The Long Road To Bliss In Progress, by Melissa Littles
The path of enlightenment...
I remember the moment well. I somehow felt as if I were out of my own body, somehow looking in on my life....taking inventory so to speak, and trying to make sense of how I got to that place. Who was she? She certainly wasn't me, and I knew for sure, I hated everything about who she had become. It was a surreal moment, one that marked the beginning that changed everything forever.
My boss was known as the Godfather of Family Law, highly respected in the legal community, feared by all husbands who's wives hired him first, with a reputation of being fierce in the courtroom, leaving nothing but empty checkbooks of broken doctors, lawyers and real estate tycoons in his wake. He was the Senior Partner of the firm, I was his paralegal and it was a big deal. I spent years paying my dues. Years of education, hours upon hours of continuing legal education, extra effort in obtaining my specialties in asset analysis to compliment my accounting degree, and finally it had all paid off. I knew all the lawyers in town, most judges, every court reporter and clerk. I was well respected with a rock solid reputation and I knew, just as they knew, that I knew my stuff. I was confident in my success and I wore it proudly. My boss always introduced me to the new clients the same way..."this is Melissa, she's my right hand, she's extremely knowledgeable in her field, and she will handle everything that I don't." I'll always remember that.
My boss called me to the big conference room that day to do some hand holding. It was part of what made our working partnership mesh so well. He was great at handing out the facts in black and white, drawing bottom lines and assuring the client that when her divorce was final, her husband will have wished he never crossed her. He was not, on the other hand, good at hand holding. He had no patience for the emotional area of divorce. He had no time to waste listening to a woman cry over her failed marriage, her broken dreams and her crushed heart. He knew if there were any legalities coming out of the therapy session which needed his attention, I would pass them along. So I went in, as always, with an available shoulder, an endearing look of sympathy and a voice of reason.
I listened that day, as I always did. As her story unfolded and she told me of the abuse she was suffering, physical, emotional and verbal, I did my job as I always did, I told her his threats to cut her off financially were futile, I assured her that he would not take her children from her and I reassured her that we would help her take her life back. She kept using the word hyprocrite when describing her husband. He had lied to her, he had manipulated her, he promised her he would never hurt her....he always said he hated men like that. He was a total con man, he was nothing in real life what he seemed to be. Hypocrite. I promised her we would be there for her, protect her and get her to the place she deserved to be. As I walked her to the elevator I felt my phone vibrate......again.
I walked as quickly as my feet would carry me, down the long hall, out the back door, into the bathroom inside the stairwell hallway. I quickly checked the stalls as the phone was already dialing his number. 13 missed calls.....21 texts....in just over 40 minutes. As I listened to him begin his usual tirade, calling me a whore, accusations flying of where I had really been, it sure wasn't any meeting with a client. Even though I flushed the toilet to prove I was in the bathroom at work, even though I already texted him the pictures I managed to take of my feet and my client's under the conference room table, he still wouldn't stop. I told him I had to get back to my desk, my boss would be looking for me..."so your boys at work are more important than your husband?" As I tried to fight back the tears I told him I was hanging up. As I picked up my legal pad and pen I looked at the notes I had taken in my meeting, I just stood there, staring at the word I had written, underlined and repeated over and over and over again. Hypocrite.
I look back at all the oh so obvious red flags the were not only raised but waving vehemently in my face from the beginning and to this day I cannot fathom what made me want to see the good in him. I knew better. My entire career revolved around helping women escape from it. I was a cynic. Years of living through others divorces and myself coming out of a ten year relationship which had run its course years before it ended had left me in a state of apathy. But yet for some reason, I manipulated those red flags into submission and lowered them one by one. Perhaps I so desperately wanted and needed something to prove me wrong, perhaps I was tired of my own judgmental, cynical, apathetic frame of mind. Perhaps the scripted yet effective hand holding was lack luster and I was tired of seeing the worst in people. Perhaps I should have given myself more credit from the get go.
He had an excuse for all of his paranoia's. Every excuse had a name. They all did him horribly wrong. It wasn't his fault that I was just like all of them. What was he supposed to think if he called me two, three, four, five times at work and I still didn't answer my phone? There were no meetings that should be more important than him, but that just proved his point. Not giving him access to my law office email accounts had nothing to do with violating a client's privacy, it was just proof I was running all my boyfriends through my email at work. The fact that there were no unaccounted for calls on the cell phone only proved I had secret phones at the office I hid from him. It certainly didn't prove I wasn't calling anyone I shouldn't. By the time I found myself in the bathroom at work that day, looking at that girl in the mirror...the hypocrite...my only thought was how did I allow myself to get here and how will I get myself and this baby I'm carrying out alive.
Abusers spend months, sometimes years "grooming" their victims. By the time the monster emerges they have tied you to the relationship with emotional attachments, they have methodically created an environment in which their victim feels under-minded and powerless to a new level of abuse that has slowly increased and finally erupted. They have prepared for this moment for a long time. And they have banked on the knowledge that they have worked on their victim long enough to be able to execute the control their own insecurities so desperately crave.
It took a months and months of relentless accusations, constant belittling, degrading abuse followed by remorse, regret and promises to finally mentally and emotionally exhaust me. He knew quickly that I would want to prove him wrong, that I would want to show him he didn't have to be this way. It took me months and months to realize this cycle was part of the abuse. The breaking of your spirit, the grooming. The harder you work at proving to your abuser you are worthy of their love, that you are honest and faithful and want nothing more that to build a life and a future with them unlike anything they have dealt with in the past, the harder they will push back to prove you wrong, to show you....you are just like all the others. I know now I am just like all the others, and there was nothing wrong with them either.
My baby saved my life. I have no doubt. I knew I could not change him and I saw the propensity for the physical abuse increasing. I thought being pregnant would be a reprieve from at least the verbal and emotional abuse. He couldn't actually believe an exhausted, overweight, pregnant woman was actually using work as an outlet to have sex with every man in her office building? And now I know he didn't think that at all. It was part of the grooming. Breaking of one's spirit. Unfortunately, he did not account for the fact that women have a tendency to become "Mother Bears" when it comes to their children. He set the stage for the demise of his own plan and as each month of my pregnancy passed, my plan of escape became closer to an obtainable reality.
It took two years, multiple protective orders, 2 separate criminal charges, and two violations of a permanent protective order to finally get a conviction against my abuser that was sufficient to protect me and my child from him forever. The fight after the fact was ten times worse than the year of abuse. It was a relentless, nonstop, 24-7 battle against threats, stalking, harassing, slandering, publicly humiliating and exhausting circumstances. To this day he continues to use the Internet as an outlet to spew his hate, to publicly slander me, my innocent children and my family with lies and falsities that are a disturbing answer to his continued need for control. This is very typical behavior for abusers who's victims have not only gotten out of the relationship, but have continued on to fight their abuser in court. Even after a conviction, abusers will not stop. Abusers know exactly how far they can push before they go to jail. They have a clear understanding of what act will bring a misdemeanor vs. a felony charge either before a conviction or while on probation or even after being incarcerated. They know exactly how miserable they can make your life without ruining theirs. This is why so many victims drop charges to simply try and get some peace. The fear of facing their abuser in Court is often times enough to walk away. The promises from their abuser to "make them pay, ruin them, show everyone what and who you really are" is enough to make many victims find themselves backing down and making deals with their abuser. They won't press charges hoping he will just go away, hoping the embarrassment will stop, hoping for peace. Victims who are planning to get out need to know the truth and need to be prepared to face it and fight it and stay the course no matter how long it takes....for there are no promises kept from your abuser. As soon as you concede, as soon as you resort to deal making, you open the door and let the monster right back in. Regardless of what he tells you or promises you, he will find a way to, in his mind, maintain some form of control. Victims of domestic violence need to know and be reminded by their loved ones and support system that no matter what he says, no matter what he posts online, no matter what the humiliation that may follow the escape....it is worth it to be alive. Victims need to be reminded that his words are a testament to HIS lack of character and speak nothing to the character of the victim. Do not judge a victim who is in the process of leaving, thinking of leaving or dealing with the aftermath of their escape. Be there to embrace them, never looking back, only looking forward to a more promising future. And to the victims who remain strong enough to get through it and get out, be amazed at their strength, do not judge why it took so long. Do not judge what you do not know.
And although another blog for another day, I will just add this. There is life after abuse, and it is good. If you told me then I would have the life I have today, I would have never believed it. I have peace, I have a loving, supportive, wonderful husband to go with my wonderful life. I believe in God, and now I know he had a plan. All along, he was guiding me down a path. As you will continue to hear, it has been quite the journey to Bliss.....and it is still a path of progress.
If you are being abused or know someone being abused, call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or call your local Department of Women and Children’s Family Services. There are resources available to victims of domestic violence and professionals who can help you or a loved one with information needed to implement a plan to get out safely.