1.5 years postpartum
I have been married for over 5 years. My current husband found me when I was only 15, and he was 19. By the time I was 16 and he was 20 he got me legally emmancipated and we moved in together. By 18 I was pregnant and we were married. I have never know anything else. Besides a brief 6 month period where I escaped in 2006 I have been with him every day of my adult life. During that time, I was completely manipulated, and severely abused. It seems surreal to say that now. During the relationship, I never saw myself as a victim. I didn’t see his behavior as abuse. It was like a cult. To the people in the cult, they don’t realize how crazy it is, they go right on drinking the koolaid. He was very persuasive, charismatic, and very good at manipulation. I belived this behavior was normal. I belived he was only ‘playing around’ when he would slap me across the face for no reason, punch me in the leg, slap my back, rear end or legs hard enough to leave welts so severe you could see every pad of every finger. Kicking was just joking. Throwin things at me was to get my attention or prove a point, and he SAID he didn’t mean to hit me in the face. He was aiming next to me, and missed. He didn’t MEAN to break my nose with that snow shovel out of the blue, he was trying to joke with his friend next to me. It was an accident. I believed I was fortunate to have a husband that wanted me home with the kids, and didn’t want me to go to school or get a job. I belived the perfectly logical explanations why I didn’t need a drivers license, or a debit card, or a car. I didn’t get my license until I was 20, when he had been unemployed for so long I HAD to go to school and work to pay the bills. That was the period of most freedom. I was allowed to get a car from my friend, I was finally allowed to get a drivers license, I started going to the community college and working on campus. It’s only years later that I realized this was the period of time where he was involved in a serious, year long affair with my ‘friend.” It started when she was only 17, if I remember right. He needed me out of the house, and the bills paid. Once he got another job, he talked me into dropping out and quitting. And it all sounded logical. It all sounded reasonable. When I found out about the affair, he told me that ‘until death parts us’ is a lifelong vow, and if I ever want a divorce I had better kill him first, because he would take it as an invitation to murder me. And somehow, that sounded romantic at the time. He had us get matching ‘until death’ tattoos.
After the affair, I became pregnant with our second son, who had a congenital heart defect. I went into premature labor, and had to be flown across the state to the major hospital, where they managed to stop labor and keep me pregnant. I was stuck there until he was due, and after he was born, while he had two major surgeries. During that time, he was at home with our preschool son. He became incredibly, innapropriately close with the babysitter, who was also his ‘squire’ in the medieval reenactment group he was in. She was only 16. While I was out of town, he got her drunk, possibly drugged her, and sexually assaulted her. She was too afraid to say anything, she couldn’t remember most of it, and he told her if she said anything I would never leave him, I wouldn’t believe her, and she was just going to loose a friend. She kept quiet, and just stopped hanging out. I had my suspicions, but no way to prove the terribly ugliness I suspected. A few weeks later, she found out she was pregnant. She was incredibly relieved when her daughter was born, the spitting image of her ex boyfriend, and not my husband.
And all along, the slapping, kicking, biting, punching and screaming obscenities continued. And all the time I minimized it as he did, justified it, ignored it or just went with it. I rarely complained. After all, it may hurt really bad when he randomly bites you hard enough to bruise, or shoves you and forcibly dry humps you while laughing in front of everyone to humiliate you. But if you argue, or fight back, it is just so much worse. Then he is mad, before he was joking, but now YOU are the one who must be ‘cranky.’ and then he is angry and yelling and it makes it much worse. Better to just not give him the attention, like a child throwing a tantrum. After all, when he gets mad, he makes people suffer. Once, he got in an argument with the other members of his medieval club. They chose him to host an event, but they wanted to use a different park than the one he chose, so the people coming from out of town could use the showers. When he didn’t get his way, he marched right down there and burned those to the ground, just to spite them. He covered it in random gang graffiti, so no one would suspect it had anything to do with the medieval reenactment group that rented the park the next day. He not only bragged about it, but demanded I immediately wash his gasoline covered clothing and duffel bag.
When my youngest turned one, we bought a house. First time home owners. There was a period of relative peace. Then after about 6 months he starts disapearing all the time. Won’t tell you where he is, won’t tell you anything, just leaves. After a few days of this, you come home to find him drunk, asleep on the couch, and some woman’s belt on the coffee table. Turns out he has been secretly talking to a lawyer about divorce. He spent those days hanging out at the babysitters work. Oh thats right, she just turned 18. He would wait there until she closed with his friends, then insist she come over to hang out with all her old ‘pals.’ She comes over, thinking everyone will be there. but it’s just him. He pushes her to drink, she gets frightened, and leaves.
I called her, and finally got the whole story. When confronted with the allegations of statutory rape and adultery, he goes crazy. Tells me I can keep the house or the kids, but not both. Tries to kick me out of the house. Then apologizes. Then makes obscene and frightening requests sexualy, says he is just not satisfied. Then Tells me he has been having dreams of burning everything down, that he dreams about killing me, that he just wants to hurt someone all the time. He says he feels he is being called by god, that the apocalypse is coming soon, he can feel it. He says he has a duty to fulfill, and he can’t be a husband and father and a soldier of god as well.
Now I am really scared. I beg him to take the guns out of the house, he has a small arsenal. 2 AK 47’s with 200 round drums, a 9mm, a double barrelled shotgun, a 410 shotgun, a 22 rifle and a high powered hunting rifle. He has a permit to carry at all times, and he refuses to get them out of the house. I beg him to go to treatment, but he says they will see him as a danger and refuses, concerned about his gun permit rights. I start calling the hotline, and develop a safety plan. I take the kids out of state to my sisters for two weeks, hoping he will calm down. When I get back, he isn’t even home. He spent that time out of town at his sisters house, hanging out with her 17 year old step daughter. When he gets back, he acts like nothing happened. Then he unceremoniously dumps me, via text message. The same day we were going to spend the weekend with his family, and the 17 year old.
He won’t move out, says he can’t find a place he can afford and pay child support. I go back to school full time, trying to keep busy. I start the process of getting state liscnesced to open a day care, so i can pay the bills. I am almost done with my degree in Early Childhood Development. I give him 3 months to move out. The violence escalates. He tells me I am no catch, that just because I have good grades doesn’t mean I am smart. He tells me no one really cares about me, that everyone only pretends too, but everything I tell them they report back to him he says. He says no one would put up with me the way he has. He is cruel, and humiliates me often in front of his cronies. He always has a group of his friends, who I THOUGHT were also my friends, hanging around, laughing at his jokes. The cult. He gets the 17 year old emancipated, just like he did with me, then moves her into my house. I try to warn her, I try to help her. he was even bragging about how he was going to get with her to me, over text, which I show her. She swear she will be careful, but when she moves into his moms house (becasue she is now disowned by her family) he moves in with her. Now they are shacked up together. I finally call the cops on him a few days before he moves out. he bit the back of my hand so hard, out of the blue, to get a glass of egg nog I was holding, that I had to go to urgent care. I was worried the tendons were permenently damaged, the hand swelled up like crazy and bruised really bad. He is furious with me for going to the doctors, he told me not to. As soon as I get home he starts hitting me with a cup against the back of my head, where it wont leave marks. Then he tells me I am a terrible mother, and that I left a pair of childrens scissors out while I was gone. He shows me a picture of our baby holding them. He must have given them to him for his little pose. I argue that they were put away, up high, in a closed container, in a closed shelf. They are safety scissors, and blunt tipped. He tells me to hold out my hand, and I do, assuming he is going to give them to me. Instead, he puts my hand in the scissors and crushes them closed, to cut the side of my hand. “Told you they were dangerous, if you ever open your business kids are going to die.” I run to my room in tears and call the hotline. They tell me to be sure he can’t hear me. I am terrified he might have overheard me calling them. I go downstairs, and he slams the front door. I immediately hang up. He suddenly says “Come on kids, we are going for a ride!” with an evil glare in my direction. I am panicking. I ask him where he is going, he wont tell me. he just says ‘on a little drive.” I ask him when he is bringing them back, their bedtime is in half an hour. He wont tell me, he just says “We’ll be back when we are back.” I am so afraid, but the kids are so excited, and I don’t want to scare them. He leaves in a huff, and I call the police. I explained the situation, they came and took a statement, took pictures of my bruises, the cuts, the scissors. They tell me to file for an order of protection then, But I know if I do there is no going back. He will kill me.
He brings the kids back, and is angry that I was even upset.
He finally moves out. The day he does, he shoves me in the shed and locks me in. I pound on the door. The 17 year old lets me out. I don’t call the police, because he is finally LEAVING, and I just want him to go.
The next week, he steals my cell phone. Uses it to intercept messages from the DV advocate.
I file for an order of protection, but since he has been tipped off, he shows up that night and takes the kids before I can file. He forces his way in the door, in front of my girl friends who had come over to help me paint my living room. He screams threats, even has his mother come to the door and scream at me. That i am a ‘drama queen’ and a ‘stupid bitch.” my friend called the police, because even she was scared, and her 2 year old was with us. I thought because he didn’t live here he couldn’t force entry. The police tell me he has every right to come here whenever he wants, day or night, while I am sleeping even, because it is marital property. They tell him to leave, but he already has my kids, and he can come back.
I have friends stay in shifts so I am not alone. It’s the weekend, so I can’t get my protection order until monday morning. He never brings the kids back. He ignores calls, hangs up on me, hides them at friends houses, keeps my older son out of school. I am sick with worry, my oldest is autistic, and that kind of thing is so hard for him to handle. First thing monday I am in the courthouse, but he FOLLOWS ME THERE. I was so afraid, I called security and asked them to escort me to my car. He tries to file one against ME the same day! He says I injured my hand when I ‘backhanded’ him! That I cut MYSELF with scissor in an argument! That I am neglecting my children, and partying all the time (I DON’T drink, at all.) and that I am not feeding or dressing them. The judge signs both, but orders custody to me until the hearing. Finally, the police go and collect my kids, and bring them home.
Now, I don’t know what to expect next. they denied his order, but only extended mine for 7 days. They said I needed a mutual restraining order, not an order of protection. But it doesnt get enforced the same way, and is only good until the divorce is final. I finally get a pro-bono lawyer, because I have no resources. He says we need to fight for the order of protection, and not to file for a mutual restraining order. They order that his visitation be supervised, at least until his trail for DV assault. I am so afraid I will leave my next hearing with no order of any kind. He day after the hearing is his next pre-trail court appearance for the assault against me. I can’t believe he is going to try and say I did those things to myself. He always said, no one would believe me. And he is trying his hardest to make sure of that. I am trying my best, but the long hard journey of custody and divorce is imminent, I filed for divorce the same day. I have an escape plan, I have a suitcase packed in case I need to evacuate. I have code words to call 911 with family. I am having my kids stay safely away from the house for the hearing, in case he comes straight here. If I leave that courthouse with nothing, I am gonna pick up my kids and go straight to the shelter until I have something that will at least force the police to arrest next time he comes here screaming threats and breaking in. I am afraid all the time. I am afraid everytime I see an unfamiliar car parked outside. I am afraid everytime I hear someone drive down the alley. I am afraid every time my phone rings. He came to court with his mother, the 17 year old, and two of his cult members. All people that have SEEN him hit me, kick me, throw things at me and bite me. And he swears in front of a judge that he never has, right in front of some of the only people that witnessed the times he is being charged for. I am afraid for my kids. I am afraid my house if going to be burned down. I am afraid my tires will be slashed. I am afraid my car will be stolen, and I won’t even be able to report it because the registration for that one is in his name. I am constantly, constantly afraid. And on top of all this, I am still going to school full time. I still have bills to pay. I still have two kids to take care of. People keep telling me I will be stronger.
I don’t feel stronger.
I just feel scared. And stupid. And stressed. And alone. And like no one will believe me, that everyone will lie for him. I can’t event take the kids and hide except for a shelter, because legally I can’t change the residence of the children, the only exception is the shelter. I can’t get a new apartment and hide, I have no real income besides social security and student loans, and it would be a violation of the court order when you file for divorce to stay with friends, even if I was willing to put my autistic 5 year old through that.
The scariest part is, this isn’t even the most dangerous time.
The most dangerous part will be when the divorce is final. He hasn’t violated the protection order yet, because he still thinks he can take the house and full custody. When he doesnt get what he wants (and my lawyer assures me I have nothing to worry about in that department) and he fells he has nothing left to loose, that is when I am in the most danger. He was ordered to surrender his firearms, but he told the judge he sold them to pay for a lawyer. Which really means they are sitting at his friends house. I know exactly where, and I know he still has access to them. He probably wont use those, too traceable to him. No, he will probably break in through a window since I changed the locks, and kill me with one of the 100’s of knives he has collected. Or maybe just mutilate my face the way he fantasized about. Or burn my house down with me and the kids in it.
They said I would be safe, that if I reported him and got out and filed for divorce and got an order of protection, that they would protect me.
But they aren’t. I don’t know what to do. They say I am doing everything the right way, by not doing anything illegal, and following through with they system. But I might walk out of court tomorrow with no piece of paper to protect me, and have to run. He convinced me I was helpless, and I sure feel like it now.
One picture is of my hand, after he bit me. One picture is of my, trying to take a picture of the ‘until death’ tattoo on my wrist. Ironically, the same hand he cut.