1:4 #2, The Child Welfare Case Worker

1:4 #2 Child Welfare Worker

Please share what happened to you:

I had been looking for love,safety,and security in all the wrong places. I never dated much when I was younger and, when I met my first husband, I thought he was a nice,decent man who came from a large close family. He had lived at home with his parents until we were married. At the time, I was a nursing student,and so our plans were being built with the expectation of two incomes. Our marriage was a struggle from the beginning. We didn’t establish our own foundation; it was all based on how his parents did things, which included budgeting and the running of our household. I was given an allowance in which to shop for groceries, and had to ask permission to get my hair done or purchase makeup. I didn’t realize that my husband had a temper and there was frequent arguing and yelling. When I injured my back in the nursing program and had to withdrawal from school, he became very demanding.

Since I was now at home, I was expected to have meals prepared, laundry done,and a clean house at all times. His dream of two incomes was destroyed,and with that,came his resentment towards me. Our social life consisted of only his friends and his family. I wasn’t permitted to make plans unless they were also attending. Although we had two daughters together, life was becoming more difficult. He would find ways to humiliate, ridicule, or make fun of me when we were with other people. I was angry and embarrassed. When we would return home, he would want sex. Women are wired differently. We can’t turn off our emotions and be intimate with someone who was mistreating us. So, I was called ice princess or frigid bitch.

The breaking point for me came during one of these arguments and being called names. He knocked over my oldest daughter who was coming into the room into the door. He continued to escalate and grabbed me by my shoulders and threw me back onto the bed, and then picked up my cat and threw her down onto our concrete patio. I knew then that if this was the best it was going to be, I didn’t want this anymore. I wanted a divorce. He left that night, only to return a day later and was told that this was his house and if anyone were to leave, it would be me, but without my children. I couldn’t do that. I obtained an attorney and filed for divorce. Although we were separated, we resided in the same house. I was still expected to fix his meals and do his laundry, which I refused to do.I did my best to avoid him. When I went to court for our final divorce hearing, he closed out our joint bank account leaving me with no money to even buy diapers for our youngest. He was court ordered to continue to provide financial support.We were legally divorced for about a week, with him still refusing to leave the home, when another argument ensued. This time he told me if I wanted a blood bath, he would see to it that I had one. He left the house and I looked out the window and noticed him in my car, underneath the dashboard. When I approached him, he pulled out a large pocket knife from under the driver’s seat and said he was getting his knife. For the first time, I believed that he was going to harm not only me,but my daughters. He didn’t drive or use my car, and I never saw that knife before. As soon as he left in his vehicle, the police were notified and came to check my car,especially the brakes. My ex worked for an automobile assembly plant and I feared that he was attempting to cut the wires. The police issued a warrant for his arrest and he was finally excluded from the home with a no contact order. He was served at his job site so now I had done him wrong.

Getting my divorce was easy; the ancillary and custody was hard and I started to discover that I had a tiny voice that tried to be heard. I remember when I told his mother that he had put hands on me and pushed me, she responded that he is the man of the house. Oh hell no. We have been divorced since 1991 and our children are now adults. He still has so much anger towards me, that it continues to affect our daughters. I have no regrets and never looked back. I didn’t recognize how controlling he was, or that I was being verbally and emotionally abused. When it became physical, I knew then that if he could harm my cat and throw me down, then he was capable of harming my daughters.

Five years later, I met my second husband. I was a single mother with joint custody of my two daughters, and now a full time college student. My husband was active duty in the USAF, with joint custody of his two sons, that were in their teens. During our early courtship he kept pushing for a quick involvement and even marriage. He told me he wanted to take care of us, add us to his healthcare, protect, and keep us safe. I mistook strength for control. He was a great boyfriend, or so I believed. We were congenial, had similar interests, and never seemed to argue. I couldn’t understand why this same man was easy going with me, but would yell and scream at his sons if they weren’t following his rules or were disrespectful towards him. I didn’t see it, even when we would be on outings, or holiday dinners. He would humiliate his boys.

When we were planning our wedding, my mom saw the red flags and tried to warn me. I didn’t want to believe or see it, even when he walked out on my girls, mom,and I because we couldn’t decide on a pizza topping, or when he decided on the song for our first dance, which I had never heard before. We argued about it and I gave in. It was on our honeymoon, that it all began to change. Out of the clear blue,during a conversation, I was told I was disrespectful because I interrupted him. I was never allowed to interject.The only responses I was allowed to give were yes or no. I wasn’t allowed to talk, just to talk, unless it had a point, wasn’t allowed to have or give an opinion,and that the world was black or white, with no gray. I don’t think like that. I see the world in color. My stepsons were very difficult, defiant, and manipulative. Their mother couldn’t handle them, and they were sent to live with their dad. I came into this marriage full of hope and dreams for the future. He slowly began to tear away at those dreams. He would find something to argue about and the yelling and screaming would follow. He would threaten to leave and would begin to pack a suitcase or talk about divorce, or he and his son would tell me that this was their house,being military,and that they could put us out. Then he would stop talking to me, and my daughters. There was never a time out, or a time to be back in. I had just lost my dad and my husband was talking divorce. It became too much emotionally with all the threats, rejection,abandonment,that I had an emotional breakdown and was hospitalized for a few weeks,and placed on medication for depression and anxiety.
Co­parenting was almost non existent.We had agreed that we would parent our own children,with the stepparent supporting us. We were to present a united front. If the biological parent was absent, the children were told to listen to their stepparent. Only I wasn’t allowed to parent my own children. Whenever I attempted to do so, he would jump right in and get in my children’s faces, yelling, screaming, and giving them consequences and scream at me for him having to take over. I remember their faces….wide eyed with tears streaming down their cheeks. I was told over and over that I was a failure as a parent, he knew more than e how to effectively raise children. I was told so many times how inadequate I was as a mother and as a wife,that I believed him. When I suggested that we go to counseling, I was told that I needed it and that he went with his ex wife and doesn’t need to go again. He was always right. It was always his way. We were treated as if we were in the military,not as a family. He had me convinced to write and post a set of house rules with consequences for the children. It was more like punishment. More and more, his temper got worse over the simplest things. I never knew what to expect or what would prompt him to go into a rage. Then, later on, he would act as if nothing happened. He always found a way to ruin celebrations, holidays, or special events, by either screaming, isolating himself, or leaving the house and returning the next day. Anything that was important to me or my daughters.

I worked in child welfare, and often with women in abusive situations. I had the training,and knew the domestic violence resources. I even began to go to a domestic violence counselor, hoping to build some self worth. I dealt with difficult clients all day and yet I was terrified to walk through my front door,not knowing what mood he’d be in. Was he bipolar, was it his military background? After my husband retired from the military,he started working for a communication company. After a year or so,the company was sold and my husband was let go. I worked full time and he spent his days submitting a few resumes on line and playing video games. He refused to go out into the community to job hunt as it was beneath him and he had high qualifications. Money was tight,so he went out and bought a gaming station and games, or CDs and DVDs. He had this sense of entitlement. When I questioned his spending, he went and opened his own bank account and any monies he was receiving. He put the responsibility of paying bills on me. If I failed to remind him of a due bill,he refused to pay it. I was continually criticized,chastised, humiliated, embarrassed,and shamed, regardless if it was in private, or in public. My daughters,received the same treatment. And I stood by, allowing it. I didn’t stand up or protect them, because I was afraid he would turn on me.

In 2003, I was diagnosed with breast cancer while he was still out of work. I continued to work full time during my treatment while he stayed home playing his video games. When he would overreact to something my girls did, it was usually something minor,but he would blow it up and quickly lose his temper just over them leaving their shoes in the walkway. I was told I was using cancer not to deal with things. No,I was picking my battles. He found ways to hurt me emotionally whenever he could. He befriended my first husband and formed an alliance that nearly cost me my children. I lost my daughter for about a year when she went to live with her dad. He saw to it and actually facilitated it. When he was angry, he would distance himself from us, and would sleep elsewhere in the house. It started as a night or two,then,a week,to several weeks, and then randomly come back upstairs as if nothing were wrong. When I needed to be close or touched, I would find him fantasizing over an X rated magazine. I felt so inadequate as a woman. During my cancer treatment, I suffered 2nd­ and 3rd degree burns under my left arm and breast from radiation. I needed to be seen at the emergency room as soon as possible. My husband was taking me. While enroute, my oldest daughter went to her best friend’s house without permission. I had called her; she felt she needed to get away from the chaos for a bit. He flew into a rage while driving and told me to get her under control and get her home or he would turn the car around and head home,which he did. I begged him to take me to the hospital which he finally did.

I endured this marriage for years. I had been shoved into a door, had the police intervene and he was arrested with a no contact order, which I tried to fight. It wasn’t until my own daughters told me that I was being abused, that I heard them and finally said it out loud that he is abusive. Emotionally I believed that I was nothing. I had no self esteem,and no voice. I had forgotten how to smile and laugh. I couldn’t take any more of his threats,rants,rages. I filed for a protection from abuse and almost didn’t go through with it. An emergency PFA was granted and he was served while I was home. Luckily my girls were at their dad’s. The police were called out due to his escalation and then him trying to play the victim. After they left it got worse. He called the police and started yelling in the phone for me to stop and take hands off of him. Once he fell asleep, I snuck out and went to a domestic violence shelter for the night.

The police escorted me back home the next day to get some belongings until he was out of the house and I could return. A PFA hearing was held. Both my daughters were to attend as they were also included. He showed up with an attorney and my first husband to testify on his behalf. I represented myself. This time,my voice was heard as I recalled so many details. The PFA was granted based on years of verbal and emotional abuse and duress. My first husband heard it all. My husband was court ordered out of the home and to attend domestic violence anger management counseling. I was able to communicate with the counselor during the course the classes; he tried to convince others that he was sent to be an observer. He failed to see fault with his behaviors, action, temper, and was convinced that he was the victim. The PFA was for 6 months, with only 3rd party contact. We lost our home to foreclosure and filed for bankruptcy as a result of my husband’s sense of entitlement, his irresponsibility when it came to finances, and his refusal to pay bills. But he did now have a new large flat screen TV. My good credit was destroyed and my oldest daughter, again went to live with her dad. After the PFA ended, he moved back into the home. My youngest daughter said if he lived there, she would go and live with her dad. I made plans to move out and found a townhouse to rent. We tried couples counseling and he refused to make any changes or admit to any abusive behavior. He was told that he had a passive­-aggressive personality.The therapist discharged us,saying both of us need to be willing. We decided to divorce a short time later and to at least be friends. I said that I would file the petition. I needed that sense of control. I was growing as a person and he remained stagnant, narcissistic, and passive­-aggressive. He called me at work to tell me that he received the final divorce decree. I know it was intentional as I also received the decree which was in my mail when I got home. At first I was upset, then felt the chains coming off and freedom. Then the anger and the horrible memories and reminders. Any good memories were negated by the bad memories. He wanted to now be my friend. It wasn’t going to happen. It’s never going to happen. I couldn’t explain at the time, while I stayed with him. I loved him, but didn’t like him, and I didn’t want to fail at another marriage. Maybe the fear of being alone. I thought if I could work on changing myself, it would get better. I came to realize that I didn’t need to be fixed. I wasn’t broken, and had a good, secure job with the State and benefits.

1:4 #2 Child Welfare Worker

How are you doing now?

It’s been over nine years since my divorce. My now ex husband remained in our home until it was sold in a sheriff’s sale. I had moved into my own place with my youngest daughter. Within a short period of time,my oldest daughter moved back. I remember the first thing they did was to run up and down the stairs and then dance and twirl around the living room. And we laughed. There was peace and harmony. My ex moved out of state to be closer to his family. Within a few months, he met a woman with three young children. His family and I all feared for her, but no one wanted to interfere. Within a year or two, he remarried. I don’t know if I will ever re­marry again. Relationships terrify me, but I still hold out hope for a healthy relationship in my future. That fear of rejection is still there. In so many ways, I am much stronger. Stronger than I ever imagined I could be. In other ways, not so strong, and still somewhat emotionally fragile. Since my divorce, I got involved again in many volunteer and non profit organizations, and have given speeches and presentations. I’m an advocate for who or what I believe it. Just before my divorce was final, I went out with a coworker/friend to a singles mingles social. Through her friend I met my best friend. I was now beginning to build a social network and develop lasting friendships. I rarely date and have only had two involvements in all these years; I tried online dating and still was blind to the red flags. When they didn’t call after a first meeting, I still thought it must be me. As I got stronger, I got wiser. I want to trust a man, but it is hard to do. I am guarded and more cautious. I am now able to take a step back to process when they decide to suddenly walk away or stop calling.I ask myself, is there anything I can do about it. If the answer is no, let it go. It’s their stuff. I do know that I can’t stand to be around people yelling and arguing, whether it be family or other. I remove myself from the situation, and in my head, just keep saying to myself,shut up. The scars are still there. They cannot be seen, but they cut deep. Some think of abuse as physical violence. Abuse comes in many forms…physical, emotional, sexual, financial. I was a victim of them all. Through my job, I was required to attend domestic violence training. It was hard. Memories that I had tucked away in my mind, became vivid and just as painful as ever. But one thing was different. I was able to share with others and put a face on it. I was able to relate more to clients and help them make some difficult choices. I felt empowered. Two years ago,my former sister in law and I met for a visit with my mom. We remained close and she was my biggest supporter when I was married to her brother. She tried to convince me to leave him and stated that he has always been like this. She had a message to give me from him. He was now attending Church, and wanted to have my forgiveness. I didn’t believe her when she said he had changed.As we talked, I started to shake as I remembered. I couldn’t stop the visions. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t forgive, and would never forgive him. Any love I had for this man,died long ago. I feel a hatred towards him. And I’m not a hater. I don’t hold grudges and I forgive easily. But, I can’t. I hate that I lost me for all those years. I still beat myself up for not protecting my daughters. I put them through so much, because I was too afraid and too weak to leave. Now, I am woman,hear me roar.

1:4 #2 Child Welfare Worker
Is there anything  about domestic violence you’d like to tell the world?

My parents divorced when I was 15, and my dad moved away. When my parents were together, I remember the yelling and the screaming. I can’ t hear my mom’s voice,only my
dad’s. He would say mean and hurtful things to her, and randomly would throw objects. To me,it was normal. Until one day, after my dad went to work, we quietly moved out of our house and into my grandparents. I was about 5. I was upstairs asleep when I was woken up to crashing and screaming. My dad showed up at their house, went into a rage, and broke through the front glass door, trying to get to my brother and I, and the police responding. They got back together and we moved to a new home. But the pattern continued for years. Dad was away on extended business trips. I was a teen when I found out that they kept separating. I blamed myself. I felt abandoned and rejected by the only man in my life. And with that came broken promises and lies. So, I subconsciously was drawn to men who promised me the world. I wore rose colored glasses. I learned that my dad was a charmer. It wasn’t until my parents married, that my dad started his abusive behaviors. My mom didn’t talk about it until she recognized the similarities between my dad and the men I chose. And it wasn’t until I was in counseling, that I recognized the pattern. I was choosing men who were like my dad. And when my marriages were threatened, it triggered my fears of being left alone. Being alone is okay and nothing to be ashamed about. Recognize the warning signs if you think you’re being abused, reach out and tell someone. You are not alone. If you suspect that someone is being abused,speak up! You may just be saving a life. Learn about about the cycle of violence and develop a safety plan if you need to leave immediately. Make copies of important documents, pack a bag if possible, and leave it somewhere safe. There are domestic violence hotlines and women’s shelters in undisclosed locations to keep your abuser from knowing your whereabouts, as well as trained domestic violence advocates and counselors who will accompany you to court for a PFA hearing or other criminal hearings that he may be at. The decision to stay or leave is yours. Just know your options and do the homework. Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate and it’s never acceptable. We have the power to stop it.

1:4 #2 The Child Welfare Case Worker

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