For over two years, since the beginning of our most recent of family court battles, I have sought to get help for my family, my four children, especially my two youngest children, now ages 15 and 13. We have been forced to live our lives according to the whims of an angry man who, for nearly a decade now, has manipulated the legal system and used our two equally dysfunctional extended families to further isolate and victimize me as well as each of our four children. Manipulating chaos and discord and stirring conflict has only perpetuated the cycle of violence we continue to live with, ten years after a finalized divorce that my ex-husband initiated.
My children and I have had no choice but to make the best of a no-win situation and have tread new ground in unfamiliar territories, alone, afraid, but bound by simple, basic, human love. We have far exceeded all expectations and are no longer only a story of simple survival but of success. We successfully maintained bonds, loving bonds, albeit fragile and still smarting, but we are the epitome of “love knows no bounds”.
This is a very long time to live adjusting to what is easily seen and clear to read as an obvious pattern of abuse that is marked by repeat, return-trips of endless back to back court appearances and custody hearings that began in July 2005. We had no choice but to appear and answer to at least one, sometimes two and three per year since. That summer in 2005 my ex-husband filed this first emergency legal action, an emergency separation and for emergency custody of our three minor children who had been in my care and custody since birth. The three children at that time were ages 14, 7, and 4. He filed this suit in a jurisdiction that was 200 miles away from the jurisdiction in which we resided and he filed his petition immediately after he abandoned us, leaving me and the children penniless. Shutting down our mutual checking and savings account was actually the first action he took. In that very first legal action of July 2005 my ex-husband claimed that I kidnapped our the three (3) minor children against their will and moved with them to another county in an attempt to hide them and keep them from him (their father). It would be careless to omit the date of that very first hearing, August 29, 2005, and the impact it too would have on our future. The day that Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (landfall actually within 10 miles of our home). At that moment I was standing on courthouse steps 200 miles away waiting for a hearing that would be reset due to bad weather. This was a pivotal and defining moment in me and my children’s lives in more ways than one. So, although the blatant and outrageous lies and accusations were never given credence and I was able to maintain the custody and care of our three children, these lies sat at the top of our “family file” and opened my own family’s new story, foretelling the tragedy to come and that lead us to where we are today. I didn’t know it then but the very fact that these very serious claims, lies and allegations were never addressed or curtailed by “authorities” of the people in charge, or, the inaction” by the court that day gave some sense of freedom from all accountability which is in essence nothing short of a green-light to an abuser. That day a new pattern of torment emerged and a whole new pattern of torment began in the form “legal abuse” by my ex-husband. Money and the ill-equipped court system were used by my ex-husband as new weapons to punish me since he was, in fact, no longer legally allowed to do so as my spouse.
I can state that although I knew what was happening to us and that I was fully cognizant, horribly aware, that what we were going through was abusive, I did not fully understand how much damage this abuse could and would inflict upon me and my children nor did I have any idea that this would ever be allowed to continue as it has for so many years. I have to live with that ignorance and what it cost me and and my children. We lost basic freedoms and minimum rights yet managed not only to survive but somehow thrive despite impossible circumstances. I am proud of them and proud of the example I have set for them.
Not only do all of my children have years of emotional damage in which to cope with and heal from, they have only very recently been allowed the chance in which to try begin the painful process. They also carry the added pain and scars from so much suffering they had to endure for so long in plain sight. The entire community around them failed to them because it has not yet even recognized, identified, or acknowledged what exactly “It” is. This has only intensified their pain and sense of worthlessness, further isolating and violating them. They have had to cope with the constant rejection and abandonment by the similarly dysfunctional extended families of origin of both of their parents … how could they possibly avoid feeling worthless and unimportant? No one will ever really know how much damage all of this perceived apathy and rejection has done to them. It is certainly understandable that most communityleaders, neighbors, and friends assume extended families, if there are any, will step up and in to help if there are valid emergencies. Sadly, that is not always the case, and these days it is a very dangerous assumption to make. There are no villages anymore.
My children have been completely “invisible” in plain sight and as their mother I can’t rest until they are noticed. Because I myself failed to comprehend, accept, and define what was happening to us there was no possible way to explain it to others, let alone ask for help. I carry the full weight of this, knowing I have been the biggest failure of all to my children and I carry it with me like the weight of the world on my shoulders every day. There are so many caring people who have looked on helplessly, uncertain how to help. My children have completely lost their childhoods and I have completely lost the years in which to mother and nurture them. I wish very much to make this the time for change, the beginning of the end of this destruction. Maybe, in the process, we can shed some light and knowledge on this most terrible of human atrocities. It is occurring every day in every community in our civilized society. If left unchecked it will undoubtedly catch up to each and every family in one way or another. Maybe we can avoid further unnecessary and senseless suffering. Maybe we can help other “invisible” children and parents. This is a senseless shame that has invaded our homes, steals childhoods and robs memories and leaves everlasting scars. This is tearing families apart and is dividing communities.
Would you please help me with this, for my family and for yours?