I love my children more than I could possibly put into words. I love them more than the air that I breathe. They are everything that is good in this world. I would do anything to protect them. I would die to protect them. I always thought that would be enough…. but I was wrong. To this day I cannot believe how the court system stands in the way of a sane, non-abusive parent’s ability to protect their child from a narcissistic, abusive parent.
I sat at a table alongside my abuser and a Family Relations counselor multiple times. I told the truth despite the fear of what might happen to me. I kept waiting for someone to direct us to a judge. I kept waiting for someone to talk to the school or come observe John with the children. Patiently… I waited.
I would think to myself, If they would just come and see how he interacts with them… that would be enough. They’d see. Then I could ensure that his visits were supervised and limited. But no one would take the time to call the school. No one would observe him with the kids. No one would even watch the videos I had collected in which he’s hitting the kids and saying it was an accident… or it wasn’t hard so it was OK. (If it leaves a mark… its’s hard enough) Because the scars that John was leaving were mostly internal, and the outward marks were subtle…. so no one cared.
I tried a different angle. I shared that James’ autism required a highly skilled level of parenting and minimal transitions. This was all true information and was documented in school communications, testing reports and his IEP. I shared the fact that he rarely took James to therapies and when he did, James was out of control (whereas he had no behavioral episodes when I was present).
John, of course, lied. He emphatically said “James is PERFECT when I’m with him.” (This was John’s go to statement when questioned about how his time with the children was…. even though the children reported otherwise.) I asked him about the physical therapy appointment he had taken James to the week prior and he said he had a little problem, fixed it quickly and then returned to therapy.
Here was my opportunity to show the Family Relations counselor that he lies about what happens with the kids. To show her that I am telling the truth. Then maybe she will believe all the other truths I am telling her and I can protect my kids. So I relayed the message that I had gotten from the physical therapist. She had told me that James was out of control at his session. That he was rolling on the ground and throwing things. She told me John took him to the car where he screamed, yelled, growled and spit for 30 minutes. They ended up leaving without attending the therapy session. The therapist asked me to be the one to bring him to sessions from that point forward as she found this to happen every time I was not the one to bring James.
The counselor looked at John and asked him if this was true. Chiming in, I mentioned that I would share the contact information of the physical therapist if need be. John then admitted that he had lied and that the counselor’s rendition was the truth. Finally. Now they’ll know everything I am saying is the true. They’ll start looking out for my kids and not for John.
But I was wrong. It made no impact. By the end of that day a parenting plan was made that didn’t take into consideration John’s abusive history. It didn’t take into consideration James’ autism and sensitivity to schedule changes and transitions. In this plan, John was essentially seeing the children every other day and no one was supervising the visits. My only other option was to come up with ten thousand dollars to pay a guardian ad litem… or so I was told.
My heart broke. I felt as if I had failed my children… these children that I would die to protect. I failed. I could not protect them. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone through with the divorce. Maybe this was a mistake. At least when I was in the same house with John I could protect them. Now, because of this broken court system, my children would be alone with this abusive man with no one to keep them safe. I was filled with doubt. I was filled with shame and despair. I truly felt alone and as if no one would help me or my children.
It was enough to make me want to give up. But, after I cried my eyes out and prayed like hell…. I kept moving forward. I put one foot in front of the other. I talked to my children about safety plans and what to do if they became scared. I knew I had to continue with this divorce. James needed to see that his father was not a role model. He does not exhibit the qualities of a good man. Good men do not abuse their wives and children. Quinn needed to see that abuse is not love and that her future husband needs to know that and live that. It was painful to think of them alone with him unprotected. It was frightening and almost paralyzing… but I kept on.