The day after my abuser found us and stole my peace I received bad news from the domestic violence coalition that was to represent me for the divorce.
They had dropped me because I had filed another order of protection. My abuser’s attorney(co-abuser?) had complained that it was illegal for me to file another order even though it was based on different grounds.
I was devastated. Having The Coalition represent me was considered the gold standard and now I was left without an attorney. The(he is not mine anymore) abuser’s attorney began to fax documents to the shelter. I received a notice of a custody hearing to be held the next week and other items. I felt she was trying to intimidate me and that the abuser had chosen the perfect person to represent him.
An aside: I have found out recently that the Co-Abuser is well known in our area for going against survivors and helping abusers get full custody of the children. I believe she knows what she’s doing and will someday have to answer for the pain she has caused many innocent children.
The legal advocate at the shelter began calling all the local attorneys she knew to see if they would help me with the order of protection. We finally found someone who would represent me pro bono and I set up a phone call and a meeting.
After speaking with me the local attorney was confident we could get the restraining order based on my husband stalking me.
I went over my evidence and testimony each day in preparation for the court date. The hearing would be held in the town where the shelter was which was much more conservative and friendly to victims of domestic violence than the city I was from.
The morning of the hearing arrived and the legal advocate drove me to the courthouse. We made it through security and were about to walk into the courtroom when I saw the abuser sitting on a bench. My body refused to take another step towards him and I began to look around in a panic. After my legal advocate spoke with the bailiff I was shown into a side room where I could wait safely out of view and hearing of the abuser and the co-abuser.
I felt the familiar beginnings of a panic attack coming on and paced the room to try to shut it down. My legal advocate talked to me about this and that to try to distract me and I was finally able to sit down. Then the shelter manager came in to take over so my legal advocate could do her work in court.
I had just calmed down when the door opened and the abuser stuck his head inside looking directly at me with his most evil smirk. He made the excuse that he was looking for the bathroom. There was a sign on the outside of the door that said do not enter. I knew he was trying to intimidate me. I couldn’t believe who he was. I had never seen him in such a bad light before. Everything he had kept hidden from me was coming out clearly into the light.
The next round of the intimidation game was when the co-abuser stood outside the door speaking loudly to my attorney about me. I began talking to the women who were waiting with me so I wouldn’t hear her voice. She had an ugly sneering way of speaking which proved she was a perfect match for the abuser.
We were finally called into the courtroom and I was shaking. I had to take a wet paper towel in with me to cool the back of my neck and stave off nausea. We sat side by side at the same 8-foot long table. The sight of this arrangement almost caused me to walk out. My attorney sat next to the abuser and I sat on the other side of him. The co-abuser made a comment about the “quaint” arrangement.
For all her noise and bluster the co-abuser was tapping her leg in nervousness as my attorney began to address the court. I almost laughed at her. My attorney had let her listen to the voicemail of the abuser threatening me a few weeks before and I knew why she was so nervous.
The arguments began. The judge granted the co-abuser’s request to move the case to our home county and lump it in with the divorce. I had lost another bid for an order of protection and once again would be unprotected by the court from insanity.
My legal advocate took me to a couple of antique stores in the town square before we headed back to the shelter. I found out later she wasn’t just trying to help me relax after the stress but wanted to be sure the abuser wouldn’t follow us back to my new home.
The long draining process of court dates and having to be around the abuser was wearing me out. I thought I would never be able to get on with my life. If I had known how long it would take to finally start my new life I probably would have given up.
I am grateful I was given the strength to overcome each hardship just as I needed it. It was a slow buildup to who I am now.
To read the rest of the story please visit the link to My Story list below.