This is the continuation of how I got out of an abusive relationship. If you haven't already read the first part of this, please do so here.
How I Got Out of Abuse
Continuing on from the "Next Day". You would think after that whole birthday drama I would have wisened up and left him after that. But nope, I stayed. Wanting to try to work it out with the father of my kids and honestly feeling like I was trapped and logically could not get away.
My ex told me over and over again I should at least make it work for the kids' sake because they would be devastated if we broke up our family. I believed that so much, like I was actually ruining my kids' life if I didn't stay with this man.
4 Months Later
It was a cool Valentine's afternoon and Frank and I had plans to attend a party at our friend's house for the night. We were all just hanging out, drinking a little, enjoying some good food and having a good time. After a while, we decided to move the party to a different house.
Frank decided he was going to drive and insisted he was fine to do so. I honestly thought he was because he only had two drinks.
We were driving to our friend's house and I started to not feel well and decided mid-ride I just wanted to go home. Frank got pissed at me and said no. I asked several more times if we could just please go home.
I swear it was like a switch had gone off and Frank just became something else.
He was screaming at me, yelling at me and then started to drive like a maniac. He was speeding, swerving, taking turns way too fast. I asked him to stop and he refused. I was so scared he was going to kill us both with the way he was driving. Eventually, he drove us home and I just went and hid in our room.
We even tried marriage counseling!
After this driving incident, I actually filled out the paperwork to file for divorce. I have a legal administration education (what I went to school for) so I did this work myself. I had the paperwork served to Frank and we received a court date that was set for 3 months later.
Frank talked me into doing this home therapy program that he thought would work for us. I didn't want to. I was ready to give up and go through with the divorce. But Frank convinced me again to try for the sake of our kids.
So we ordered this home therapy program. The basics of the program were to date your spouse again so you could rekindle that love you had when you first started dating. The problem was the program had a caveat. It actually stated - "this program will not work in abusive situations".
However, not quite realizing (or maybe I was just in some serious denial) our relationship was abusive, I still decided to give it a try. There were assignments and homework involved in this program as well. Even though I still really didn't want to do this program, I forced myself.
I did the homework and assignments. Frank, however, did not. I told Frank that if he didn't do the homework and put in the work necessary to make this therapy work I was going through with the divorce.
The final straw
The final straw came when I was already pretty low. I was taking pain medication due to several ovarian cysts that I had (apparently the cause of my IUD and stress - go figure). I was in bed about ready to go to sleep and Frank offered to rub my back. Not one to pass up a massage, I said ok.
I was probably out in like 2 minutes. A few minutes later I woke up to Frank violating me with his fingers. As soon as I moved, he stopped and turned over and pretended to be sleeping. Shocked and violated, I couldn't believe this just happened. I quickly went downstairs, not knowing what to do and stayed on the couch.
The next morning I got up, got the kids ready for school/daycare and Frank tried to talk to me. I bluntly said don't talk to me. He was like "what?" I muttered, "Don't act like you don't know what you did! I have to get to work, we'll talk later."
While I was working Frank decided to talk to me through IM. He wasn't working so he had plenty of time to pester me while I was at work. The conversation basically went like this.
"I don't remember doing that to you. It must have happened in my sleep (unintentionally - he also provided links where he researched this "sleeping sexual acts" phenomenon)".
It went from him trying to convince me that it happened this way to I made the whole thing up just so I could divorce him. His story regarding the whole incident changed almost every time we argued about it. I later found out this technique is called gaslighting and it wasn't the first time Frank has used this technique.
Depression from Abuse
After this happened I went through the whole gamut of emotions and the deepest darkest depression I have ever experienced. I decided I needed real help. So I reached out to my local rape and abuse crisis center to see if they could help me deal with the trauma I had experienced.
I was paired with a volunteer therapist that I started seeing weekly. It was through those sessions that I realized all the abuse I had endured over the last 18 years of being with this man.
I felt like a complete failure for not realizing what I had been going through sooner. But my therapist explained how abusers break down their victims mentally so that they don't even realize what's happening to them.
Most of my therapy was validation that I really wasn't crazy and I wasn't making all this up like Frank told me. I found my voice (as much as I could muster) and strength to finally end this toxic relationship I was in. I wrote an affidavit detailing Frank's sexual assault and added it to the divorce decree prior to our first divorce hearing.
There is no justice...
I found out very quickly that if you get the wrong judge in a domestic violence divorce situation that can make things almost impossible to get justice. In our first hearing, the judge barely listened to me. He allowed Frank to speak way more than I ever got to.
Frank reasoned that he was the primary caregiver for our children, by doing the majority of the cooking and caring for them. Frank at the time didn't have a job, but I did. The judge didn't even consider the sexual assault inflicted on me just a week earlier. He gave Frank the house, full custody of our kids and ordered me to pay him $600/mo. Oh, and I had two weeks to move out of the home.
You thought I was at my lowest when the sexual assault happened. Nope, the lowest was when I lost my kids and my house AND had to pay my abuser. I realized that this judge had obviously sympathized with Frank and I needed to lawyer up quick!
Our next hearing went a little better, but my lawyer quickly realized that the judge really liked Frank and didn't want to fight as hard as I would've liked him to. However, in our next hearing, I stopped paying support and was granted joint custody. The subsequent hearings would sort out the rest.
We ended up settling with joint physical and legal custody (split our time in half), he ended up with the house, I ended up with the car. I ended up taking Frank back to court for contempt because he wasn't paying the mortgage, or paying his half of daycare and didn't return all my things to me.
Right before our divorce was finalized I obtained a restraining order on Frank because he would call and text me all hours of the night and harass me. It was these incidents that triggered PTSD, which I didn't even know what that was until my therapist diagnosed me.
I started having nightmares that Frank would break into my new apartment, rape me, kill me and take my boys. I experienced headaches, recurring ovarian cysts, panic attack's, anxiety and hair loss. Medication was the only thing that helped my symptoms and honestly helped me through the whole ordeal.
The few months leading up to our separation and for up to a year after our divorce finalization was the worst time in my life. My ex never paid the mortgage the entire time he lived there without me and our house ended up getting foreclosed. I couldn't afford the car we had together and ended up giving that back to the bank. So now, not only was I having to start life over as a single mom, my credit was absolute crap!
Side Effects of Abuse and Divorce
Nobody tells you that you may get shafted by the legal system that is supposed to protect you in situations like this. Sometimes it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel through all of it. I wasn't prepared for the repercussions of the justice system when my ex charmed the judge in his favor nor was I prepared for the PTSD that came with it all.
However, looking back on it all, it was worth it to get out of the abusive relationship I was in. Things got much better in my life. Even though I have to deal with Frank because of our kids, he is much easier to deal with after he got a new girlfriend.
The constant digs eventually went away and he actually has become somewhat cordial in the last few years. I still don't trust him and I have to do some major damage control with my boys. I have to work very hard to make sure they don't grow up to do the same things their father did to me.
My boys are old enough now to know what has happened and in fact my youngest and I have had discussions about everything. He's a reader and has helped me out on my blog so he started reading it. My oldest knows something bad happened, but we haven't had that discussion yet. I try not to talk bad about their father (it's VERY hard sometimes), even though I know Frank has talked bad about me to them.
The most difficult part for me is that I can't protect them all the time. Frank can be verbally abusive to my boys, from what they've told me. The sad thing is there just aren't enough laws in place that cover verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse. I hope to one day change that.
Life after Domestic Violence
Not every story has a happy ending, I wouldn't consider my story a truly happy ending. If it was, the judicial system wouldn't have failed me like it did and I'd have full custody of my kids. However, I feel truly blessed to have what I have. I'm grateful I'm out of that relationship and I'm able to focus on my own goals without criticism.
I'm not a perfect mom, but I try my best and my kids love me. I don't have to worry about being called a bad mom for chasing my own dreams. I no longer walk on eggshells, fear a random fight, or worry about being assaulted in my sleep. I'm no longer on anti-anxiety or anti-depression meds. I mean, it could be a hell of a lot worse, I could still be with Frank.
I learned so much going through all this. It's my mission to help others who have been in this situation to get through it easier than I did.
Things that helped me
See a therapist!
That alone opened my eyes SO much to what was really going on. I was in denial for so long, I knew something wasn't right, but I couldn't come to terms with it being that. It's hard to leave someone you still love. But, seeing a therapist helped me through the guilt and blaming myself for everything. She helped me see my own value, that I WAS worth so much better than the way Frank was treating me.
It will depend on your situation and your abuser, but you may need to see a therapist in private. I luckily had a great local FREE resource. You may have that option as well. Look up your local women's or abuse shelter and they should be able to point you in the right direction.
I'm not telling you to leave, yet. You have to realize and make up in your own mind that you are ready to leave and you need to make a SAFE plan to get out. I will detail how to do that in later posts, but for now, see someone. Talk to someone with experience or who is a professional that can help you decide what's best for you.
BetterHelp provides online counseling services that you can do online, even on your phone! Seeing a therapist through my divorce is what helped keep me strong enough to stick to leaving. I highly suggest you do the same.
Another great resource that will help open your eyes is to read the book Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft. My therapist gave me this book and suggested I read it. I decided to highlight everything I had or was experiencing in my relationship.
I was completely shocked and saddened by how much I highlighted. If you are unsure, this book will help you come to that realization that you are being abused.
If you are in an abusive relationship, read my post on How You Can Get Out of Abuse. This will help you in the steps you need to take to get out safely.
I also suggest that when you do get out of an abusive relationship, you get some self-defense tools like these.
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