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Archive | VOICES AGAINST VIOLENCE

DV_Renee_Nadine

HER STORY IN HER OWN WORDS

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

After 50 years, she’s encouraging others

Editor’s note: The text below was from a speech Nadine wrote and gave at two Twin Cities churches during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We have used just her original first name and not her new name to protect her and her daughter.
My name is Nadine. I am 77 years old. I was married for 47 years. My daughter and I are in a protection program through the Minnesota Secretary of State and share a home. I work three part-time jobs, I assist my daughter who has a chronic illness. I am active in my church and community.
I’m telling my story not because it’s unusual, but because one in every three women will be faced with a similar story. It happens in every neighborhood, religion, nationality and workplace. Today in the time it takes me to tell my story over 200 Minnesota women will be abused.
It’s difficult to put 50 years into a few minutes.
I married this good humored man who came from an abusive background. His parents and grandfather were murdered by a family member.
We moved to Nebraska, where he was going to college, far from my family and friends. The first week, he came home from school and went into a rage because I fixed creamed corn when I also made gravy. He cleared everything from the table, leaving food and broken dishes on the floor, walls, everywhere. I was shocked! I had never seen anyone do such a thing. This was not the last time.
When I learned I was pregnant, I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to tell him. He became very angry, called me terrible names. “How could you be so stupid as to get pregnant!” He grabbed me by the hair and dragged me across the room and pulled out a handful of hair from my head.
We moved to Minneapolis. He became Comptroller of Hennepin County Department of Social Services for 25 years. He learned the system well. At home, he controlled everything. He controlled what, when, where, and if we ate. He controlled when we went to bed and when we got up. Often in the middle of the night, he’d make us get up to do something he wanted done now. He went on lavish fishing and hunting trips, but there were no family vacations.
At Christmas, we opened gifts and ate, if and when he said we could. My daughter and I were nervous wrecks before holidays. His expectations of our daughter were totally unreasonable. Nothing we did was ever good enough. Everything that went wrong for him was someone else’s fault.
A friend told me he had purchased three airplanes. He didn’t even have a pilot’s license. When I asked why, he became very angry. He shouted, “I am the financial expert in the family and I’m not going to let you make the financial decisions. You are so dumb, you think 2+2 = 5. He threatened that he would take my daughter and I’d never see her again. “I have friends in high places. No one will believe you. You are nobody.” He threw me against the wall. I had large bruises on my legs, hips and head.
One day, my daughter and I went shopping. It took longer than he thought it should. When I took her home, she had a message on her answering machine that he was coming over with his .357 Magnum. Soon he was at her house yelling and waving a loaded gun at us. We were terrified. We were too afraid to call the police, for fear it would just get worse. I was threatened with a loaded gun on many other occasions.
I started having panic attacks every time I got in the car with him. He called me names, swore and yelled at me, and I felt trapped. One day alone he yelled at me over 74 times. I quit counting.
For over 40 years, I managed the accounting practice we started, but I was never allowed to get a salary or any benefits. He said,”I’m the accountant, so it’s my money.”
When he touched me, my stomach turned to knots. It was not affection. If he showed anything, it was a signal to go to bed with him. If I didn’t, I was called crude names and was told I was worthless.

Why didn’t I just leave?
• I feared what he would do to my daughter, my family and anyone who helped me.
• I feared that no one would believe me.
• I didn’t know who I could trust to turn to for help.
• I felt paralyzed, overwhelmed and couldn’t think clearly. All I could focus on was surviving each day.
• I didn’t know if I had the strength to leave.
•I was over 70 years old, with not a lot of technical skills or formal education. Who would hire me?
I had no job, no money, and I had no idea how I would survive financially.
• I feared my church would abandon me.

What made me leave?
Through counseling, I realized the real danger I was in. Have you ever seen someone with a loaded gun in his hand in such a rage that their face does from red to gray? It was like seeing pure evil. I felt if I didn’t leave, I would be carried out in a body bag.

So I prepared to leave
I joined a support group, I prepared a safety plan, I packed a suitcase. When I shopped, I wrote the check for more and hid it. I coped important documents. I opened a checking and charge accounts in my name only.
In November 2007, with very little besides the clothing I had and the help of my daughter, I went to the Alexander House battered women’s shelter with the support of my family and his. They not only provided me a place to collect myself, by assisted me in finding housing, resume writing, resources and support.
My ex harassed my daughter. He called her doctor and said she was missing and wanted them to help him find her. He had people stalk her, take pictures of her and her home. One of the stalkers strangled and killed a woman three blocks from her house. She and I moved six times in five years to try to feel safe. She sold her home where she had lived for 30 years because she no longer felt safe.
After I left, he did everything possible to destroy me emotionally, physically and financially. He broke into my house twice, destroying things, got rid of gifts that were sentimental to me, left loaded handguns and ammunition in the house. Had people drive by my house, take pictures, report what lights I had on and who was in my driveway. A dead deer was left by my back door.
He sold our accounting practice to a friend for $1. He changed titles on properties we jointly owned. He sold a car that was titled in my name, without my signature. He removed me as a beneficiary on all of our life insurance. He filed joint tax returns without my signature and took all the refunds. He took all the equity in our home, even though our line-of-credit required both of our signatures. He is in contempt of court of nearly every court order. He moved to Arkansas to avoid enforcement by Minnesota courts.
And I thought none of this could ever happen!
In support groups I learned how many women have gone to their pastor or priest and left feeling hopeless, trapped and rejected. It is important to me to share with you my experience with my church. Over the years, I spoke with many priests and basically was told to pray – pray harder – be a better wife, love more, turn the other cheek, be forgiving. But when I left, I went to my priest, his first question was, “Are you safe now?” He told me to contact a shelter and do whatever they told me to do. Each time I went to court, he gave me a blessing and prayed with me. Knowing my church was there to support me meant everything to me. And I wish every abused woman would have this kind of experience.

How do I manage?
I work three part-time jobs. I’ve gone to a food shelf. Family, friends, and my therapist pray for me. I have reminders throughout my house: “I am with you always, signed God.”
One day at a time, I have seen miracles unfold in my life. I have a roof over my head and I can actually laugh and celebrate holidays. It wouldn’t have happened without the support of a shelter, the support of my friends, daughter, family and God’s every present help. I know God loves me and I am worthy of peace.
I don’t believe I am here to just survive a marriage. I am here to encourage others.

Read her daughter’s story. Click here.

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October is

‘No one will believe you’

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Abused for years by her dad and a troubled system, Renee and mom are finally free

Renee and mother Nadine fought for some normalcy during her childhood despite her father’s abuse. Today, they are happy to say they are survivors. (Photo submitted)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
To the outside world, Fred* was a model citizen who worked at the top of the Hennepin County Social Service department as comptroller.
To his family, he was a dictator who was abusive and impossible to please.
His moods were up and down, he was controlling, manipulative, critical, blaming, cruel, rageful, isolating, hateful, belittling and unethical, recalls his daughter, Renee, now age 57.
She and her mother, Nadine, now 77, finally escaped into hiding in 2007 and go by alias identities.

He was careful to never leave visible marks
As comptroller, Fred was in charge of finances for the Social Services Department and Crisis Management.
“He knew the ins and outs of how to work the system,” said Renee.
He’d throw things at his wife and daughter, pulled his wife’s hair, and whipped Renee with a belt, but he was careful to never leave any visible marks.
Diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), anxiety, and depression, Renee doesn’t remember much about her childhood. She’s blocked out most of the memories.
“But I do remember the feelings they provoked, and how the abuse has affected me,” she said.

‘No one will ever believe you’
“Imagine being in an environment so abusive and stressful that as an infant in the womb I did not even want to come out!” Renee said. She was a month overdue, and wasn’t born until her mother had been induced.
At three, she was so stressed and nervous that she had failed to thrive. She was underweight and her hair came out in hand fulls.
She was fearful all the time, didn’t get her needs met, and rarely talked.
“My father controlled everything from when we slept and when, what and if we ate,” recalled Renee. She remembers a house full of yelling, name calling, swearing and threats. Plus, her dad threw things and broke them.
“We walked on eggshells constantly in our home never knowing what would send him into a rage,” said Renee. One day something might be fine, but the next day the same thing would be a major offense. “His rules were always changing, throwing us off on knowing how to behave to prevent one of his explosions. Everything was always our fault (never his), and we were the cause of everything wrong for him.
“We were stupid, lazy, worthless, oversensitive, crazy, emotional cripples and weak. We were told no one would ever hire us, want us or believe us.”
She worked hard to stuff her feelings and emotions so that they weren’t used against her.
“Sometimes my feelings became so intense because of not being allowed to express them that I had to find a way to release them,” she remembered. “I started burning myself when feelings became more than I could possibly hold inside.
“I felt like a teapot about to explode and the burning of flesh felt like letting off steam.”
She didn’t start talking in school until junior high. Her grade school teachers were always telling her mother, “She doesn’t talk.” Her mom wanted to know what she could do. Now they both know that’s a symptom of abuse.
Renee remembers that kids at school thought she was stuck up, but she was just afraid to have friends. She didn’t want others to know what happened in her home, and felt ashamed and embarrassed. She didn’t want to subject any one to her father’s abuse.
She had made that mistake before. She had invited friends over, and Fred accused them unjustly of stealing from him. He caused such a stink in the neighborhood that after that no one was allowed to play with her.
Renee didn’t get to do the usual after-school activities that other kids did, and she wasn’t allowed to work outside of the house. It was another way to control her and keep her dependent financially upon him.
“He was great at finding a person’s weaknesses and using it against them,” observed Renee.
If Renee or her mother enjoyed anything, they paid dearly for it. “I never was sure if it was because dad was jealous or if he just really enjoyed making us miserable,” remarked Renee.
He anticipated any question of leaving by telling them that no one would believe their story. After all, he was a successful comptroller in the social services department. If they couldn’t go there for help, where could they go?

Still paying dearly as an adult
As an adult, the abuse continued although it looked different. When Renee called home to talk to her mom, he would lie and say she wasn’t there. He’d threaten Renee that she couldn’t have anything to do with her mom if she didn’t do what Fred wanted.
When Renee’s husband died, she was left to raise her two stepsons, who were initially treated much better than she was because they were males. At first, Fred spent time and money on them, recalled Renee, but eventually he started to use them for his personal gain and the abuse began for them, too.
“He would often make me chose between my stepsons or my parents and extended family,” said Renee. “I would end up paying dearly for trying to be a good mom to the boys.”
Finally, one day her youngest stepson and the most laid back of the two, did what everyone dreamed about but never had the guts. He punched Fred and left.

Finally, they went into hiding but he used system against them
As he aged, Fred didn’t get any better. Instead, he escalated to threatening them with knives and loaded guns. He manipulated or “bought” friends to carry out some of his dirty work, as well.
Finally, Renee helped her mom leave Hennepin County and they went into hiding together in a new county.
They decided to leave at a time inbetween his rages because they thought he wouldn’t be watching them as closely. To their dismay, they discovered that their local police didn’t understand that line of reasoning. “I think the victim knows the situation best and when to leave,” remarked Renee.
To retaliate, Fred started hiding and getting rid of their assets, along with the things he knew Nadine and Renee cared most about.
“The legal battle in the divorce was a joke,” stated Renee. “My dad blatantly lied through the court hearings and was in contempt of nearly every court order. He was rarely held accountable or punished for refusing to obey court orders.”
He used the court system to harass them by filing false accusations, wasting their time and money to defend themselves. “Nothing was done to stop him from doing this,” said Renee, who is still shocked by how things played out in the court system. “When finally threatened by the courts for jail time, he moved out state so he wouldn’t be arrested.”
Both Renee and Nadine filed for orders of protection, but Fred appealed them. Renee’s remained but her mom’s was removed by Hennepin County Judge Bruce Peterson. This was despite Fred pointing a loaded gun at them both during a rage. “Apparently, leaving a threatening message on my voicemail, confronting us, screaming, and pointing a loaded gun at us was not reason to give my mom the OFP because my dad didn’t say he was going to kill us (that time),” stated Renee. “Apparently, perpetrators have to tell you they are going to kill you before they pull the trigger.”
She was also frustrated by the family court insistence that her mother attend mediation with her abuser in the same room. “How is this going to be productive when the abuser is abusive and controlling?” she asked.
Her parent’s divorce was messy, ugly and complicated, Renee observed, and is now studied by law students.
“We found that the legal/judicial system we always believed in is not just. Victims keep getting re-victimized by the system,” said Renee. “How do we fix a broken system?”
She advocates, “Get involved, have a voice, educate and contact your representatives!”

Shouldn’t be ‘Why doesn’t she leave’ but ‘Why does he do that?’
Renee is working to help people understand the dynamics of abusive households and to recognize what’s happening.
“I feel most people do not understand abuse or people would not ask why doesn’t she leave him? Why not, ‘Why does he mistreat someone who loves him’ or ‘Why is this acceptable in society?’”
She added, “Most people think the abuser is mentally ill because certainly no one in their right mind would behave as the abuser does. But actually, domestic violence is a learned behavior.”
Renee has found support and help at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (now Violence Free Minnesota), the Alexandra House in Anoka, Home Free Community Program, the Domestic Abuse Project, and DomesticShelter.org. She’s also grateful for the various domestic abuse support groups she has been a part of, therapists she’s worked with, doctors and some educated priests. She and her mom benefited from the local food shelf and community action groups.
She recommends that others check out the free app InsightTimer for its meditations, and Lisa A. Romano’s talks.
Today, Renee knows that she is still affected by the abuse she’s lived through. It is part of how she lives and her relationships with others. She’s found it difficult to trust in herself or others. Her self-confidence is low, she has trouble expressing emotions, she replays memories, and doesn’t always want to be touched, and can be jumpy, nervous, and easy to frighten. She suffers from a chronic illness.
But she’s a survivor. One who is working to transcend the wounds of the past, to learn to love herself, and to be comfortable in her own life. She’s got a future filled with hope, laughter and freedom. She believes her future is a gift from God.
* Name changed for protection.
Contact editor at Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com.

Read her mom’s story. Click here.

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Get help

Get help

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

SUPPORT GROUPS
Cornerstone Services ‑
Ongoing groups meet regularly for women, children and men
24-hour helpline: 952-884-0330
cornerstonemn.org

Domestic Abuse Project ‑
Sessions offered regularly for women, men and children
612.874.7063 ext.232
www.domesticabuseproject.com

CALL FOR HELP
Day One MN Emergency Crisis
HotLine: call or text 1.866.223.1111
LGBTQ Domestic Violence Hotline
612.824.8434
Teen Dating Violence Hotline
866-331-9474, LoveIsRespect.org
Native Domestic Violence Helpline
844-762-8483

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18966_end-DV.rev.1538408229

Defining abuse

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence (IPV), domestic abuse or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.

Domestic violence does not discriminate. Anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender can be a victim – or perpetrator – of domestic violence. It can happen to people who are married, living together or who are dating. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

Domestic violence includes behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want. It includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation. Many of these different forms of domestic violence/abuse can be occurring at any one time within the same intimate relationship.

It’s not always easy to tell at the beginning of a relationship if it will become abusive.

In fact, many abusive partners may seem absolutely perfect in the early stages of a relationship. Possessive and controlling behaviors don’t always appear overnight, but rather emerge and intensify as the relationship grows.

Domestic violence doesn’t look the same in every relationship because every relationship is different. But one thing most abusive relationships have in common is that the abusive partner does many different kinds of things to have more power and control over their partner.
~ From www.thehotline.org

Gaslighting: A form of psychological manipulation in which a person seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Named after a movie called “Gaslight.”

Coercive Control: An act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten victims.

SUPPORT GROUPS
Cornerstone Services ‑
Ongoing groups meet regularly for women, children and men
24-hour helpline: 952-884-0330
cornerstonemn.org

Domestic Abuse Project ‑
Sessions offered regularly for women, men and children
612.874.7063 ext.232
www.domesticabuseproject.com

CALL FOR HELP
Day One MN Emergency Crisis
HotLine: call or text 1.866.223.1111
LGBTQ Domestic Violence Hotline
612.824.8434
Teen Dating Violence Hotline
866-331-9474, LoveIsRespect.org
Native Domestic Violence Helpline
844-762-8483

PAINT THE TOWN PURPLE
Wear purple clothing and change outdoor lighting and décor at homes to purple during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.

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Screen-Shot-2016-10-19-at-1.40.44-PM

Jennifer’s ex tried to convince her, others she was crazy

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

She finally left, but the abuse continues through court system

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Jennifer* grew up in a loving, two-parent household in the suburbs. She didn’t think she was in an abusive marriage but she knew that after five years and two kids, she had to get out. On the day he started screaming at her in front of her mom, she decided she’d had enough. She kicked him out.
It was only later that someone gave her a label for what she had experienced: domestic violence or intimate partner terrorism.
“I was so naïve,” admitted Jennifer, age 41. “I am an example of someone who is educated and grew up in a loving home, but had no idea that emotional, financial, or psychological abuse existed – or what it was.”
A business and French major, Jennifer had gone back to earn her master’s from Carlson in business management. She dated Dave* for two years and they got married in 2011. Their son was born in 2013, and their daughter was an infant in 2016 when they split up.

No, she didn’t see any signs
“The number one question I get is ‘Did I see any signs?’” Jennifer pointed out.
“No I didn’t. That question isn’t helpful. People think I went to Vegas and married a douchebag. When we first started dating, he came across as very alluring.” He was well-groomed, took care of himself and was attractive. “He didn’t fit the mold of what I thought an abuser would be,” she said.
Now, Jennifer knows she’s the typical victim. “We’re all helpers,” she observed. “We’re all pleasers.”
When they were dating, Dave might mention that his back hurt. She was quick to call the chiropractor for him to schedule an appointment. She’d feel good that he felt better. “Five years later, you’re exhausted from doing everything for him and not helping yourself,” Jennifer said.
He always came across as a victim, even from the start – something she knows now should have been a red flag. His family life was horrible. He believed everyone was mean to him at his job. When he took a class, he leaned on Jennifer to do the work. All of his past relationships failed because of the women he was with. Things were never his fault.
Jennifer used to think that being abused in a marriage meant black eyes and physical beatings. But Dave never hit her.
He engaged in gaslighting behavior, telling her she was misremembering what he’d said and pretending that other things never happened. When they moved into their newly-built dream house in the suburbs, a fixture in their master bathroom didn’t work, so Jennifer had to use a bathroom down the hall to blow dry her hair. It was a bit of a hassle. One morning, tired from a night awake with her baby, Jennifer absent-mindedly plugged the blow dryer into the outlet – and it worked. She excitedly told her husband about it, and asked when he had fixed it. “It always worked,” he responded. “What are you talking about?”
Jennifer remarked, “He tried to make me feel crazy.”
During an argument, he would go on and on, and keep her up late. Other nights, he’d wake her up every two hours. She was exhausted. When she’d finally leave the room for a break, and then come back ready to talk anew about the 3.5-hour-long conversation they’d just had, he’d look at her and deny it occurred. At other times, he’d refuse to talk about something unless she could remember word for word exactly what he’d said previously – down to the right pronoun.
Everything was always Jennifer’s fault.
He’d hide her computer mouse or her keys. After she looked through the entire house, she’d find the item in the room where she had started, the room where he was.
He spent all their money and racked up credit card bills, buying things for himself but not Jennifer or the kids. “It was always about him,” said Jennifer. He was arrogant and entitled. At one time when they were strapped for cash, Jennifer agreed to give up a hobby for the month and let him take the $200 to attend a family event without her. He blew that and more at a casino – and never said thanks. He earned thousands in cash at side jobs, telling her he made less than he actually did. He quit a well-paying job and relied on her to cover their living expenses.
Every house they ever lived in had holes in the walls. He’d punch the walls or throw items at the walls. “He would hit other thing that hit me,” said Jennifer, even when she was pregnant. In fact, she’s learned that abusers often intensify when a woman is pregnant or they have a child because the attention isn’t focused on them anymore. When she was pregnant with their son, she shut a door and he kicked it open, hitting her so hard she fell down. When she’d tried to leave a room, he’d stand in the doorway and block her exit.
Sometimes she’d call Dave’s mom to come help. She found out later that his mom had helped remove the guns in every house he had ever lived in. That’s the kind of information she wishes someone would have told her before they got serious.
Dave said a lot of put-downs, Jennifer recalled. When she called him out on the mean things he had said, he’d retort, “Kidding, just kidding! You need to learn how to take a joke.” He tried to isolate her from family members and friends. He bullied and manipulated and lied, while showing her just enough affection here and there to give her hope.
These incidences didn’t happen every day. “This type of abuser will play the victim and then seem ‘normal’ for awhile before another incident,” observed Jennifer. “Each time I would make excuses for his behavior and there would be many days in between the next incident. The longer I was with him, the shorter the time in between incidents became. In the beginning it was maybe only monthly, if that. By the time I left, it was probably every other day.”

Jennifer was surprised to find she was among this statistic.

Significant incident
On the day Jennifer had finally had enough, it wasn’t that it was worse than it had ever been, but that the thousands of straws piled together finally broke the camel’s back. They had an infant, and he wouldn’t her sleep. So her mom came over so that she could get more than 45 minutes every three hours. Jennifer laid down and Dave came in to change the garbage can in their room, upset that she wasn’t cleaning their house. Then Dave insisted they run errands. Jennifer gave in, got up, and left with Dave. When they finally got back home, she was beyond exhausted. He started yelling at her in front of her mom.
“Because my ex showed his behavior to my close family member, it become real and I something I had to get out of,” said Jennifer.

Thanks to a support group, Jennifer now recognizes how the desire for power and control led to abuse by her ex.

Abuse affects kids, too
To help resolve disputes after their divorce, they were assigned to a parenting consultant (PC) with the understanding that they would split the fees equally. They did an intake together, and then meet separately with the PC, who immediately referred Jennifer to the Domestic Abuse Project (DAP) in Minneapolis after seeing the interactions between the two of them. “When he said that to me, I was so confused. Because he’s so mean to me verbally in the things he says?” Jennifer recalls asking. “I didn’t quite get it.”
But she did start a 16-week support group at DAP in late 2016, and it was life-changing. When she heard the stories that the other women in her support group told, she couldn’t help but cry. “They all said something that was just like my life,” said Jennifer. “It was freaky.” One in three women have been in an abusive relationship, which means that Jennifer is far from being alone in her experiences.
She admits, “I feel ashamed and stupid that I should have known better, but also so glad and strong for getting out. It also was important to hear that these men, more than likely, will not change. I stuck around for a long time hoping he would change… that never will happen.”
In her support group, Jennifer learned that abuse isn’t just physical and verbal. It’s also psychological, sexual, financial, and emotional. And it doesn’t just affect the mom when a dad engages in intimate partner terrorism. It negatively affects the kids, too, and those issues continue after the divorce.
“When I left my abuser my kids were tiny (newborn and 3-years-old). My son had already started having issues with anxiety,” said Jennifer. “During our separation and long process to divorce, my son developed emotional trauma/PTSD. He has issues learning and issues with memory. He has regressed and speaks in ‘baby talk,’ and gets frustrated easily. Overall, both kids are extremely attached to me – and have to sleep with me at night.”
Both have a lot of emotional issues compared to their peers and have trouble focusing.
One of the things that Jennifer learned during her support group really sticks with her: “If you help a mom, you help the kids.”

Jennifer never reported her ex-husband to the police. She hoped he would change. She wanted to give her kids a happy family. She didn’t understand why he acted how he did.

No justice in family court
Jennifer has not found justice in the court system. Instead, Dave has continued to abuse her, changing some of his tactics but not the controlling behavior and disrespect that drive his actions. “He can be as abusive to me as he wants and there are no repercussions,” Jennifer said.
When it came time to sell their dream house after the divorce, he moved back in and refused to cooperate with a real estate agent in order to put the house on the market. He wouldn’t respond to emails about the sale. Jennifer didn’t have enough money to pay the bills due to the financial abuse and had to move back in with her parents. The high cost of continuing legal bills means that she’s still living with her parents.
Mediation didn’t work. “It didn’t matter what I said, he said no. He was that entitled,” said Jennifer.
When it was time to exchange the kids, he would give her an address in Blaine. Then he would tell her they were actually in Chanhassen And then he’d say they were in Woodbury. If she responded that he could drop them off at her house, he’d refuse and insist that she come to him. A PC advised her to do that anyway, and then go home and wait. But she struggled with her kids’ needs, to eat and go to bed and not be pawns in a game of power and control, and how to balance those things. Today, she’s protected somewhat by an order to exchange the kids at a local police station, thanks to a PC ruling.
There isn’t much she has to say that’s positive about the court system she’s now been involved in for three and a half years.
Jennifer has been shocked that the court system recognizes that Dave is abusive and has mental health issues, but has still granted him overnights with the children. “When people hear just a portion of my story they assume I have full custody,” she observed. “People outside of divorce have no idea that custody equals three things: physical, legal, and parenting time.”
Jennifer and Dave have shared joint physical and legal custody since their divorce, which means they have to reach decisions together on things like education and health. “He always wants more parenting time because if he gets it, he pays me less child support,” said Jennifer. Dave currently has their 6 and 4-year-old for two overnights once a week, 24 hours at a time. Jennifer is concerned about her kids during that time as their dad doesn’t always feed them, refuses to take them to a doctor when they have a fever, “forgets” about occupational therapy appointments, leaves them sitting in poopy pants, and ignores safety issues.
“I picked up my son one day and he had a Cascade dishwasher pod in his mouth,” recalled Jennifer. When she said something about the dangerous poison to Dave, he yelled at her. “Don’t tell me what to do on my parenting time!”
When she asked the PC about it, she was told, “Something needs to happen for something to happen.” In other words, the child needs to be hospitalized, require surgery, or die for the court system to restrict his parenting time. “The slogan should be ‘Reactive not proactive,’” said Jennifer, who wishes that the courts would put the well-being of children first and enforce the statues that limit parenting time and custody in cases of domestic violence.
“It’s sad because the system is so reactionary. Instead, when abuse is proven, all custody should be given to the non-abusive parent, and the abusive parent should need to earn their way back,” said Jennifer. “Sadly, I do not see the system changing.”
It doesn’t take long for Dave to get mad and fire a PC, leaving Jennifer to pay the bills. It takes about three months or longer to get another one, and things are pretty difficult during that time as he refuses to follow any previous agreements.

‘You need to get along for your kids’
Jennifer has been frustrated when they get a new professional involved in their family as each time they tell her they will be drawing a line in the sand and moving forward, and that the past is in the past. She believes that what has happened before is important to know to understand what they’ve already done and what their situation is, but is told to essentially forget about the past. Move on.
And so it keeps repeating itself.
It’s a situation that’s common enough to have its own term: domestic abuse by proxy or post-separation abuse, as in domestic abuse through the kids after the couple has split up.
The police in her city know them by name because of how often Dave has called complaining that she is withholding the kids from him when they’re sick or when it’s not actually his parenting time. He threatens and yells at Jennifer and her parents regularly at their home. But it is never enough for the police or courts to take action. Recently, their new judge told them he wasn’t going to restrict Dave’s involvement despite his threats and parental negligence because “he loves his kids.”
Jennifer often hears the refrain, “You need to get along for the sake of your kids. You guys need to figure this out for your kids.”
She asks, “How do I?”
Editor’s note: *Names changed for protection.
Contact editor at Tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com

>> Editorial: Let’s start believing women and children

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