them and I strive to be stronger every day. I want the best for them, even if I am unable to give it. I am never unwilling. I pray that God will protect them where I can not. I pray that God will lead me where I don’t know where to go. I seek professional help so that I can learn how to navigate this for them. I don’t want the only answer for peace to be death or an end.

8. My heart breaks for my children. My first born is such a sweet young man who only wants everyone to get along and doesn’t understand why that doesn’t happen. He wants his family to be normal and together and he doesn’t want any more trauma in his life. He is hoping that there is something he can do to make that happen … just like me so many years ago. He is on his own journey that will have more pain and that he won’t likely understand and I wish I could find the right words to help him, but I don’t know what they are.

My children didn’t get the best childhood that they deserved and I’m like any other mother out there …. I wanted them too. My guilt runs deep that I gave these children their father and then gave them a divorce and then didn’t stop the rest of it. I didn’t have the power to do it and I am so sad about that. My children are precious and special and when they get home tomorrow, they will have feelings that they don’t understand … what they are, I won’t likely know … but I can guess.

At best, they will long for a single household, married parents and peaceful family relationships. At worst, they will have to decompress from whatever emotional hoops their father put before them and now have to try to figure out if I am the enemy or the mother they have always loved.

So, I sit here this morning. Crying and writing. Trying to let out the feelings that keep me up at night and cloud my mind. I want to have the normal life that others don’t understand why I don’t have. I want to live in the moment and enjoy. I want to go back and start over and pick the person who is healthy and not an abuser. But, I can’t. I have to live with that mistake forever. And I have to fight the urge to run from my feelings and pretend. I have to fight trying to think my way out of this mess and just feel how bad it feels. I have to fight wanting to “do” something to fix it and just feel it.

And I have to live with the truth that I am different than others. I am not married to my soulmate or best friend. I am not without damage. I don’t trust people much, but so desperately want to. I have a deep disappointment that will never go away and I will loose people in my life because of it. Not many people want to hang out with someone who isn’t normal.

 

 

Wanted: 50 stories of survival

April 1, 2013_ I’ve decided to write a book about survival. 50 stories of life after abuse from 50 survivors. No joke.

Writing has been my therapy as I live my life forever connected to a narcissistic abuser. I have be able to process here on this blog a lot of the pain and trauma caused by my ex-husband’s actions.

But, this problem of domestic abuse seems to be growing and that troubles me. I also struggle with the hopelessness of domestic abuse and the legal systems around the country that allow it.

So, I’ve decided to collect stories of abuse and survival from others and interview at least 10 lawmakers around the country about domestic abuse and try to figure out why so much of this is still a large problem.

If you would like me to consider your story or you would like to nominate someone else, please comment here. I need the person’s email address. Your comments will remain confidential. I will not publish anyone’s identifying information.

Also, if you know of a lawmaker who you think should be included in this project, please pass the name on.

Let’s work together to begin to understand this horrible issue and finally put an end to the abuse that dominates so many relationships.

If you can help by donating some funds to allow me to do this work, please consider making a contribution by clicking on the bottom at the top of the page.

Thank you.