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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Five Years Later: What I'd like you to know about domestic violence

Sometimes I look back and I can’t believe it all happened to me, but it most certainly did.    Five years ago I had Brad forcibly removed from my house.   When I looked back at my posts about what led up to my decision and the day itself, it all came vividly back.   The things he did and said were so outrageous that it’s almost hard to believe; and yet,  I know every word is true.   I wonder how I lived through it all.  I was suffering so much to try to keep the family together, but finally had to give up.  I can honestly say that I don't have any regrets, but I can also honestly say that it has not been easy. As recently as 5 months ago, Brad threatened to beat me up because he was angry about something.

On this 'anniversary', I'd like to explain some things I have learned over the years.  I think the average person says "Why doesn't she just leave?"

This is why:

The victim truly believes the abuser can change their behavior.
Leaving means giving up.
The victim is ashamed to talk about it and ashamed to ask for help.
Leaving an abuser is very scary - the victim feels like they can protect their children more if they stay.
In fact, women are more likely to be seriously harmed or killed after they have left than during the relationship.
The victim feels powerless and overwhelmed.

A key take away from this is:
Just because a victim doesn't leave, doesn't mean you should assume “It can't be that bad.” It probably is that bad and it only gets worse over time.

A few more points that I have learned or experienced first hand:

  • Living with an abuser is chaos and torture. The arguments start randomly and are endless, taking hours and hours of your life away.
  • The victims are always on edge and afraid of the abuser.
  • Even though you might think,‘it’s not that bad’, it is - no amount of abuse is acceptable and it’s okay to leave.
  • No one deserves to be abused, and the abuse always gets worse. It’s not okay – if it doesn't feel right, it’s not.
  • Children are hurt by what they see and hear on and ongoing basis and boys that see it often become abusers. Girls that see it often become victims.
  • Leaving has many issues including emotional, financial, physical, and safety. Leaving needs to be carefully planned
  • Most women (75%) do eventually leave. 
  • If the victim has children, the abuser will still be in the picture to some extent if they leave, but it’s still much better than dealing with him all day, every day.
  • Men that abuse and manipulate their partners will continue to do so. My ex-husband often tries to manipulate me, sometimes verbally abuses me, and threatens me with court action occasionally.
  • Ex-wives are still scared at some level and will give in because it is easier and safer than fighting - I live this still after five years.
What can be done?  The only real answer is to create a plan and safely leave the abuser.  Battering intervention programs really try to help, but the reality is they only help those that want to be helped. Do not make assumptions that if someone has been through the program that they are better. My ex-husband has been through the program twice and none of his behavior has changed. It's only less extreme because we do not live together, so it cannot escalate.

I would encourage anyone in this situation to have an open, honest dialogue with a safe person. If you know someone in this situation, try to gently bring up the abuse and get them to talk. Hiding the abuse and not talking about it will not help.  Saying it out loud and getting support really helps.  There will be lots of tears at first, but hopefully they will be replaced with resolve to get out of the situation.  It takes more strength and courage to leave than you can possibly imagine, but it is possible. I did it and I have never looked back.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Small Victories

I wish I could say that all was well, but the truth is Brad and I are headed back to court.   Based on some issues like this:

05/12/12 – at birthday dinner drop off – argued about shield – said he wanted to beat me – would not drop it – said I was a victim – put his fist in my face, pushed door back, was very threatening, kids saw all of this and Luke was very upset, Brad said this was what was wrong with me and that I would not change (about being a victim)

05/16/12 Wednesday at drop-off - threatened to hurt me and put his fist in my face, put his foot up to my crotch, called me a bitch and a cunt - I threatened to call 911 if he did not leave and he said we’d go back to court to prove he’s a better father, all over the shield because I said Luke wanted to bring one shield back to my house, said I had to quit talking about me and my feelings, stayed until he said his peace, Luke was crying, when I asked for Brad to apologize to Luke, Brad blamed it on me told Luke we would not argue if I would stop talking about me and my feelings

07/16/12 Monday – called asked about kids meeting with boyfriend – asked more questions about future meetings, said I was stupid, I hung up – at his house – said “I’m not going to let you get to your car” – physically blocked my way outside, called me stupid, immature, idiot, said “I know you slept with him on the fourth date”, said I was a slut

08/10/12 – at pickup – asked for the third time if the kids have plans with my boyfriend (Jack). I said “no” – he did not like my ‘attitude’ and called immature and a c-u-n-t when I tried to leave, repeatedly said I should act like an adult – said he has to ask the question because I will not volunteer the information. Blocked my way to the car and blocked car door – punched side of door, threatened to key my car. Said my boyfriend would divorce me if we got married because of my attitude, insists on knowing ahead of time if kids have plans with Jack. Kids were in hot car part of this time and Brad would not let me get in to turn AC on.

08/22/12 Wednesday – at my house – kid drop off (recorded) put fist in my face and said “Oh, I want to do that so bad” - would not leave – stepped outside – mad about when I would not answer questions about my boyfriend – said ”Like I said they can find your body somewhere along the roadway” when I said he had to return the kids on time

I discussed these incidents with my lawyer and we to decided to request a new agreement be put in place that will minimize my interactions with Brad - things like insisting he stay in his car when he drops the kids off, and not calling me on the phone   I want him to go to the anger management class again as well, because clearly it did not stick.

At my lawyer's suggestion, I sent Brad an email with some of these examples and asked if he would meet with me and my lawyer to come to an agreement.   If not, I said, I'll be filing it in court.  He replied after three hours that he would "invite an invitation to court".   That barely even makes sense, but the point was clear he wants to make this as difficult and expensive at possible.   

While I was finalizing the paperwork with my lawyer, Brad apparently got his own lawyer and  beat me to the punch, having me served with papers to modify the arrangements.   He's asking for primary custody, which means  I would get the standard visitation weekend schedule and pay him child support.   Of course he'll never get any of that. It's a  bullying tactic designed to be scare me so I will give him what he wants and who even knows what that really is. His actions have just made me furious and less likely to cooperate when he does express what he really wants. It was not a good move on his part.  The fact that he would even consider asking for that type of arrangement is just ridiculous; especially in light of his bad behavior in the last few months.     I have  occasionally wondered if he is crazy enough to think I would actually go for it - which he might be.  

So now I am living with all of this hanging of my head for the next few months and it's terrible. Necessary, but terrible. It's like getting divorced all over again only without the financial settlement. Part of me hopes we'll get it resolved through mediation and not actually go to court - it will undoubtedly be cheaper that way. On the other hand, I sort of want him to have to face a judge and try to explain his bad behavior and why he says he wants primary custody.  

I think the judges are smart enough to know that people like this do not change. His past history, my notes about his bad behavior, the recording I have, and his likely demeanor in front of a judge are all in my favor. I believe he will not come across well in court, but he thinks he will, because his thoughts and behaviors about anything related to me and the kids are truly crazy.  He thinks he has a right to come into my house, to berate me, to threaten me, and to know when the kids are seeing my boyfriend.   I keep thinking something will change something will get to to him and make him realize that he cannot treat me the way he does and get away with it, but it won't work because he is not now and never will be rational about any of it.   

I'm not really worried about the outcome, but it certainly is very stressful.   He clearly has no idea how his behavior will look to a judge.   I suppose he'll deny it all if we get that far and say that it's my word against his.    He does not know that I have that last one recorded and I don't honestly know if that would make a difference.  He fundamentally feels his behavior is justified and that I am the cause of it.    He doesn't get it and he never will.  The good thing to come of this is that he is actually behaving himself a bit better now that he knows everything will be under scrutiny.    He's still made some negative remarks, and gotten mad, and driven by my house to check on me, but overall it's been better the last month since I started all of this.  This sad part is that even his current behaviour is completely unacceptable, but for me it's a small victory and I'll take it.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

One Year Anniversary

I created this blog one year ago and so much has changed, and yet so much has not.   When I started this, I had a burning desire to get my story out; I was almost obsessed with getting through to the end.  It was very cathartic to go through my journals and describe all the events and my feelings about them.  My family and friends only knew bits and pieces and I had to get the whole thing, all the dreadful stuff,  out of my system.   This process really helped me heal emotionally. But stepping away from the blog at times and not defining my life a domestic violence survivor has also been very helpful.    It’s good to be able to try to live a normal life.   I’ve started dating and have met someone special.     

My day-to-day life now consists of managing four worlds -my kids, my work, my boyfriend, and my ex-husband - hoping and praying that they do not collide too much.   It can be stressful to switch gears between them and sometimes it’s a little jarring.  I have a fair amount of time to myself when the kids are with Brad.  I try to stay busy and not get sad, but it’s sometimes challenging.   I constantly struggle with the fact that I don’t have my kids all the time because he was such an ass.  It doesn’t seem fair, that I am being punished for his bad behavior.   And yet I know, that at least until something bad happens, it’s best for the kids to have a relationship with their father.   They seem to enjoy spending time with him and I try to foster the relationship as much as I can and hide his dysfunction from them.   
He is still verbally abusive to me on the phone and in person.  He has threatened to come over to the house if I don’t answer the phone.  He has occasionally physically threatened me at my house and refused to leave.  One time recently, I told him I was going to call 911 if he did not leave and he said ‘go ahead’.
That’s the bad news.  The good news is, I’m not married to him anymore and I can hang up on him or he does have to leave eventually, so his opportunities to be abusive are greatly reduced.   He is very involved in the kids' activities, which is good for them, but bad for me because I have to see him so much.   Probably seventy-five percent of the time, things are just fine and he does not make any snide comments or say anything abusive.    The other twenty-five percent varies from slightly annoying to downright scary.  

Bottom line, I am still afraid of him.    That has not changed.   He has not changed.   But how I react to him has changed, because I am fundamentally free of him and am moving on with my life and it feels good.   

I genuinely hope that by telling my story I have helped someone in the same situation.  For me, seeing myself in other's story was a major factor in giving me the strength to recognize that it was not going to get better and that I had to leave and never look back. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Another Milestone

Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of when my divorce was final.  Yeah!

I'd like to say everything is great, and in the grand scheme of things it is, but there are still 'incidents'.

For instance, working back in time.

Yesterday 3/29 - pretty sure I saw his car go by my house at lunch time  (I was working at home) to check to see if my 'friend' as he calls him was here.  Later at baseball practice he alluded to the 'fact', in his opinion, that I had seen my friend for lunch.

Friday 3/23 - insisted I take my son to the doctor for an x-ray because he had fallen and bruised his elbow during P.E.   I later pieced together that he was mostly furious that the school had called me about the injury and I had not informed him.  He made a big deal about how I 'screwed up' and how I have to 'make a committment' to tell him about these things in the future.   All typical of his verbally abusive behavior.

Saturday 3/17 - saw evidence of beer drinking in his car.  I don't really know what to make of this, but he is supposed to be in AA and not supposed to be drinking.

Friday 3/16 - asked me if I was going out (implying with my boyfriend) Saturday night.  He asks because he is trying to test me to see if I am getting a babysitter other than him.  He is insistent that no one besides him take care of the kids.  It completely infuriates me and I mentioned that it would be different if he was in a relationship - he would not want to babysit on Saturday anyway and he got even more mad.  He was upset that I 'assumed' something about him and went on about that for a while in a demeaning and angry manner.

Friday 3/9 - called about Luke's hair being messy at school.  Said he told the teacher to take a picture and let him know if/when Luke comes to school with bad hair.  Insisted I make a commitment to fixing Luke's hair in the morning.   The whole conversation was demeaning and abusive in tone.

Friday 3/2 - mad I sent Luke to school with a sore throat. Mad I forgot to tell him about open house.  Said I was forgetful and deserved to be yelled at and talked down to until I stopped forgetting.   Said I was selfish and unattractive and boring and that no one should like me.

Monday 2/27 - on the phone with Luke in the car - said "shut up, shut up" and "you're a terrible mother".  He was mad because I had said one of his threats to Luke was a little strict - I did not countermand it - just offered my opinion when he asked.  (He had told Luke he would not get a birthday party this year if he took his seat belt off on the bus again.)  He later said "I don't want your opinion and you never tell me 'good job' or thank me for what I do."  That's rich - he's upset that I don't compliment his behavior....

Sunday 2/26 - asked if I spent the night at my house with my boyfriend.  Asked if the relationship was still strong and told me he was "hoping against it" because "I don't want that man to meet my kids."

So in a little over a month there were eight fairly stressful incidents and a few minor ones I did not mention.   This proves that the abuse will never stop.   

The good news is that he has not threatened to take me to court in a while.  We are able to coordinate getting the kids to extra-curricular activities well enough.  We are at the final stage in the ramp up of his custody and I have given him some extra time at Christmas and spring break that was not in the decree.  I hope he appreciates this, but I'm pretty sure he does not. He thinks it's his right, so anything I give him is just what was owed him in the first place in his mind.   I have to make peace with this in my own mind.

I tell myself that no divorce is without pain and most couples in this situation don't get along even as well as we do.  The level of pain with him is different because it is abusive, but not necessarily less. 

Overall, I'm so glad to be where I am, rather than were I was.   Getting out of the marriage was simultaneously the most stressful, the saddest, and the best decision I've ever made.