Time went on…. the environment continued to be toxic. John started hiding whiskey in the kitchen. I’m not sure if he knew that I knew about it or not, but I watched each day as the bottle quickly emptied and was replaced by another. This only strengthened my fear of sleeping in the same house with him. Now I was putting myself in a defenseless position every night with an angry, abusive, drunk.
Luckily he never sought me out after drinking … but it didn’t change the fact that I was afraid. I couldn’t say anything without him blowing up. My facial expressions always seemed to incite him. I couldn’t even sigh without making John angry. His anger was palpable.
He was shorter than he’d ever been with the kids. Now and again I started to notice little bruises and marks on James, but I didn’t think much of it. He often had tantrums as a part of his autism so I often chalked these marks up to being a result of the many times that he was rolling around on the ground or slamming his body into the couch.
At the same time, I had seen John lose his temper with James and leave marks on him under the guise of pulling something out of his hand and missing … or stepping on him accidentally. It always had hints of feeling purposeful… but years of emotional abuse left me constantly questioning my thoughts and believing others rather than my own impressions. Even though I knew I couldn’t trust John and even though deep down I had suspicions… I didn’t let myself believe that John would hurt James intentionally.
One day, I was helping Quinn get ready for bed when John brought James into the bedroom and said, “Show Mommy and tell her what you told me”. James lifted the arms of his shirt to show hand print bruises on each of his arms. He then told me that the school staff was pulling on his arms and dragging him out of the classroom, hurting him. Many days, because I went to work so early, James was still asleep when I left for work. The last time I saw him he did NOT have these bruises on his arms. I believed the story completely.
I went to war with the school. I questioned them and they shared that they had escorted him out of the classroom and that he had propped himself up on a window ledge. They suggested perhaps that was where the bruises had come from. I told them that the bruises were on the top of his arms and wrapped around as if someone had grabbed his arms tightly. They had no explanation but I was sure that they were to blame.
I called supervisors and contacted the state department of education. I called a meeting to discuss what had happened. I was furious. I no longer trusted the school. I couldn’t understand why all the people my child was supposed to be able to trust were hurting him.
It took me months to recognize the pattern that was arising. This was not the first time that James had marks on him that the “school” was responsible for. It wasn’t the last time either. This soon became to the go to response for any injuries that were noted on James.
Looking back, I truly believe that John was the person who put those bruises on James. I believe that he had grabbed him in the morning some time and that he saw the bruises later that night when he was getting James ready for bed. I believe that he knew I would question where they came from if I had been the one to find them first so he made sure he was the one who “discovered” them. I believe he manipulated James’ reality as he had done with mine so many times before. He helped James turn the reality of his teachers escorting him from his classroom during his fit to his teachers dragging him by the arms and leaving bruises.
He removed his responsibility and accountability, and at the same time he drove a wedge between the school and me…. between James and his teachers. He separated us from the people that maybe… just maybe…. could have helped us.