Shining the light on Domestic Abuse….
This has been a hard one to write and has taken me several weeks to formulate the words. Partly because it is, again a private story; partly because it is still a current situation; partly because the pain of what happened to my daughter and my granddaughters is still fresh.
In the previous writing, I described the permanent damage that can occur emotionally, neurologically, and cognitively when a child (my daughter) has lived through such severe childhood abuse and trauma. Christina carried that into adulthood and continues to work hard at processing things she hears and experiences. She lives in the moment (which is a blessing at times) and has a hard time looking into the future in terms of recognizing how her current choices and situation will impact days and weeks and years down the line.
When Christina was barely 20, she met an abusive man and moved in with him. In hindsight, she recognizes what happened and would probably know the signs were she to meet another person who acted as he did to gradually gain more control, then more and more abuse. But it does not translate into other situations that can be just as abusive, but presents differently.
That is what happened with her current marriage. Her husband presents as shy and withdrawn, but has a secure job, fun outings, and he knows the words to say to make a woman feel loved. But he is all about what he wants and has complete control over my daughter, still, after everything that has happened. He has what sounds like pretty severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder himself from service in Afghanistan, bursts of extreme anger, and uses primarily complete financial control over Christina to keep her dependent on him and to punish her.
Shortly after she met her husband, they became pregnant. They married before he was to be deployed and he left shortly after a beautiful little girl was born. She spent the next year quite happily parenting the baby and while he was gone, she spent so much time with extended family. When he returned home, most visits stopped and he used finances (not enough money to drive up for a visit) to keep Christina more isolated. He would cut her household budget if he was angry, to the point she didn’t have enough for diapers. He was take her phone away if he was angry.
Christina’s husband had very little interest in parenting. He’d change a diaper if asked and they did some outings as a family, but pretty much left all baby care, the work of it, to his wife. Soon after he returned from deployment, they became pregnant again, this time with twin girls. He was deployed for a bit during the pregnancy and Christina was able to spend a lot of time with us, with extended family, but she made no moves, no decisions of any kind without consulting him. It was a situation where, from the outside, it would be normal for her to chose time with her nuclear family and husband over so much time with extended family, but for those of us who knew her, we could see how restricted she was.
After the twins were born, Chrstina really started to show signs of stress and depression. She was allowed to visit very seldom and more stories were being shared that her husband helped very little with child care or home care. He would yell at her to keep the girls quiet while he watched TV or played video games. He’d get mad if the house was messy or he’d be annoyed if dinner wasn’t ready. There did not appear to be physical abuse, though I did not hear most of the stories until after tragedy happened.
Christina told me she was getting more and more anxiety. She begged her husband to let her go to counseling, but he refused, telling her that she would only be able to see a military counselor because of insurance and that anything she said would get back to his commander and hurt his career. I tried to tell her the truth about confidentiality laws, but she was too scared to push it with him. She begged for more time with us so she could get some rest, but he’d withhold funds for gas money. By fall of 2014, Christina was very isolated, frequently in tears, and was starting to talk about divorce, because her husband was “mean.” She’d never share with me. My mother (Christina’s grandmother) died that fall and when we went to Oregon for the memorial, her husband would not come to support her. He agreed to let their first daughter, the two year old stay with him while she brought the newborn twins along, but within hours of arriving in Oregon, he called her and made her come back home, because the two year old was misbehaving. She left all the family and support and drove back home.
At that point, I started sending my teenagers down to her home on weekends and over the holidays to help out with the babies and the house. They’d tell me how Christina’s husband would sit on the couch and ask for this and that and yell at Christina to come get a baby if someone started crying, no matter what she was doing (like cooking dinner). My daughters said that once in a while, Christina was ask him to hold a baby while she took care of another one and he would set the baby on the couch next to him and pat her back while he continued to watch his show or play a game. If the baby started to fuss, he’d call her to come get the baby. Christina was reporting that she’d spend hours upstairs with the girls to try to keep them out of the way and keep them from annoying her husband.
Over and over, I offered a place for her to stay for a while so we could help with the babies while she got some rest. She always said that her husband refused. About a month after the holidays, in January of 2015, tragedy struck.
In one awful night, with the three girls crying, and their dad screaming to Christina to shut them up, she snapped, dissociated, and hurt the girls. She still does not remember most of that night, except that she knows that she said something about the fact that babies cry and the only way they won’t cry is if they are dead and her husband was screaming at her and advancing on her saying, “If you’re going to do it, just fucking do it and get it over with. Do it. Do it. Do it.”
The girls were not hurt seriously (which speaks to the fact that, even though Christina completely dissociated, she still could not kill her beloved girls), but Christina was incoherent when police arrived and her husband’s story is that he was sitting on the couch watching TV and suddenly Christina was in front of him with blood all over, so he rushed upstairs to help the girls.
Christina was arrested and charged with 3 counts of attempted 1st degree murder and is still in jail 18 months later waiting for trial/plea deal. She is still not allowed to see her cherished children. Her husband continues to manipulate her financially and she is afraid to speak officially about what happened because when he gets mad at her, he stops sending money for her phone calls and commissary (soap and letter writing and socks). She is also afraid that he has the power to not let her see the girls ever again.
My son-in-law lets the girls stay with me and my kids a lot (he still doesn’t show much interest in parenting except how it affects him) and I take videos and pictures to share with their mama. She cries, but is grateful to see them grow. But, as with Christina, he manipulates me in certain ways. He got mad at me last fall and refused to let the girls come here for 2 1/2 months! That is where he can manipulate me. I have to be nice to this man because his real power over me is whether the girls get to come visit. And he knows it! It shows his real character, as letting the girls spend time with grandma and lots of aunties and uncles is in their best interest and should not be a manipulation tactic.
So, I play nice, Christina gets to see her girls grow and learn through our visits, and my son-in-law is gradually figuring out that his life is easier without a 4 year old and two 2 year olds. He has them here for several weeks in a row which suits me with joy! As to other manipulation… remember the financial manipulation with Christina (see above)? He does not bring diapers, food, clothing or funds when the girls are here. The one time I asked, he was displeased, but gave me $100 for a 3 week stint. I don’t dare ask again for the girls’ sake. Is it domestic abuse if he is manipulating me and I know it, but I let him do it anyway? Maybe, but if it keeps the girls safe here in our home, I will play the game and document everything.
Domestic abuse is most known for the real physical issues, but all forms of manipulation, control and fear affect families profoundly. Speak up somehow, if you have concerns about someone! Don’t wait for tragedy!