I fell down the rabbit hole of domestic violence, or was deceived down the hole. It doesn’t matter how I got there; it matters that I was there. I am still there, although divorced.
This is what I want you to know …
The divorce created a way out, some space, and a little relief (if I make it through this). It did not stop my former husband’s insane need to control us. When I filed for a divorce, the abuse escalated, and remains escalated—stalking, daily torment/torture, threats, child abuse, physical abuse, financial terrorism, and continuing problems with the IRS. So much for “it gets better.”
It took tremendous courage for me to leave. After hurting me, my former husband would suck his teeth, “You want to leave,” he said, “Go ahead. I will take everything from you—the kids, the house. I’ll bankrupt you. I know judges. No one will believe you.”
I thought he was bluffing. As it turned out, he did bankrupt me. And he did know judges. Some of them yelled and screamed at me in court.
It was hard to explain to people asking, “Why did you stay?” “Why didn’t you leave sooner?” Why? Why? I knew he would make it impossible and never stop.
Although we have “left,” and “he is gone,” I have wanted to point out to many: Do you see the flotsam and jetsam around us? Do you know we are on the verge of homelessness? Do you know we are officially bankrupt? Do you know the family court system has mandated a parenting plan that legally tethers him to us despite ongoing abuse?
Before I was stuck at the bottom of the rabbit hole, numerous professionals told me I was “lucky.” Supposedly, there are many services for domestic violence victims. In reality, there are few shelters. For every 20 families needing shelter, in my area, there is one bed. The limited services available are designated for those already connected to the welfare system. There were zero services for middle income, educated and employed people such as myself. At the same time, I needed a savvy, committed attorney, mortgage assistance, childcare and practical help.
Sometimes it felt as if my abuser was the one who designed and ran domestic violence victim services. They listened and promised help before I never heard from them again. A court appointed advocate provided me with commiseration while my abuser received free criminal defense attorneys and endless representation. Without an attorney, the outcome never goes well for victims.
Victim services also offered support groups where I heard I must have had a “bad childhood.” Some said I would never again be a victim If I: detached (from the abuser), acted more assertive, met with my advocate, got therapy, and attended the support group. If only I would x, y, z, then my abusive husband would change. Was it really my fault? It defied basic human rules—one cannot control another.
Know there is a hierarchy of victims. Continue reading in SheLoves . . .
[ Names and identifying details have been changed. ]