By Jill Christensen for Good Men Project
In the family court system, instead of a person whose life has and continues to be shattered by domestic abuse, you are a meaningless case, a docket number, an unfortunate statistic. No one cares, no has time to care, not even the attorney to whom you have paid thousands of dollars.
I met with my abuser in court, for what I thought was to be a simple hearing to set a new visitation schedule for our minor children.
Imagine my surprise when instead…
I was subjected to a vicious smear campaign against me proclaimed to all those present.
I listened as lie upon lie was built like a house of cards that ultimately toppled over.
I heard myself called names…a gold digger, crazy, the most obstructive person ever, a controlling person with the M.O. of destroying my abuser’s life, an adulterer.
I witnessed fake remorse and sorrow for the pain I have caused my abuser.
I was informed physical and sexual abuse isn’t really abuse unless the police are called…which, of course, I had not done, making my allegation invalid and, thus, offensive to my abuser.
I was reprimanded for not being appreciative enough for the child support I had received.
My integrity was called into question as, when asked who lived in my home, a scoff and “surely you have other people living in your home besides your children” was verbalized.
My dignity was called into question when asked how I could possibly find the email I received from my abuser, verbally abusive when my abuser certainly did not see it as abusive. I believe the testimony was “she clearly has misguided opinions about abuse.”
My safety was compromised when I was told I had no valid reason for wanting my abuser to stay 100 yards away from my home, despite the past threats and damage caused, with the words “As the Respondent has no problem with you coming to his home, you are then required to allow him to come to yours.”
I was prevented from speaking about the welfare of my children after an objection, stating “this is not about the kids,” was sustained.
I underwent a lengthy, shame shifting, explanation of how my behavior… the insistence of “No Contact Order” with my abuser, the refusal to meet privately, the request for communication through a neutral third party…was going to cause my children to be in therapy for the rest of their lives.
I was ordered to “show more consideration for my abuser as the ‘shoe could be on the other foot’.”
I was stunned as my abuser blatantly flirted with the court reporter while the judge shrugged and turned the other way.
Then, after the judge and attorneys stepped out of the courtroom for a discussion, leaving my abuser and me alone, I endured an onslaught of horrific verbal abuse, from my abuser, that of course, abruptly stopped, as soon as the legal representatives returned.
I was then again shamed for my uncooperative behavior by the only person in the room with the authority to stop the madness I have been living in for years… the judge.
I gathered my paperwork, overwhelmed by the events of the day and walked to my car.
As I sat for those few seconds, before my soul crashed around me, I came to some very clear realizations —
I will forever be blamed, by my abuser, for his inability to love me.
I will forever be blamed, by my abuser, for the abuse bestowed on me all of my adult life.
The hope I held of a court system that would protect me and my children is the most naive hope I have yet to have.
Then, my soul crashed. Every minute of trauma I endured at the hands of my abuser flooded my heart, my mind, and my body. Every physical act and threat, every sexual violence, every abusive word spoken, every attempt at making me feel less than, coursed through my heart, mind, and body until I finally collapsed.
I have found it is in those difficult, intense moments, after the crashing of my soul, that clarity is found, the most valuable lessons are learned and truth can’t help but shine through.
In that clarity and truth, I recalled the following uncomfortable truths of abuse:
I am the only person who can and will protect myself and my children. The court system and its representatives are not equipped to protect my family, nor do they care to.
If I want this repeated trauma to stop, I must stop it myself, by whatever means available. Whether that is walking away or fighting fire with fire, the choice and effort to stop the madness falls upon my shoulders and my shoulders alone.
When required to engage in the court system, expect and be prepared to be re-traumatized, again and again, and again. Expect to be blamed for “allowing” your abuser to kept abusing you. Expect shame shifting to occur as your trauma is relived. Expect to be asked to “work things out” with your abuser for the sake of not wasting the court’s time or resources. Do not expect anyone to understand the effects of the psychological abuse you have endured.
In order to not be disappointed, hold zero expectation of being acknowledged, heard or respected by the court system and its representatives. Keep your head down, your expectations low. Keeping your emotions out of the process is crucial to your spiritual well-being. Stick to the facts, offer no opinions, maintain complete objectivity.
Recognize that in the court system, instead of a person whose life has and continues to be shattered, you are a meaningless case, a docket number, an unfortunate statistic. No one cares, no has time to care, not even the attorney to whom you have paid thousands of dollars.
Never give up on yourself. This is the hardest thing you will likely ever encounter. Be strong, be prepared, be focused and aware. You are the only one in this situation who has your back, never give up on yourself.
So today, as I begin again trying to piece together my shattered soul, I once again own the uncomfortable truths of abuse.