This Is What Financial Abuse Looks Like
My ex husband had already dragged us through hell.
After a year of watching him poison himself with oxycodone (he had a 120 - 140 mg per day addiction), I found out he had been lying about working. He even pretended to go to work every day, getting up and dressed early every morning. He had managed to keep us afloat with his severance package for a few months - while telling us he was being recruited by the FBI - but it became blindingly and painfully clear by late summer that any and every thing he told us about bringing in a paycheck was a lie.
Recruitment by the FBI was a lie. Recruitment by the FBI to work for the International Space Station in, of all places, Belgium, a bigger lie. The alleged mixup that caused the FBI to postpone his training at Quantico and his subsequent breakdown after I demanded he tell me the truth about where he had been going every day - not to work at Fort Carson, as he claimed - was the biggest lie. Well, the biggest besides him saying he was being deployed to Africa to build ebola clinics.
All his lies backed up by more lies and wrapped up in further, bigger lies. He even went so far as to pull FBI letterhead off the internet and write fake letters regarding his "employment."
Clearly, the addiction was not his only issue; I struggled to understand how his mental health had taken such a serious turn for the worse. After I kicked him out, he became increasingly irrational and delusional; my fear that he might do something equally irrational but far more violent ruled my family's existence. We looked out the window before leaving the house and nervously scanned up and down the street to make sure he wasn't waiting behind some tree to jump out and hurt us.
Eventually, he committed some serious (but not physical) crimes against me, and wound up in jail. He was eventually charged with several (thankfully) non-violent crimes; he eventually took a plea and spent 6 months in jail. He was also sentenced to probation for 18 months.
I have a Permanent Protective Order against him, but lemme tell ya: An abuser will never leave you alone if the courts give them the slightest bit of leeway. And they nearly always give them leeway. And honestly, why do they give them so much leeway? What is the larger purpose for their leniency? To give them enough rope to hang themselves and their whole family?
Because an abuser will do just that.
Read More About Surviving Domestic Violence in Plastiline, My New Memoir!
He always told me that if I ever left him, he would leave me with nothing and take our son. That's why, despite the emotional, psychological and financial abuse that began just a few short months after we were married, I knew I couldn't leave him.
But the lies about him working were just too much; I couldn't tolerate the deception and drug abuse anymore. And how would I ever be able to forget such all-encompassing lies, or ever trust him again? To make matters worse, he acted like everything would soon return to normal, like nothing happened. After a decade of abuse, that was the last straw.
He told the police that he had been expecting the divorce papers; I dunno, maybe he expected them but I hoped I wouldn't file, because his behavior took a sharp turn into crazy, which ended with him in jail and us evicted from our house.
The sad reality is that abusers are adept at recruiting others for their cause. I'd like to say those cohorts are all men, but women are just as likely to fall for the lies.
I realized that everything in my life had been a lie. Every dream I looked forward to fulfilling - like becoming a Grand Dame of the non-profit world - had been shattered. We were now on food stamps, TANF and Medicaid. We were the family unable to make utilities payments or pay for garbage service. We were the family begging for assistance.
On November 29, 2014, he told me he was mailing the rent check. He had paid for October, so I assumed that he would adhere to the terms of the divorce; specifically that he would not get us kicked out of our house.
I already knew he was irrational, but I didn't imagine he could do this to his son. And me? I knew he was perfectly capable of hurting me or possibly abducting our son, but I didn't think he would go so far as to get us kicked out of our home. I think I thought that it would take too much effort on his part or that it wouldn't be bad enough.
But it just shows how irrational my thinking was, too. On the day before Thanksgiving, he went into an apparent fit of rage and decided to turn off my cell phone. This was my only means of communication; we didn't have a home phone. He also remotely locked my laptop, claiming later that it was his and that he felt he needed to do that to prevent it from ... ahem ... "being stolen."
Since he had already turned off my phone, he had to gloat to someone, so he began texting my mother. I called the police in a panic; it took me sobbing uncontrollably on the phone with an officer for an unacceptably long time to get them to understand my fear. We were hundreds of miles away from home, visiting my elderly uncle for Thanksgiving; our house was totally vulnerable, and he refused to leave me alone. The police acted like I was being paranoid.
We moved into a house only he knew we couldn't afford on June 1, 2014. It was $1800 per month. But according to him he would be making about $10,000 per month, so that amount shouldn't have been a big deal, especially because it was only supposed to be temporary.
I confirmed everything was a lie and kicked him out on September 30, 2014.
He texted me from his mom's house a couple days later and said I needed to pay rent. He told me he spoke with our landlord and that our landlord said I could leave a check in our mailbox (which was on the front of our house), and that the landlord would come pick it up. I left the check in the mailbox, AFTER the mailman had come that day; when I checked the box later that day, it was gone. I didn't hear anything more about it.
At the end of November, he texted me, asking whether it was okay that he paid the rent.
A few days later, though, he gloated that he hadn't really paid the rent and we were actually - and inexplicably - 2 months behind in the rent. I had no idea. I rushed over to the bank to withdraw the rent money, but he beat me to it; he pulled out just enough so I couldn't pay rent.
He then, somehow, got the number for the throwaway cell phone I bought the day before (!!!), and gave our landlord that number.
So then the landlord started calling me and demanding money. He said that my husband said I was irresponsible with money and that I was the reason the rent hadn't been paid. I was still trying to process how we were two months behind on rent and why the landlord hadn't ever tried to call me on my old phone.
He admitted he never tried to call the old phone before it got shut off.
I told the landlord I had no way to come up with $3600; I also told him every time the furnace came on, it would trip the electricity in the rest of the house and all the lights would go out.
(Aside: My neighbors told me that there had been a serious fire in the house several years earlier, so I went over to the fire department to see if it was true. Of course it was true. An electrical fire had severely damaged a good portion of the house. I went to the permits office and found out that there had been no permits issued for about 20 years; long before the fire.)
It was then that the landlord found strong inspiration to begin the eviction.
The person who served the eviction papers said that my landlord, Dave Parker, asked that they serve me on Christmas Eve; he said he wasn't that big of a jerk and had (thankfully) refused to do that.
Worst. Christmas. Ever.
The eviction hearing was in early January, and because the way the law is written, I had no chance of winning. My ex was in custody and missed the hearing, because the landlord refused to serve him in jail. I asked for just two more weeks in the house, but they wouldn't let me stay.
I made it quite clear that this was a domestic violence situation, but I know I was ultimately evicted for non-payment.
To make matters worse, during the eviction hearing, Mr. Parker swore up and down, under oath, that he had not received the check I left in my mailbox. My bank, unfortunately, had only posted the front side of the cancelled check online, so a copy of the front side of the check was all I had during the hearing. Of course they evicted me.
I sped over to my bank after the hearing and spoke to them about the check. Of course Mr. Parker had endorsed and deposited the check. Of course the signature matched the signature on all the other checks we gave him.