I hope this isn't against the rules. I am sharing my story here in hopes that other victims will help me get the word out.
Nutshell version: I've been raising my son in an abusive relationship since he was born. I've tried to divorce this man three times. I thought I was doing the right thing at first by trying to make a bad relationship work. Then I thought I was doing the right thing by staying so that I could protect my son from the terrible things his father did and said. Now I realize I waited way too long, everything I suffered was for naught, and his father is extremely possessive and won't let go.
I've gotten us to a safe place, with family and friends around us, but he is not letting go easily, and I am not making the money I used to make.
Not counting previous divorce attempts, I have accumulated $85,000 in legal fees in two years. I've only been able to pay half of that, and that was only because I refinanced my home and took cash out. The rest I am paying for in weekly installments. But it is accumulating faster than I can pay it down. The bill on average goes up $2000 every week, and I can't even afford to pay the $500/week I am paying now.
The battle has only started, we will be going to trial in 4 months. That's at a minimum another $35,000. Since it is a trial it will end up being a lot more.
We've tried mediation. We were the first case in the mediator's 20+ years in the business that he had clients would could not agree on a single thing. We broke his 20 year streak.
We've tried settlement documents. It is his way or the highway. There is no negotiating with him, he wants what he wants and nothing will make him budge.
He has made it clear he won't stop fighting until he gets what he wants. I can't stop fighting to protect my son.
Ordinarily, I am a very independent person. Ordinarily, I would be ashamed to ask for help. I've given up every luxury and every penny goes to paying for this that doesn't go to my son's activities and my bills.
My lawyer wants to meet with me. We increased payments one month ago, they want to increase them again. I can't. I've got nothing left. And now I have to go to trial. I don't know how I will do it.
He knows that I don't have infinite resources. But he has a rich brother that keeps funneling him money. He is trying to wear me down.
He pays every penny of child support, but refuses to agree to any of my son's activities, so either my child doesn't participate (and he is an only child of a working mom, so when else will he get to play with kids his age?) or I pay for it all myself. So I pay for it all myself.
He refuses to accept how I provide him with medical receipts, so he doesn't pay them.
He attacks my family members and says terrible things about them to estrange my son from them, and it's starting to work. It's breaking my heart.
He is trying to break down my support system and leave me in despair.
It is working.
I've run out of resources, I've run out of hope.
Any donation I collect here will solely be applied to my legal fees. If by some miracle there is some cash leftover, I will donate it to a local women's shelter.
Long version: My Story
I have a beautiful, sweet 8-year-old son. He is smart, loving, and a little broken.
That's my fault. I made bad decisions. I didn't listen when people tried to warn me. I was so, so, naive.
Parents, don't protect your children too much, they won't be ready for the bad in the world when they run into it.
I'm a real person. I am AFRAID.
If my husband finds this page, I don't know what he will do to me. To say he gets angry is an understatement.
He retaliates when he feels he has been wronged. I listened to many "conversations" where he destroyed friendships because of an imagined slight. If he is angry enough, he will destroy their reputation as well. He is charming, smart, has a disarming smile, and people believe he is a wonderful person, they trust and respect him.
But he is ruthless. He ruined the reputation of our nanny because he decided he didn't like her; she was shunned in her community. He destroyed the reputation of a woman who tried to tell the truth about him. He took her to court and made her publicly recount everything she had said - making her a liar in everyone's eyes. She found it impossible to continue to work in her field.
Nothing is sacred to him, nothing is beyond his limits. He has no boundaries, he does whatever he has to do to get what he wants.
When I met him I was more than a little lonely, and getting ready to resign myself to spinsterhood. A friend called me and for the first time in my life, I agreed to a blind date. She is Christian, the guy was as well, what could go wrong?
Then I started looking for signs. I wanted so, so badly for this to be "the one." They tell you not to look for signs, I convinced myself I was just reading the situation, but when you look for signs, you find them, they just usually aren't from God, like you hope they are.
He was wonderful. From the first email to the first phone call to meeting him in person, he was everything I wanted. Nicely dressed, polite, unbelievable smile, on the tall side, smart, charming and attentive. He was such a flatterer. He took pictures of me all the time. No one had ever given me that kind of attention before. He would ask to just sit there and look at my eyes.
I was convinced I was in love in a matter of weeks. The signs just kept cropping up everywhere after that.
But there were other signs.
He was jealous. I told him I didn't like that, and I assumed that was the end of it. I was wrong.
He was miserly. I told myself that I didn't want any man to buy me anything so it was fine. I was wrong.
He didn't like certain things I wore. I told him that I would wear what I liked, and I assumed that was the end of that. I was wrong.
He would ask me lots of questions following my phonecalls. I assumed he wanted to get to know me better. I was wrong.
He started asking me to do certain chores for him. I told him I didn't have time for those things and I assumed it was the end of it. I was wrong.
He tapped the back of my head when I made a deprecating joke about him. My friend immediately told me she didn't like that he did that to me. I told her it was no big deal, it was all a joke. Boy, was I wrong.
Soon after, we were married. I made excuses for his behavior all along. He must be tired, he must have had a bad day at work, maybe he was worried about something, and on and on. But I didn't know him well enough to make those excuses for him. He had never earned my trust. I was so, so naive.
We disagreed on when to have kids. He wanted to have kids immediately. We agreed to wait a year. He had other plans. When he was finished I asked him why he had done it, I told him I felt so betrayed.
He called me a drama queen and told me that I was wrong to make a big deal out of it. We were married, weren't we? How dare I ruin it, I ruined everything.
I knew it was over in that very moment. Everything that happened after was a sign. This time of foreboding. I decided to leave him for good.
But now I was pregnant. I was a good, Christian girl, a married one. It must be a sign that God wanted me to give this a chance.
Look up your textbook domestic abuser, run down the list, he has a check for every single one.
At first, I stayed for my son. I had an obligation to make try to make this marriage work for the sake of my child who should grow up with his father.
I kept making up excuses for him. Well, let's see how he is after we get through this problem. Let's see how he is when his family isn't around. I'll know the real him when... and on, and on.
Then I stayed because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to protect my son from the things his father would do or say if I wasn't there to witness it. At least if I was around I could negate the terrible things his father would say.
Then I stayed because the justice system failed me. I filed for a restraining order, but he turned on the charm and the judge didn't know who to believe, so it was vacated it. I was terrified.
The priest we counseled with called me and yelled at me for what I had done; how dare I keep a father from his son? Now I was the criminal for attempting to protect me and my child. Because "we don't do things this way."
Then I stayed because I promised the clergy that I would try to make it work. What else could I do? The justice system wasn't behind me, the church thought I should be able to handle it. I should consider this my cross to bear and that through God anyone could change.
They almost made me lose my faith entire.
Then I stayed because I was so, so afraid. I was afraid I would be trapped far away from my support system. That he would never leave us alone, he would continue you stalk me, he would somehow win custody of my son and that would be like throwing my child to the wolves.
What was life like?
I never knew when the shoe would drop. We could go weeks without him saying a word to me (literally), then he would completely without warning go into a rage and scream at me in front of our son.
My son took to hiding under the dining table or running to me so that he could sit on my lap and use my hands to cover his ears. I would point to my son and tell his father to see his son's fear so that he would stop, but he would laugh and continue.
He needed an audience.
He never, ever, ever, talked to me when we were alone. He spoke to me only when my son was present, and every conversation escalated into a screaming match.
It didn't matter how many times I begged him to not talk about things in front of our child, he would only speak to me with him around.
He read my mail, my email, my text messages, my facebook posts and my private messages. He interrogated me about my phone calls. He would take snippets from what he had read and would twist them into horrible things in order to further alienate me from the few people who still tried to communicate with me.
I told my parents not to call. I didn't take calls from my siblings. I didn't answer the phone when my friends called. I shut down. I changed my passwords, put a lock on my phone, and talked to no one.
He hacked into my facebook account. I started unfriending the people I cared most about. I didn't want him to find ways of ruining those relationships too.
He checked the joint account every time I went out and would interrogate me about what I was purchasing. I stopped buying myself anything and only spent money on my son, my husband and the house. He would tell me what items could stay and what I had to return.
He told me I didn't have a right to the money in the joint account, although we both contributed to it.
He would call me randomly to find out where I was. He would rant that he knew I wasn't shopping. I found out that he would leave my son at home asleep and drive around parking lots of the stores I said I was at looking for my car.
Sometimes there was a pattern to his behavior. Two weeks ok, 3 weeks of utter hell. Other times it would be zero communication for excruciatingly long periods of time, the only exceptions were to scream at me at the top of his lungs from time to time.
I would sit in the living room while he slept and I would be close to a panic attack every time I heard the bed creak. It was torture. And when he did break and start screaming it was all I could do to stay strong for my son and tell him that everything would be ok and daddy was just angry sometimes.
We would go in my son's room, lock the door and I would rock him in the rocking chair with his head on my chest, one arm wrapped around him, and the other covering his exposed ear. His room's door was one of the few left that still locked in the house. It wasn't really safe, but at least it lowered the volume.
I talked to people at work since my husband couldn't get to them. But that is always a mistake. I shared too much and my career didn't fare well because of it. For a long time my only outlet was innocuous posts on Facebook. He managed to stalk me on there even after I blocked him though, so I didn't have a safe place online either.
Eventually, I had a few confidants outside of work. One had severe problems of her own though and I worry about her to this day. The other was there for me and listened, advised, commiserated and provided me with whatever I needed to get me through. She and her husband were wonderful, and I couldn't have made it without them.
You have no idea how it feels to question and be suspicious of everything. Not because you have anything to hide, just simply that anything that is ever found will be turned and used against you.
Years went by. I filed for divorce multiple times. Each time he managed to convince me to stay. He managed to find some way of breaking down my resistance. Even this last time he convinced me to try again. He used the clergy to manipulate me.
But here I am now. This time, I won't back down. This is it. It is over. And he is so very angry.
Sometimes I am convinced I don't have anything left. The way he manipulates my son, the ideas he puts into his head, the way he intentionally makes him miserable so that he can claim that our son is miserable. He thinks these things will give him an edge in custody.
I am the one who deals with the aftermath. I am the one who has to explain to my son that there is nothing he could do to influence our decisions and that the conflict between me and his dad have nothing to do with him. I have to help him understand that this is the life he has now, and that there is no sense in wishing it were different. That he is a child and he can't change adult decisions. But I know he is hearing conflicting messages from his father. My heart bleeds for the confusion he must be in daily.
I am the one who picks up the pieces when his father drives away after going on and on about how much he loves him and misses him and how he can't live without him. Instead of making their separation easier on him, he drives him to tears over and over again every week.
I am the one who gets asked why daddy isn't around, why daddy didn't fulfill his promise, why daddy told him not to love my side of the family.
I accept responsibility for all of his pain. I should have left so much sooner. I'll never forgive myself for what my child has suffered, is suffering and will continue to suffer.
I made a very big mistake.
I trusted the undeserving. I looked for signs. I let my fear make my decisions for me. I let desperation lead me. I thought I wasn't worthy of better. I didn't leave.
I can't change how it went, I can only desperately try to piece together a solid future for my child.
I will take him to therapy, and we will continue to talk, and he will always know he can trust me and that mommy never lies to him, and that I will always tell him if it will taste bad or it will hurt.
God willing he will grow up to be a good man who will never hurt a woman the way he watched his mother get hurt for years. God willing he will grow up to be stronger for having his naivete stolen from him at such a young age when no child should have to give it up. God willing he will find positive male role models in his grandfather and his uncles and he will emulate them as he becomes a man.
All these things I pray for him. I hope you can send your love, say a prayer or otherwise send good thoughts toward my son. It takes a village, and thank God I have a good one now.
If my story can help one person recognize that she is in an abusive relationship, I will be satisfied. If my tale gives one woman the strength to go with her instincts instead of well-meaning advice, I will be overjoyed.
The end game is in sight for the very first time in over 10 years. I am afraid I won't financially be able to make it. I've spent well over $100k getting this far in the last 10 years. I don't care about the money, I just want it over.
please do me the huge favor of sharing this story with your friends and family. If it helps anyone it would mean the world to me.
If you have a young woman in your life, please share the following book with her:
The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence
by Gavin de Becker
I wish I had read it when I was young. Had I listened to my instincts, my story may have been very different.