The Reader's Digest version... **TRIGGER WARNING** Gawd This is LONG...
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|Mon, 08-20-2012 - 11:05am|
Harm asked me to post the "Reader's Digest Version" of what happened to the twins and I. Grab a coke, a smoke and a snack... make a trip to the restroom. Even the "condensed version" is LONG.
Do one other thing for me... keep the following in mind as you read this post. This is what happened to US... but what happened to US is EXTREMELY RARE and is not something which is likely to happen in the vast majority of DV cases.
Looking back today I think that in some ways I was "programmed" by my early life to not notice things that should have sent up "red flags" that I was getting into a situation that could get me killed. What is worse to me though is that my lack of awareness almost got 2 of my children killed as well.
I met him in 1991. The end of August if memory serves. One of my brothers introduced us. He was different. Tall, muscular, reasonably intelligent, he listened when I spoke, didn't seem to be judgemental... I know today that I was conned... but then I honestly thought that he was as close to "perfect" as I was likely to find. I should have had SOME inclining that there was a problem though when the man who has been my best friend since I was three couldn't stand him. Instead I put his reaction down to jealousy. How different life may have been if I hadn't.
It was December of 1993 when I had the first hint that there might be a larger problem in our relationship. I was almost 7 months pregnant and STILL dealing with morning sickness every time that I turned my head. The least amount of stress also caused me to throw up. He called home about 730 that morning and I didn't answer the phone. I was a little busy, throwing up. When he got home about an hour later he was yelling because I hadn't answered the phone and he "was worried". I turned around to head down the hall to throw up AGAIN and to be honest I don't know whether that first time that he hit me was an accident or deliberate. He hit me between the shoulder blades hard enough so that I spun around and threw up all over him. The look on his face in that instant is still with me. He apologized profusely for hitting me and, thinking that it was a "one off" incident I put it behind me. A couple of days later he came home with a cordless phone so I "didn't have to worry about getting out of bed to answer the phone".
A few days later my OB put me on complete bed rest with the exception of getting up to use the ladies room. From then until when the twins were born I had what can only be called a "babysitter" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Initially because the reason that I was put on bed rest was because I kept going into labor and he was "afraid" that I would go into labor while he was at work and he was "afraid" that either one of the twins or I would die because I wouldn't be able to get to a phone. Sounds ridiculous now but then it made perfect sense to me.
My little sweethearts, Mari and Harry, who had been in such a hurry to arrive that I had to be put on bed rest got stubborn when the time came and I was allowed out of bed again. They were 2 weeks late and had to be delivered by c-section. I remember going to the hospital that morning very clearly. We were just there for a non-stress test. I was scheduled for a c-section a couple of days later but the doctor was being cautious and decided that I needed to have a non-stress test every other day to make sure that Mari and Harry were okay. We couldn't find their heartbeats that morning. Instant terror for me. I was positive between that and the fact that I hadn't felt them move since I got up that they were dead. Downstairs we went to have a sonogram done to find out if they were still alive. The doctor showed up about 10 minutes after the sonogram to tell me that I wouldn't be leaving the hospital that day... I was heading for the operating room instead. They arrived, complete with 16 people in the operating room OTHER than them and myself, at just after 2 in the afternoon.
Life goes on and things were mostly calm and stable until Mari and Harry were about 3. Oh there were a few altercations... a couple of occasions when dishes got thrown or radio equipment was thrown and one occasion when heput his fist through the wall but my brothers had beenthrowing things and putting their fists through walls when they were angry since *I* had met them so I really didn't think a whole heck of a lot of what was going on until the twins were 3.
We had a knock down, drag out fight over whether or not Mari and Harry were going to preschool while I went back to college to get my degree in Environmental engineering. I sort of "won" that one... they went to preschool but I "paid for" enrolling them in preschool with a broken rib. About that time we got the internet and I discovered what is now iVillage but which was called "Parent Soup" back then. I learned that there was a NAME for what was going on between my children's father and I. I learned the dangers to both myself and my children. I also learned just how ISOLATED my children and I had become and how controlling the man that I was married to was.
There were several incidents over the next couple of years that I STILL don't remember all of the details of. I can tell you that one of the incidents involved slamming the vehicle that the kids and I were in into a maple tree. I can tell you that there were several incidents of taking the twins and I to the bombing range at Camp Grayling, at gunpoint, and sitting the kids on unexploded bombs. I can tell you that I was told in minute detail what would happen IF I took the kids and left that house of horrors.
March 21, 1999 will live in my mind forever. As will May 25, 1999, June 1, 1999 and July 7, 1999. As you will see 1999 was NOT what anyone else would call a "good year" for my children and I. And yet it WAS a "good year" for us. The reasons for it being both good and bad will become clear shortly.
I don't remember what started the fight that night but I remember well that it was the night that I grew a spine. It was the night that I announced that I was leaving and taking the children with me. It was the night that I informed him that there was something SERIOUSLY WRONG with his mind if he thought I was going to spend the rest of my life living with abuse. It was the night that I said "ENOUGH!" the only way that I knew how. It was also the night that he called the police and when they told him that they weren't going to interfere in a "domestic disturbance" he told them that they had BETTER send the police or they WOULD be sending the coroner. About 2 minutes later the glass in the back door was broken by the but of a handgun in a police officer's hand and they entered the house with guns drawn while he and I stood in the living room with him trying to strangle me.
I remember the cop that night berating me for not cleaning up the contents of the refrigerator that the twins' father had dumped all over the kitchen floor. I remember that it HURT to breathe. I remember SOMEWHERE in the middle of it my brothers arriving "en masse" as it were because one of them worked for the county and he had HEARD the police dispatched to my house. I remember the yelling and screaming out in the front yard. I remember TRYING to calm my babies down after they witnessed their father trying to kill me. I remember that, in violation of both state and federal law, I was NOT taken to the emergency room... NOT because I refused to go but because the officers refused to do the MINIMUM REQUIRED BY LAW and TAKE me to the damn emergency room. I remember that he wasn't carted off to jail that night... instead he went to work... and I spent the night cleaning up the MESS that HE had made while TRYING to come up with a PLAN to get us safely OUT of that house of horrors.
"The calm after the storm"... For a few days things were calm. On April 7, 1999 Protective Services showed up on our doorstep because the police had accused me of abusing the kids. That was the day that he admitted to abusing the kids and I. Afterwards I remember PRAYING that the admission would be enough to get him hauled into court and for a judge to tell him that he HAD to STOP abusing us. Futile hope on my part as I soon learned.
May 25, 1999... We had had an argument over the fact that I had wanted to go to the movies with the kids' godmother on my birthday a couple of days before that. The fight wasn't serious but I KNEW that IF we were going to survive I HAD to get the kids out SOON. When the mail came about 1 that afternoon there was a letter from the state telling the twins' father that he had been placed on the state's child abuser registry. He never saw the letter. I put it in my purse along with the kids birth certificates, shot records and copies of their medical records. I KNEW we would be leaving before the day was out and I was making sure that I had ALL the paperwork I needed to help keep us SAFE. At least temporarily. The twins' father went to work at about 1030... by midnight the twins and I were GONE.
I will never know what his reaction to coming home to an empty house was... and honestly, I don't CARE what his reaction was. Even the dog was gone. I will never know if he called the police and accused me of kidnapping. I don't CARE if he did or not. NONE of us was SAFE with him.
June 1, 1999 I was on the phone with Michigan Consolidated Gas to have the gas shut off to the house when I was told by the CSR on the other end of the phone that 911 Dispatch had just called and asked for the gas to be shut off due to a house fire at that address. Yep, he'd set my house on fire. I don't know if he did it to get my attention or if he did it because he was drunk. I DO know that there were beer bottles in the basement and I DO know that the man had been a recovering alcoholic the ENTIRE time that I had known him and that I had NEVER seen him take a drink of alcohol.
On July 9, 1999 he slapped our son so hard that our son's cheek was split open, one of his retinas was partially detatched (something I didn't find out for almost a month) and he had 2 black eyes. It was close to bedtime for the kids and while I calmed Harry down he volunteered to put Mari to bed. After that he left. A few minutes after he left I got Harry ready for bed and after I put him to bed I checked on Mari. She was as white as a ghost and when I pulled back the covers she was covered in blood. I called the police and an ambulance. It turns out that he had raped her. He was arrested the next day on 1 count of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, 3 counts of Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, 2 Counts of Felony Child Endangerment.
When it was pointed out in court during his trial that our children and I were the victims of the worst known case of domestic violence in the history of the state of Michigan I turned an absolutely lovely shade of white... before I turned a lovely shade of green and started throwing up. He is currently on year 13 of a 30 year prison sentence.
I'd like to say that everything was "sunshine and roses" but the reality is that it wasn't. For a little while life felt like an even bigger nightmare.
I remember very calmly telling the police that night in the hospital that IF they didn't get their hot little hands on the (bad word deleted) who had hurt my daughter and lock him up they would be cleaning him up with a stick and a spoon. I wasn't joking. We were placed in protective custody mostly to keep tabs on me so that I didn't find the (bad word deleted) and kill him, which I admit that I would have done with absolutely NO guilt. It WAS rather interesting having police officers outside the doors of rooms that we were in... they even had one outside the operating room where Mari was having surgery.
I don't know a single parent who would have made choice with regard to their child that was different from the one that I made that night. About 45 minutes into the emergency surgery that Mari needed that night the doctor came to me and explained that in order to save her life my 5 year old daughter would have to have a hysterectomy. Her LIFE or her ability to have children... I signed the paperwork. If I had to make that decision again, I would make the same decision. It took several pints of blood and several days in ICU before I would know if that decision was the "right" decision. The whole time that she was in the hospital I got progressively more angry. That anger spilled over at a hospital employee who asked me the wrong question at the wrong time.
She asked me HOW I could LET that madman anywhere near my children. It's likely a good thing that the police were still guarding the door to Mari's room because I threw her, literally, out of the room and loudly told her not to return for any reason. Given the situation, the prosecuting attorney declined to prosecute me for assault. At that point I am not sure that I would have really cared if he had chosen to prosecute. I'd had my fill of stupid questions and stupid reactions from people and this particular "momma bear" wasn't going to put up with still more of them.
A couple of years later I was given evidence that in April of 1999 the Prosecuting attorney and protective services had REFUSED to prosecute him for the admitted child abuse - on the grounds that it was "likely he would sexually assault the children" and "He would receive a longer sentence for CSC than for child abuse". I filed suit in federal court alleging gross negligence and depraved indifference. A few days later the kids were placed in foster care - where they would be abused some more.
A couple of incidents stand out from when the kids were in foster care: The first is when Harry was deliberately given a medication he is allergic to by a set of foster parents who were already under investigation for hitting him in the stomach by a 2 X 4. The other is the foster parent Harry tried to gut (in a literal sense) because she was screaming at Mari (whose severe pelvic floor damage wouldn't start seeing reconstructive surgery for almost 18 months after the incident in question) because Mari "had an accident" in an adult diaper.
Harry wound up in a residential treatment center following that incident and honestly it was the BEST choice for him. He received the INTENSIVE therapy he so desperately needed to learn to COPE with what had happened in his short life and because it was an RTC he also went to school and learned to connect with his fellow human beings. Trust is still an issue for him and likely always will be but his time in the RTC was very productive from the standpoint of his mental health.
At one point I looked at my kids and told them I was giving up on the federal suit - only to be told by the kids that I couldn't give up because if the state could deliberately leave THEM to be sexually assaulted the state was leaving OTHER children in the same situation and it had to stop - they had to start protecting children from people like their "old dad".
It finally took a federal court order to get the kids home. These days... noot only can prosecuting attorneys in this state NOT refuse to prosecute child abuse cases - the state had to set up a special unit (which the feds keep a CLOSE eye on) to investigate allegations of child abuse while children are in foster care. It's no longer handled by the counties - it's handled by the state Attorney General's office.
That "protecting other children from people like their old dad" would come back to haunt me a couple of years later. They were asked to testify in Legislative Hearings about their abuse and a change in the sentencing laws here which Mari had been pushing for. I packed kids in the car and headed for Lansing so they could testify. I packed them in the car and headed for Lansing when the new sentencing law for pedophiles was signed into law too. On January 1, 2008 a new law went into effect in Michigan - pedophiles are sentenced to an automatic 25 years PER OFFENSE with NO concurrent sentencing allowed.
I am... healing. I suppose. The load of guilt that I carry is occasionally nearly crippling. I had a counselor one time tell me that ordinary "mommy guilt" could be crippling. The guilt that I feel for not getting us out sooner and a wealth of other things down through the years goes beyond "ordinary mommy guilt". I'm... "Hanging in there". I do what I HAVE to do to ensure that ALL of the children that I love are safe, loved and protected. I WORK at not being "over-protective". I WORK at LETTING the kids have as normal of a childhood as is possible for them. I understand the "fight or flight" instinct much better than most.
I love. I laugh. I take time to smell the flowers. I take it one day at a time. Some days I take it one hour at a time. I watch Mari and Harry take those first painful (for me) steps toward independence and I HOPE that I have done "enough" to break the cycle of abuse for them and give them a reasonably "normal" life in the end. Time will tell. The best that I can do is remember that the last thing left in Pandora's box for mankind was HOPE... and I sincerely HOPE that I have done "enough".