I was convinced that once I was able to gain some space from John I would finally start to feel safe. In my fantasies of what it would be like without him lurking behind every corner I turned, I was finally able to breathe freely and deeply again without the constant fear I had felt when we lived together. What a foolish fantasy that was.
The years of terror and walking on eggshells had slowly changed who I was as a person. It didn’t happen quickly. It happened slowly… like the ocean slowly wearing away at stone. Little pieces of me… so small that they were barely noticeable… had worn away over the years bit by bit. Like grains of sand, they slowly slipped away. Over time these little changes created big, cavernous holes. I was missing large pieces of myself. I was still afraid. John still had power over me despite our physical space.
John had a new battle to fight now that the parenting plan was decided. He now wanted to fight to keep as much of our marital money as he possibly could. He knew that leaving me broke with two kids to take care of would make me weaker… and he thrived on making me feel weak.
One day John was exchanging text messages with me saying that he was putting a cap on what he would spend for the children’s extracurricular activities. The cap he had decided on was less than what we were currently spending for Quinn’s dance lessons. I had a moment of strength while sitting in the lunchroom at work. With my coworkers and friends sitting next to me, I replied that I was tired of these games and I was ready to go to arbitration. I knew I’d given in too much already and I was ready to draw a line.
I felt my heart jump in terror when I heard my phone ring immediately after pressing send on the message. I knew John was angry, so I didn’t pick up. When I heard the familiar sound notifying me that I had a voicemail, I excused myself and returned to my classroom to listen.
John’s angry, harsh whisper filled my classroom. Sly, as always, his message cut in and out so others listening could not say without doubt that it was a threat… but he knew I’d get the message. Among the garbled whispers the phrases “loud mouth” and “I’m going to kill you” were clear as day.
I started to shake uncontrollably. I could feel my legs threaten to give way. In my heart I felt he would do it. He would kill me given the chance. My coworkers and principal listened to the message. Some made out his words… others said it was too whispered to make it out clearly.
Since I worked at a school, and that meant this threat also threatened the safety of our students, the police were called. They listened to the message repeatedly. They agreed that they heard the same threat I heard. They also said it wouldn’t stand up in court because it wasn’t clear enough.
They called John and told him to stop calling me… but that is where their support ended. He, of course, lied to the police saying he must have pocket dialed me… even though he’d just been text messaging me…. even though in 14 years he’d never pocket dialed me before…. even though his smartphone could only be unlocked with his password. He then sent me an angry text message about calling the police.
Once again, my terror intensified after I put my trust in the people who were supposed to protect me and was turned away.
I started looking over my shoulder wherever I went. I jumped and shrieked when people entered a doorway when my back was turned to them. My fear had not ended. John continued to be given opportunity after opportunity to threaten me… to terrorize me… to reinforce his claim that no one would help me… that I was alone. I sank into a desperate hole of terror. When would I be free from this constant fear?