Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Worst Fears: It's Friday

It was a circus. He once again had all of his witnesses in order, prepared to publicly humiliate me as much as the courts would allow. I work in the field of domestic violence and when writing papers we generally conclude with how to prevent abuse and violence. So why, when so many of us are spending careers writing about how to stop abuse, does it continue at such an alarming rate? Because abusers are fantastic at becoming the victim in the story and making the victim the perpetrator.  It would have taken a perceptive, well trained, person to see the real abuser, and in my case this did not happen until almost the end.
Sociopaths thrive on drama, chaos and refraction. They cannot spend too much time on any one point because it’s so far from reality and untrue. They are on point D when the victim is still stuttering about how A, B and C are lies and then suddenly D is fact and D is truth. The sociopath is very regulated and very in control. Why not?  They are puppeteers and they are dictating everything so they can just sit calmly back. They don’t get anxious, don’t flinch or waver; they look you directly in the eye and LIE. Meanwhile the perplexed and seemingly out of control victims become more deregulated. Listen, we do get “crazy” because orange is not green and no one will listen. They are extremely confident about point D being the truth, they are generally attractive, well dressed/groomed, poised, well-spoken… so… no one challenges them.
My attorney encouraged me to say nothing; we would have to wait for them to go through all of their antics and slowly prove otherwise. I would have to willingly be publicly re-victimized.
I sat back and allowed the abuse to run over me and thru me without saying a word; I would continue to do this for over a year. I became a stronger person; he underestimated me.
By 2pm on Friday I was allowed to have my son only three hours a day a couple of days a week and all day Saturday. I was paying $1,200 per month in child support, I was paying all court ordered therapy (over $1,000 per month) 70% of all the Guardian Ad Litem fees, my attorney, and, by this time, my daughters had turned completely against me. It was recommended that I attend weekly therapy, a weekly alcohol abuse program, and ordered to participate in a full family psychological evaluation. He had no individual responsibilities. Again…I was supporting a family of five with the same job for more than a decade (and health insurance, etc.), he was exremely underemployed, and he was given primary time share of our children! My value and worth to my family was monetary only.
I had two friends waiting for me; I left with them in utter astonishment and in silence.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Sociopath and Control: It's there from the Beginning

I should have seen it. He made me throw away all of my makeup when he arrived at the college where I was enrolled (the best years of my life until now). He gave up Division I scholarships, for baseball, to attend my college 400 miles away, so I listened and obeyed. I looked uglier, I lost my newfound confidence and independence I had found. 

There were other girls. I knew it in my gut, but he defended himself with such passion I had no choice but to believe him.  I believed him.

On our honeymoon, he decided to tell me about those other girls. It was anything but romantic. I was 19, almost 5 months pregnant and in a cabin in a remote location in the Adirondack Mountains. Had I known about his many exploits prior to marriage I would not have married him. Had I known earlier I would have had resources and others to help me process what I was hearing and make a more rational decision. I had given myself over to him and trusted him and he had simply done what he wanted. There were no cell phones back then or internet. We barely had electricity in our cabin. Everything I had believed was shattered, I no longer knew this man I was alone with and I panicked. I had been a strong, ambitious and driven girl and now found myself vulnerable and imprisoned. I wanted to get away so I ran out of the cabin in my underwear. It had rained the entire week so it was very muddy. As I ran I fell, got up and kept running. He was coming after me. I was crying and falling; I didn’t know how to handle all of the lies and deceit and the situation I found myself. I was married now and pregnant; I believed I had no way out. And that is exactly why he waited to tell me. He waited until I was trapped before he told me things he knew would be devastating and/or might provide that last push for me to get out of the relationship. Instead, this was the start of my “documented mental illness.” This was the beginning of systematically providing details of intimacy he had experienced with other women but withheld from me. He enjoyed withholding from me, but letting me know “he was capable,” if only I could…In my sheltered, very na├»ve, 19 year old, hormonal mind, my hopes and dreams of love and romance were crushed.

 The story in the last paragraph appeared in a motion 20 years later, but very different than what you just read.  I just "went crazy" for no reason at all. He had documented this; he documented everything. Times and dates in hundreds of pages of journals. His journaling was not self-reflective and growth oriented, his journals were documentation of everything I did wrong in his eyes, from his perspective and distorted reality. He had a shoe box full of ammunition that he used freely and often. This is not how to cultivate a healthy relationship, but a way to gain the upper hand over another human being.

.....Peter laid out my clothes, Peter told me to color my hair a darker uglier color, Peter cut my hair, Peter packed my suitcases,  he smelled my clothes, he checked my emails, he called me constantly at work, he analyzed me every minute of every day. He was never far from me. This is not love; this is another person controlling another, the opposite of what is natural. The opposite of a life worth living…

Monday, March 19, 2012

General Information

I have only just begun to tell you my story. It gets worse...stay tuned... I could blog every other day, but working a full-time job and several part-time I cannot yet. I think I could blog the rest of my life about what I've endured. It takes so many words to explain something so subtle yet so evil.  When I talk to women who have similar stories they say, I wish he would have just hit me. The public "gets that." What they don't get is that, yes, there are evil people who are predators who feast on those weaker and they are every where. I will not stop talking about this. Keep reading, there are so many out there that need help,  please understand this....

My Worst Fears: It's almost Friday

Seven days is a very short time to accept everything could be gone, completely re-navigate your relationship with a person you've spent over half your life with, learn how family court works, and accept that the most intimate aspects of your life are now public record. All the while appearing unaffected.....My worst fears realized. My husband at the time was prepared: calm, cool, collected, and supported by his family, my former therapist (ultimate betrayal), our oldest daughter and her boyfriend. There were very damaging affidavits and motions. You can say anything in a motion and the other person has to prove otherwise. This is what I mean by prepared. Right from the start my sociopath revealed abuse I had suffered as a child in great detail, he took events that really happened and exaggerated them to the level of a best selling novel or movie.  He also became extremely adept at something called projection. This is where a person takes their own feelings, thoughts and experiences and ascribes them to someone else. I was reading his documents saying to myself….. “but…..that was him….not me…he did that…” Life is so unfair sometimes.

Little did I know that childhood abuse is one reason a child can be taken from their mother. He rang every single custody bell he could; he was prepared and had been coached! Can you imagine sharing painful memories with your spouse only to see them amplified in a court document for so many people to analyze? Cruel beyond words. 

How could this religious powerhouse of a family very nearly gloat over destroying another human being? I can hardly wrap my brain around this.

I met with my attorney and went over the documents I needed to prepare to fight. I asked her, feeling so misunderstood and not fully comprehending the injustice of what was happening, “Doesn’t anyone see that this all came after I filed an Emergency Protective Order? Isn’t it obvious this is retaliation?” All she said is “I do.” If not for her I would not have my son today.
The sociopath I had married had said to me over and over: “If you ever mention domestic violence, if you ever try to leave, I will take everything from you, your children, your public respect, and it will be easy.” HE WAS RIGHT AND HIS THREATS WERE REAL.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Financial Abuse

When dealing with a sociopath, there will always be financial abuse.

I started my master's degree at 29. My X husband already had two. We paid full tuition for his two degrees and had, at that time, almost 100,000 dollars in school debt. I needed to find a job that paid for my tuition to prevent further debt. My father, a former Marine, did not believe in carrying debt. He raised me to live below my means. I had expected to live like this in married life and assumed my financial concerns/expectations would be considered.

I found full time work and had my tuition covered. I took a 3rd shift position so I could complete my homework at work and be home to care for my daughters during the day. There were several of us working this shift for the very same reasons; we were all tired constantly and not living well. I slept on average 4-5 hours a day and my abuser did not hesitate to wake me when he needed something. Sleep deprivation is so detrimental to the brain; it was difficult staying focused to take classes. When I began to perform poorly on tests, I actually had my IQ tested to see if I had a problem. I scored in the top 1% of the population. You must be wondering why a smart women would stay with a man that had such little to offer. [I ask myself that question every day]….Because I could fix it. I just needed to work harder, get a degree to earn more money, and on the treadmill I hopped. And he would say and do just enough to give me hope of change.

A little while into my degree, we learned that we could take out school loans for living expenses. My abuser quit his job and we took out our first living expense loan; just to get us though while he looked for another job. Another 150,000 dollars later I completed my doctorate. He never did find that job. I received a full scholarship for my doctorate and an additional $500 per semester for books. I had to get permission from the graduate school every semester to be allowed to work full time and go to school full time. We absolutely did not need those loans. We were paying his school loans with my school loans and he was a spender. He would spend up to 300 dollars a week just on groceries. He did not think ahead; he needed to feel good in the moment. He really didn't care about debt or even filing bankruptcy. I got paid monthly so things would be tight by the end of the month. A common conversation would be that we had $100 until pay day so please only spend $50. He would spend $250 without hesitation. We bounced checks every month. I finally opened my own bank account. I managed all the money, bills, worried about our future, put out fires; quite frankly he did not want to be bothered with any work. We agreed that we would operate using only cash and I would give him cash every week for groceries. I forgot about the cash and was out of town, I gave him my pin number to get money out. After, he would take my debit card and not give it back. The cycle continued. I would get physically ill over our debt and the future ahead. The spending would not stop!

I make 100,000 dollars a year and am still not feeling the benefits. I currently pay him about $600 a month in child support. During the divorce I paid $1,200 per month, which is part of the reason he did not want anything finalized. He worked a part time job and brought in more money than me. I worked the equivalent of two full time jobs. Expenses during the divorce were split 70(me)/30(him). And together with my attorney fees, I paid over $70,000 and still owe about $12,000.  I am greatly burdened by my debt.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Isolation is Abuse Cont...

I spoke to a friend today, a friend that I haven’t spoken to in years. She said she wondered why we stopped spending time together and wondered if it was her fault. Nope, that’s what happens when you are married to a sociopath. You stop having friends. They cannot handle any relationships that they do not control or at least also have access to. They want you to be attached only to them. That way your life and your sense of worth depend upon that one person. If you have other relationships and enjoyments, that enhance your life, a marriage or a true partner becomes one part of your life, albeit the major part. And you chose to be with this person; you are not coerced or threatened. The relationship enhances your life concurrently with activities, hobbies, friends and family.

Without any other relationships you need them…..desperately. With one attachment, their words and behavior hold an incredible amount of power. Isolation is key to a sociopath. When they become your sole attachment and then refuse to validate any feelings or thoughts, you morph into a creature that looks nothing like your former, pre-sociopath-relationship, self. This is also key for a sociopath: their partner is “crazy.” As the victim becomes more and more "crazy," and without outside comparisons/insight, the sociopath is more than willing to offer "the explanation and diagnosis."
My friend today contacted me because she has heard about my marital abuse and wondered if maybe her current husband was also a sociopath. After our 30 minute conversation (and knowing her partner) my answer is… YES. Why do I say that with such confidence? Because I am an "expert" on sociopaths. Anyone who has wriggled away with any and all strength is an expert. She has five children and I dread her road ahead, whether she stays or leaves. And that, blog readers, is why I write! Friend, there is life worth living on the other side of this man. I promise. From death to life, though, there is an incredible war. Stay focused on winning the war, you will lose many battles. So this may sound like very extreme language for some, and the name I use for this blog. Let me explain why I’m not being extreme, dramatic or exaggerating.
They take a spoon and spoonful by spoonful they take your life. One day you wake up and there is nothing left of you; you are empty.
Lifeless.  A Dead Shell of a Person.
My abuser even suggested suicide on several occasions. I was worth over 200,000 dollars dead. He would be the pitiful widower with a nice size allowance for a while.  They thrive on being the victim. He even wrote a “novel” where his first wife committed suicide. He talked about it with me in great detail and often. I have to admit, I was in such misery I did think about it at times.
I wish I could tell you that a divorce brings freedom from a sociopath. It brings a degree of freedom, but not complete. I have been officially divorced for seven months and have not spoken to him, without a witness, for over two years. Two weeks ago he filed a false report with social services saying I was abusing our 8 year old son. He had planted a memory. They are masterful at creating memories and distorting reality. Of course it went nowhere, but something like that always brings doubt on the victim. This days before he announced he is moving back to Canada. Coincidental? Probably not.  That was the line in the sand for me. I started writing this blog shortly after.
Abusers often try to manipulate the "system" by:
  • Threatening to call Child Protective Services or the Department of Human Resources and making actual reports that his partner neglects or abuses the children.
  • Changing lawyers and delaying court hearings to increase his partner's financial hardship.
  • Telling everyone (friends, family, police, etc.) that she is "crazy" and making things up.
  • Using the threat of prosecution to get her to return to him.
  • Telling police she hit him, too.
  • Giving false information about the criminal justice system to confuse his partner or prevent her from acting on her own behalf.
  • Using children as leverage to get and control his victim.

Monday, March 12, 2012

From the Beginning Cont...

Married life was awful. Having a baby at barely 20 was incredibly hard. Having his parents across the road...stupid. My life was kind of like the show Everyone Loves Raymond, but not funny. I was judged constantly by my in-laws. My X husband "never saw a thing wrong with them, it was all in my head." I worked at a day care and took a 2 week maternity leave after my first daughter was born. I ended up back in the hospital because I had pushed it too much. Peter's dad was the pastor of the largest church in our denomination and we were in the spotlight in that little community. Peter worked as a janitor at that church and back then he seemed to feel some responsibility to provide for his family. I finished school on time, leaving behind any aspiration of medical school and took at full time job as a news anchor at a radio station I had worked at in high school. I had to be at work for my first news cast at 5am. Peter quit his job and went back to school. This became his pattern. Life was hard.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Worst Fears: I'm Broke

I felt completely alone. I had no extra money and no credit cards. I had not talked to my family in over four years. If I did nothing my son would be taken to Canada, who knows how much of my retirement would go to the man who inflicted years of financial suffering, furniture, and me paying an incredible amount of child support. Everything would be taken by my abuser and his family. It amazes me that a very religious family, leaders in the religious community in fact, quoting the Bible constantly, could literally try and destroy another human being who is also the mother of their grandchildren. The depths of disregard for the health and wellbeing of a 6 year old boy still utterly astounds me. The sad thing I’m learning by telling my story is that I’m not alone. Far from it. And our stories are eerily similar.

[A side note: My abuser had cut off from his own family. That is how he operated: completely cut off from anyone that disagreed or challenged him in anyway. He could not handle criticism; in fact he would not tolerate it. It was amazing how he could simply cut people out of his life and would expect me to do the same.]

I called my brother. He didn't answer so I left a message: "I know we haven't spoken in some time so you understand that this is an emergency. Please call me back, please." Then I called Kassie my best friend from childhood, the one who had let me borrow clothes before seeing Peter, and asked if she had any contact with my brother. She said she had talked with my brother's wife on Facebook and would try to get in touch with him. She left him an urgent message. She could not believe what was happening to me. Peter's family was a perfect family.

So now things were becoming very clear, this storm was too perfect to not have been planned. He had insisted I cut off from my family so I had no resources there and could not turn to them, he had spent down our account and left me with nothing. He had made it so difficult to maintain friendships I didn't have anyone who I could turn to financially. He, on the other hand, suddenly had the full support of a brother working in Canadian politics making an excellent salary, parents and a younger brother who suddenly appeared to help out in town.

I continued to walk around the mall. My friend Kassie stayed on the phone with me as I aimlessly walked the mall; she was worried. The mall was closing, it was time to go home….alone. When I walked through the door I was fearful of being alone, for my safety. I felt a wave of nausea sweep over me, and another. I didn't know if I could bear the burden of this pain, injustice and helplessness. I did not know if my mind could handle it.

I called Susan the godmother, who was keeping my son. I was sobbing, I wanted to hold my baby, my little 6 year old. She was immediately "on my side." She saw what was going on and had been seeing it for a while. For the next year she and her husband were some of the few people who did see the truth.

Somehow I finally slept and woke up full of panic and anxiety. Anyone who knows me knows I don't go down easily. I started in again; I was not going to lose my son! I got a hold of the first recommended attorney, but it didn't seem a good fit so I called the other, the former county domestic violence prosecutor. It took her another day before she got back to me, but it was an immediate fit and she was available. I told her I was working on getting some money together.

My brother called me back the next day. After about 5 minutes, he was willing to help me in any way possible. That man and his wife, without knowing much at all, welcomed me back and were willing to do anything to help! UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. He contacted our dad and he called me. Within days my dad had sent me money. It was almost Friday....    

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Isolation is Abuse

I have two brothers. One brother is 18 months younger than I am. He and I are very close and always have been. We lived in a rural community and were not able to interact with friends easily. We played for hours outside every day during our summer breaks. My X husband, the sociopath, was very threatened by this relationship. He convinced me that he was an abuser, could abuse our daughters and convinced me that I needed to end the relationship. This was so far from the truth, but sociopaths don’t operate in truth, only the reality in their minds, and controlling those closest.

Sociopaths subtly keep their victims isolated. There is complete severing from those that are close; it's unnatural. This was someone in my life that might see something, something not right. My brother would ask questions and defend me.  My brother needed to be removed completely from my life. I did not speak to my brother or any family member for four years.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Worst Fears Cont…

I wish I had known more about divorce and custody cases. No one talks about it. Everyone talks about planning a wedding; I had never come across anyone who was planning a divorce and talking openly about it. I know why no one talks now: it is a public failure and it can be such a traumatic process, when you finally get out the last thing you want to do is re-live the experience by talking about it. It is difficult writing about my experience, but I feel compelled to get my story to women who are thinking about leaving a narcissist, sociopath or any sort of abusive relationship. There is a pattern I’ve learned. It’s not ever going to be easy, but there are things that can be done to make it easier. Like I said in my first post, please learn from my mistakes, I made many.
Back to the courtroom
I left the courtroom and a woman I didn’t know pulled me into a side room. She was a domestic violence (DV) advocate and had been sitting to the right of the Judge. She told me to stay in the room; that I could not leave at the same time as Peter, from her observation he was a typical abuser and my safety at risk. I broke and began to sob uncontrollably. She left and brought back a female attorney and a female police officer. They began to explain what was happening to me.
They explained that abusers plan ahead; he had probably been planning this for years and it would take an enormous amount of energy, discipline, money and time to turn the court in my favor. This is what happens to victims: we look crazy because we don’t expect our loved one to turn so quickly and with such venom. It catches us off guard. We have spent years defending our abusers and blaming ourselves, to change this distorted thinking is nearly impossible. Sociopaths thrive on the unpredictable and destabilizing their victims. This was completely unexpected and I was destabilized. We may cry, we may yell, we panic and at the very least become so anxious we cannot hide it. Our babies are being ripped out of our arms, our deepest most intimate moments/mistakes exposed to the public and hard earned money being taken. Our worst fears realized. The advocate, in an attempt to encourage me, said she had never seen a domestic violence victim be so composed; generally we lose control lending credibility to the abuser's claims of  mental illness.
*Show no emotion and say as little as possible*
Then began the search for an attorney and theses DV advocates wanted to help. They gave me the name of a woman who was an expert in dealing with domestic violence cases (“the best”) and the former county domestic violence prosecutor. I left. I could not go home. I had not lived alone since age 19. My 3,000 square foot home was empty and I didn’t know what my abuser was capable of, he had just shocked me in court. My 6 year old son was at his godparent’s house and I was not allowed to see him; I could only call him. How was he dealing with this? My abuser had isolated me (more later), had left me with a negative balance in a checking account, and no credit cards. I was broke and had no idea where I would come up with a retainer for an attorney. I wandered around the local mall in a daze.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Sociopath Cont...

My abuser enjoyed making me feel badly about myself. The worse I felt, the less self-esteem, the more power he had over me. Thinking back I remember seeing the look of pleasure on his face, a smirk at times, when he was critiquing an interpersonal interaction he observed at work or in a social setting. I would sink deeper into shame and regret but now realize I obsessed over the most normal interactions. And he reveled in the power of his corrective words and their influence over me.

I remember playing the HASBRO board game Risk and he was helping everyone else in the game, but he was losing, he was almost completely out of the game. I asked why he was correcting everyone when he was doing the worst. Evidence doesn't matter to a sociopath. He knew how to play the game the best and had special strategies even though the truth showed he played the game the worst. That is like life with a sociopath. It is so confusing and you literally start to lose your mind. It's snowing outside and they tell you it's raining. They are so convincing you start to doubt whether you are seeing snow.

And, in that first paragraph, I've opened up the lack of employment door....

Remember my friend who's husband looked for ways to make her life easier? My husband looked each day for a way to make his life easier.

According to the book "The Sociopath Next Door," by Martha Stout, one type of sociopath is the non ambitious type.

“You are the sort of person who really does not want much of anything. Your only real ambition is not to have to exert yourself to get by. You do not want to work like everyone else does….

...Without a conscience, you can nap or pursue your hobbies or watch television or just hang out somewhere all day long. …
Living a bit on the fringes, and with handouts from relatives and friends, you can do this indefinitely. People may whisper to one another that you are an underachiever, or that you are depressed, a sad case, or in contrast, if they get angry, they may grumble that you are lazy. When they get to know you better, and get really angry , they may scream at you and call you a loser or a bum....
A partner does not have to be rich, just a financier that is reliably conscience-bound."
In my 20 years of marriage to a sociopath, he worked for a total of 6 years (and that is generous). In 2006 our, at the time, 15 year old daughter made more than her father; he made $0. His idea of job hunting was to look at jobs on the internet for about an hour and then return to television. At that time I was working full time, working a second, part time, job as an instructor at another university and working on my doctorate full time.  I didn't sleep much, I didn't have friends and I didn't enjoy life. I spent every "extra" minute with the children and did nothing for my own health and well being. I understand that in this economy it might be difficult to obtain a job, but this was different, this was an almost teenage rebellion against working and helping to support a family of five.
The Sociopath Next Door

Monday, March 5, 2012

Withholding. The Silent and Most Powerful Form of Abuse.

I lived 20 years in a loveless marriage: one without love, affection or intimacy. How do you “prove” you are being abused when you say he systematically ignored me? In childhood it is called neglect, in adulthood lack of intimacy. To me, it is abuse.
My Sociopath did not touch my face, kiss me, say loving or endearing things, or compliment me, for years at a time, and he did not ever look at me during sex. His face most often displayed disgust to me.
Disgust is the emotion that expresses a reaction to things that are considered dirty, revolting, contagious, contaminated, and inedible. It is divided into two categories: physical disgust and moral disgust. Disgust is associated with a distinct facial expression and a drop in heart rate.
Over the years I was conditioned to believe I was a disgusting person. I reacted to touch like a beaten horse. I recoiled if someone tried to hold my hand or hug me. I had trouble giving my children affection. I was disgusting, why would anyone want to even look at me? If he saw me naked, he looked disgusted. I covered myself, I was ashamed of myself. This may sound ridiculous, but remember I married at age 19 and he was my first boyfriend. I had nothing to compare with this relationship and actually believed what was being shown daily. I believed myself to be unlovable and he would tell me no one would ever tolerate, in me, all that he tolerated. I would be alone the rest of my life if not with him. I believed him.
Think about an experience where there was tension in a relationship whether it’s a co-worker, roommate, friend or neighbor. There is an unfortunate event and then awkward interactions. It brings stress into your body and you may dread impending interactions. I lived through a marriage where if I made a mistake, according to my Sociopath, I was punished by being ignored. It might last a few hours, few days, or a few weeks. For fear of being ignored I couldn’t relax. I changed myself to please my abuser so he would give me attention. It was like I stood in my marriage; I did not collapse into the safety and security of a loving partner. Friends and family did say things, at times, that stuck and called into question my quality of life. One statement stands out: “When my husband and I get up in the morning, he asks me what he can do to help me and make my day go smoother.” I could not even imagine someone wanting the best for me: A GIVER, NOT A TAKER.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Worst Fears

July 2010
Peter had finally left the house and moved into an apartment. He was gone, at last, but one night a few weeks later he threatened that he would still “come and go into the house as he pleased, the police had told him so.” The morning after his threat, I filed an Emergency Protective Order, knowing that recent separation and impending divorce is the time in which most intimate partner homicides and homicide-suicides occur. I truly feared for my life and even had friends stay in the house with me during this time period.  I filled out the paper work, the family court judge saw me, and a date was set for a hearing a week and a half later.
[I’ve written papers about this homicide-suicide intimate-partner phenomenon (am considered an expert in the field) and Peter met and continues to meet the criteria of a perpetrator of intimate partner homicide, homicide-suicide, and filicide-suicide.]
What happened on that day, a week and a half later, still sends, what feels like, electrical currents through my body. He appeared in the court room (in a new suit) with his father and two brothers, also in suits. My former therapist and an attorney were also with him. This was the therapist he required I see in 2007 and who he had seen prior to me. He and this therapist “had decided together that I needed therapy much more than Peter and he needed to begin seeing me twice a week for an hour and a half each session.”  Little did I know this was the beginning of the set up: in cases of custody no records are confidential, all parties have full access to therapy records, medical records and any other records available.
In the courtroom, sitting with a social services advocate, I was served a 35 page motion and an Emergency Protective Order filed against me “protecting” my abuser AND my children from me. The motion contained every bit of information from a 20 year marriage that could humiliate me. Everything right out of the gate; he did not hold back at all. He had taken nuggets of truth, or just events with no truth attached, and had embellished to a degree that they had become a separate reality: HIS reality. He accused me of the worst mental illnesses, I’ve learned, in child custody battles, outside of schizophrenia. He accused me of alcohol abuse and of abusing all three children. My eldest (19 at the time, ironically the same age I had become pregnant with her) had signed an affidavit saying my youngest, a son (6 at the time) should not ever be left alone with me; my abuser should have sole custody.
He was seeking sole custody, my retirement, child support of $1,500 per month, most of the furniture in the house, the car, and alimony. I learned later he had secured moving trucks and had planned to move back to Canada with his family that day. As I read I realized everyone was watching me and waiting for my reaction. I realized, in that second, that everything in my life could be taken from me. My worst fears were becoming MY reality. Everything depended upon my reaction. I did not cry, I kept my face stoic, I looked forward, I did not talk to the social worker, I simply passed her the papers and I waited……
We were called up to the tables, much like the show Law and Order. His entourage sat directly behind him. I sat with my social worker, who was younger than me. His extremely aggressive attorney began and asked for the first witness to be called. They were going to begin stripping me of everything. I raised my hand and waved it a little and asked his honor if I could be heard. As his attorney continued to bellow, I stood. The Judge stopped his attorney and I said, “what is about to happen is unfair. I am asking that your honor give me time to obtain an attorney to fight these false accusations and prepare a defense.” The Judge agreed and began the discussion of foster care. He asked if there was any person Peter and I could agree to watch our 6 year old son and our 16 year old daughter. We agreed on the children’s godparents and I called. Thank goodness Susan answered the phone and agreed to take the children. I had one week to fight.