A couple of weeks ago, The New York Times opinion section published a piece by Sara Shoener titled, “Two-Parent Households Can Be Lethal: Domestic Violence and Two-Parent Households.” Shoener discusses how she has been studying Domestic Violence since 2011, when the Center For Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than one-third of American women are assaulted by an intimate partner during their lives. After years of studying the services for domestic violence survivors, she came to the shocking realization that one of the most common barriers to a women’s safety was the high value our culture places on two-parent families. Of course, after making a bold statement such as this, she received many haters. In my opinion, however, those who hated on her realization didn’t really understand what she was trying to say. It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that Shoener was somehow making a statement against two-parent households, but this is not how I read her statement at all. I think the crux of her argument hits on how dangerous societal pressures can be when it comes to relationships. For example, many women internalize the idea that marriage should be equated with success. Women are often told by our culture that the right thing to do is to marry the father of your children, and support a relationship between them. On the flip side, our society also puts tremendous pressure on men to marry the mother of their child, regardless of the health of that relationship at the time when the child is born. I think supporting two-parent households is a good thing; however, it is dangerously naive to think that a two-parent household that features an unhealthy marriage is better than two parents co-parenting separately. Raising children in a two-parent households is not the only way possible to raise healthy children. The Night I Should Have “Stayed Gone”: When I read Shoener’s article, I thought back to December 2010. I was a little over two months pregnant with Prince, and things started to get really strange in my relationship with Luc. One night in December, Luc started asking me for money. He expected me to pay for his bills, and seemed to have every reason under the sun as to why he couldn’t make ends meet. When I pushed back, questioning why he was unable to help pay the bills, he exploded into a psychopathic rage. It was one of the scariest things I had ever seen, and I distinctly remember thinking, ‘omg….he looks crazy’. The night Luc raged on me, I left. I drove for hours, and fully intended on never returning to the house. I was scared, but I didn’t know what I was more afraid of – Luc or the idea of being a single mother. As I drove that night, trying to clear my head and make a decision, I talked to many friends and family. Regardless of how many of them were already having doubts about Luc, the overwhelming response was that because he was the father of my unborn child, I had to try and make amends. As I sit here writing, I cannot express to you all how much I wish I had kept running that night. The Dichotomy: I don’t blame society for what happened to me, or even for the fact that I stayed in a relationship with a psychopath for way longer than I should have. I do, however, recognize how my beliefs at the time were molded by what society has taught me. The sad dichotomy in our society is that we encourage people (both men and women) to stay in a relationship with the mother/father of their children often despite whether that relationship is toxically unhealthy. Almost at the same time, we admonish those who stay in abusive relationships and overwhelmingly “blame the victim.” I have often talked about how it is my belief that children have access to healthy people who love them. While I see healthy fathers, and mothers every single day who could be posters for positive parenting, I also see negative role models on both sides of the fence. There are fathers and mothers who stay in unhealthy relationships for fear of losing their children in a divorce, or because of the pressure they feel from society to stay married. A New Perspective: If someone told me five years ago that I would one day choose to be a single mother, I would have laughed (nervous laughter) before starting to cry. The idea of being a single parent terrified me, because I had bought into society’s negative view on single parenthood. While I knew it was silly to believe that people raised by single parents are automatically destined to become criminals and prostitutes (yes, some people actually believe this to be true), the idea of actually being a single mother still worried me. Having had the experience of staying in an extremely dangerous relationship, simply because of the belief that a two-parent household was better than one, I recognize the need for our societal beliefs to change. We need to get to the point where we can encourage people to seek out positive and healthy relationships, and as a society we need to recognize that not every two-parent household is good for children. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be at least one man, and at least one woman, reading this post who is suffering through an unhealthy relationship. There are loads of reasons people stay in relationships, but I am going to guess that the man and woman I am talking about…they are in the relationship because they love their children. What they fail to realize is that their unhealthy relationship with the other parent is also likely an unhealthy situation for their children.
When I was with Luc, he always used to refer to the woman he dated before me as “crazy and deranged”. He would force his son to call her by that name despite the fact that it was clear the child didn’t harbor the same ill will against her. Though Luc claimed that they had broken up a whole year before we had met, he frequently spoke about how terrible the relationship was due to the physical and emotional abuse she put him through. Of course, from what I now know of Luc, it was Luc who was physically and emotionally abusive. Instead of the ex-girlfriend, it was Luc who was “crazy and deranged”.
Every so often, you run into someone who has been in an abusive relationship. When you meet someone who claims this, whether male or female, you should be weary. I say this knowing that someone will meet me in the future wondering about my story too. They should be weary too because many times the abusive person claims that everyone else around them is crazy. Their relationships have failed because they keep running into “crazy and deranged” women, etc. These people always seem to have an excuse as to why there is constant chaos in their lives. Luc would always say, “I must have been a bad person in another life to deserve all this back luck.” Newsflash psychopath: You are a bad person in this life – that is why all these bad things are happening. I digress.
Before meeting Luc, I really didn’t know how to spot a crazy and deranged person. By “crazy and deranged”, I don’t mean what we would typically think as someone who is insane. This person isn’t always as obvious as a grown man walking around talking to his imaginary friend. Sometimes, it takes a while for the person to show their true crazy. That said, there are always clues and when you see those clues you should question them – listen to your internal warning system – and run.
For those of you who are not familiar with the term gaslighting, it is a form of mental abuse where false information is presented with the intent of making the victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity. This may range from denial by the abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. For people who have been through this form of abuse, it can be terrifying, upsetting, and extremely confusing. When I was going through it, I was dealing with pregnancy hormones at the same time. Luc’s gaslighting episodes would have me questioning my own sanity and wondering why I had perceived certain events as abusive when Luc swore that the events never occurred.
If you have heard a variation on the following, you are probably dealing with someone who is gaslighting:
1) “I wish I had a tape recorder because I would play back that conversation. I never said ____. You are making that up.”
2) “That never happened, you must be imagining that.”
Every single person who came into Luc’s life likely experienced some form of this type of abuse. Before Luc’s mother was found laying dead on a plastic bag (police ruled this a suicide and claimed that she must have suffocated herself), Luc had her believing she had alzheimer’s disease. While I never met the woman, I suspect that she didn’t have alzheimer disease. I suspect that Luc was staging bizarre events to make this poor woman believe she was loosing her memory.
In December 2010, Luc beat his older son. After the abuse, the boy went into school and told his teachers who then reported the abuse to police. The child had physical evidence on his back in the form of Luc’s ring marks. While Luc awaited trial for the domestic assault of his son, CPS believed it was best to put the child back in the home. Luc spent the next three months before trial convincing this child that he had imagined the entire event. At one point, his son asked him, “don’t you remember punching me in the chest?” Luc responded by saying, “that never happened! You must have imagined that!” The boy’s face dropped and he looked both terrified and confused. He then dropped his head and quietly uttered, “maybe I did imagine it.”
A few days after giving birth to Prince, I was hungry and went downstairs to get some food. Luc had left us in a room upstairs, and disappeared for days. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be going up and down the stairs, but I also knew I couldn’t starve myself. As soon as Prince fell asleep, I put him in his crib and went to the kitchen. As I was returning upstairs, I saw Luc glaring at me from the top of the stairs. “What are you doing,” he asked in an angry tone. “I was hungry. I am having trouble with my milk coming in….I have to eat or else Prince won’t get enough milk.” As I stood there explaining, I was tearing up at the fact that I even needed to explain why I was getting food. “You shouldn’t be eating all that food. You need to lose weight,” he said. I immediately broke down crying. I was sore, tired, and hungry. Here I was with a bagel and some greek yogurt, and my son’s father was making it seem like I was eating chocolate cake and bon bons. As I cried, Luc started yelling more. “What is wrong with you,” he yelled. “I am just trying to help you! You are overreacting. It must be your hormones.”
There is no rehab for a psychopath:
People often wonder if abusive people can ever change. I am not in the camp of people who believe that they can change. If someone is exhibiting the above mentioned behavior, chances are that this person is far past the point of rehabilitation. If you stay with a person like this, you will be driven crazy by the constant mental abuse and life chaos.
One of the most dangerous things about these people, perhaps, is their ability to remain calm as they fabricate bizarre scenarios to make those around them look criminal. For example, George Zimmerman has been in the public eye for the last few years. He first entered our radar when he shot a teenage boy in cold blood. Of course, he created a whole story about how this teenage boy (who was only armed with skittles and iced tea) attacked him. Since the teenage boy was dead, Zimmerman’s story was the one that stood up in court. In the past few months, two different women have accused Zimmerman of domestic assault. According to Zimmerman, both of these women are crazy; however, in these two cases Zimmerman is the only common denominator.
The most recent 911 tapes released in the Zimmerman domestic assault charge brought me back to a bad place. Listening to this man who had just pulled a gun on his girlfriend calmly explain to the police that she had been the aggressor made me sick to my stomach. For years, Luc got away with so many violent crimes against women and children. When accused, he created fantastic stories while remaining calm. His victims, however, are never calm because they have had to endure the trauma of the abusive incident.
My greatest regret in life allowed me to experience one of the greatest joys in my life. I biggest regret in life is my relationship with Luc, but everyone who has read my story knows that without that relationship I would not have had the opportunity to meet my angel (Prince). I am forever thankful and grateful for having known that child. That said, if there is any wisdom that I can impart on other women – if you see any of the above behavior from your partner, do not have a child with this person. If you have a child with this person, leave now and prepare yourself for the fight of your life. Sometimes I wonder if Prince would have survived if I had stayed with Luc. About two seconds after I start thinking that, I remember that Luc is now an “alleged” serial killer. Not only would Prince likely have still not survived, but I likely wouldn’t have either.
Let me start out by saying that I am by no means a forensic psychologist with a degree and years of clinical experience with psychopathy. I am, however, a woman who ran into a really bad dude. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that during the year I spent with Luc I did see some odd signs – or red flags. Sadly, some of the signs I didn’t pick up on, and others I simply ignored in hopes that things would improve and my son’s father would actually be the man I had hoped he was.
Since starting my blog, I have heard from hundreds of other women who have also run into some really bad dudes. While these men are different guys, and not all are psychopaths, they are all people each one of these women now wishes she had avoided. All of them showed signs, and we all ignored these signs until it was too late. These women are all strong women who have stood up and admitted to having ignored these signs (or completely missed that they were signs at the time), and have shared their stories in an attempt to help other women recognise when its time to RUN. Ladies, I salute your courage and I congratulate you for leaving no matter how long it took.
If you are reading this blog entry and recognize one of the below red flag situations as similar to something that is currently happening to you in your relationship, please take the advice of many women before you – and run.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Many people will be celebrating with their loved ones, giving and receiving candy and flowers, and feeling generally warm and fuzzy. While part of me would love to join in on the love fest, I have decided to write about the other date that falls on February 14th - V-Day. For those of you who have never heard of this, V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls inspired by Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues.
Critics of V-Day are angry that there are people who want to talk about Domestic Violence on a day that is supposed to be about relationships and love. To them I say – until domestic violence is no longer tied to “relationships” and “love”, I will continue to talk about it. I think Valentines Day is the perfect day to talk about this issue. It is a time when women and men should examine love and relationships and either cherish having found a man who isn’t abusive, plan on how to escape an abusive relationship, or try and help someone who is being abused.
A few days ago I wrote about something I like to call Non-Traditional Domestic Violence. Since I wrote that post, I have received several emails from women who have lived through all kinds of horrifying abuse at the hands of likely sociopathic men. I wanted to share some of the experiences of these strong women with my readers. When I was living through the abuse, I felt very alone. Even though I had friends and family living near me, I didn’t think anyone would understand what I was going through. I was not even sure how I would begin to explain why I spent so much time crying.
One of the things people wonder about me is why I write. Let me clear this up for the record. I do not write out of vengeance. While I know that Luc (and likely his old man housemate too) are reading every single word I write, this blog is not for them. It is also not to try to change the minds of those who don’t believe psychopathy exists. I write for the mothers (and fathers) who will one day be in family court trying to protect their children, for the man or woman who falls in love with someone who doesn’t exist (a con), for the judges who care about saving kids, for the lawyers who will represent a victim of domestic abuse, for the men and women living through abusive relationships, and most of all – for my son. I want people to know what happened. I promised him that I would see to it that his life will is not forgotten and that I will fight for justice.
It’s unfortunate that my son’s story began with his mother’s horribly abusive relationship. Though its not pretty, it’s important to tell this part of the story. For all the women who have had the strength to write down their story – me and my baby send you hugs. Here are a few that I have heard:
1) ” …I found out I was having twins. My pregnancy was lonely. He wouldn’t touch me, he wouldn’t speak to me. He treated me like a test tube only making sure that I had enough nutrition to keep the babies healthy. I developed pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and was put on bed rest. While in the bathroom, I collapsed from a pain in my back. My mother and I tried calling “J” (the sociopath) all night and into the morning. He did not answer. I was in the hospital for five days and my boys were in the NICU for 3 weeks. I was there with them every single day and most nights too. “J” was not there.”
2) ” …he would tell me that he was going to China to buy a woman whom he would bring back home to raise his sons. He said a stranger could do a better job that I could. He called me a “negligent cunt” when he discovered a diaper rash on the baby and he threw dirty diapers at me. He asked me to leave the house so he could have a prostitute come over. He would lock the car seats in his car and sleep on the keys so I couldn’t escape with the babies.”
3) “He stopped letting me sleep at nights. He would stay up late playing video games and would come into the bedroom periodically doing something idiotic like yelling at me just to wake me up….or he would shove me out of bed and I would end up down on the couch.”
(Note: At the risk of being a little controversial here, if your boyfriend/husband plays violent video games ALL day and ALL night….to the degree that it impairs his ability to get a job or socialize with others…this is a HUGE red flag. Luc did this – I should have left when I realized this was a problem.)
4) “After a year of abuse…I started planning. I met with a lawyer and I started telling my friends about the abuse (I had previously kept it a secret). One night, when I knew he would be away – I left. I had 13 friends and family show up with a moving van. An aunt took the children and the rest of us packed anything we could for as long as my nerves would hold me at that house. Then – I left.”
5) “After he pushed me into a wall, punched me in the stomach (post pregnancy while holding my 3 month old son), and tried to kick in my front door, I gave up and tried to get him to stay away from me and my son. I finally realized that this was not the kind of man my son needed in his life. He fought me for custody. At first it was supervised, but now its unsupervised. I refused – now we are going back to court because I violated the court order.”
6) “My ex husband poured scalding water on my face because he was upset with his finances and because I wouldn’t allow him to leave the country with our son.”
7) “For nine hours, he held me hostage in his apartment, violently assaulted me, suffocated me with a body pillow…he didn’t allow me to use the bathroom. When I finally told him that I would pee on his floor, he allowed me to go to the bathroom. While I was using the bathroom, he took pictures of me. He then told me he would use these pictures to embarrass me. He did – he sent them to my father’s work e-mail address.”
8) “I’ve seen the scariest man I have ever met walk into a court room with his head bowed, hands clasped, voice low and one tear on his cheek. This has only made him more frightening. I know…how it feels to lose a child. To lose a child due to another’s complete lack of empathy and, in fact, humanity.”
9) “…now he has started to emotionally abuse our son. Every time my five year old son has to go to a court ordered visit, he says ‘please Mommy I will listen, now can I stay at your house? Please, I don’t want to go to any sleeps at Dad’s.”
10) “When I finally got the courage to leave him, he held me at gun point. He told me that I would leave one of two ways – by jumping out of the window or in a body bag after he shot me.”
These stories are horrifying, but sadly they are not as uncommon as we would all like to believe. I have heard the statistic that only four percent of the male population is considered a psychopath. I wonder, however, how many more have gone undiagnosed and how many people are “on the spectrum” and, while not killers, are still abusive and dangerous.
The women who have shared their stories with me are all pretty, smart, and educated. They are someone’s daughter, sister, cousin, friend…
Abuse can happen to anyone. Stupidity is not at all a unifying characteristic for women who have been in abusive relationships.
Today I spent most of my day on a plane traveling. Looking out at the clouds, my thoughts were a reflection of how my mind is racing in a million directions. I wondered how my son was doing in heaven, if he was mad at me for not fighting hard enough to protect him, whether Luc would ever have to pay for all the terrible things he has done…
Tonight I received a letter from a woman who reads my blog. She told me that she has been in a Custody War with her psychopath ex for eight years. She has been through countless hearings and has suffered from both physical abuse at the hands of the psychopath and legal abuse from the courts. Though her children haven’t been in contact with the psychopath since 2006, he continues to drag her to court for the sheer “enjoyment” of it. It continues to amaze me how a person can actually ENJOY being in court. Personally, court makes me feel terrible. I could be winning and everything could be going my way, yet leaving court often makes me feel terrible because its always an abusive incident when dealing with a psychopath.
The Psychopath Blood Sucking Monster
Many people would read this woman’s story and say, “hey lady, what is wrong with you? You should be happy your kids don’t have to deal with him and blessed to have left that abusive situation!” I, however, understand how terrible she feels being dragged through the coals of court over and over again. It doesn’t matter if the psychopath is clearly a dysfunctional mess. The courts don’t care about the fact that this process allows a psychopath continued access and a constant chance to feed off of the emotions of their victim like a blood sucking predator sucking the life out of its prey. This poor woman has been dragged back to court every six weeks for the past eight years. In the psychopath’s feable brain, he believes this is a perfect scenario. He doesn’t actually have to BE a father, but he gets to pretend he cares while causing maximum pain and suffering to the person he believed scorned him.
Let’s be honest – I have only been in this hell for a year and a half; therefore, I completely understand that I am just chipping the top of the iceberg on information about psychopaths and how to recover. That being said, sometimes I feel as if my story mirrors so many others. There are so many women (and sometimes men too) who have suffered at the hands of these monsters. When I read this letter, my first reaction was near panic as I realized how possible it is that I could be fighting this same war eight years from now – even 17 years from now.
So in moments of panic and despair, what do I do?
1) I look at my son and realize he is worth it. He is worth every minute of the fight. I have said this before and I will say it again. I would go to the end of the earth, jump off, feel the pain of the impact, and do it all over again for my son – every single day of my life. I can have the worst day and feel completely helpless, but coming home to his smiles and hugs keeps me fighting this war.
2) I try to put things into perspective. Luc chose me for a reason. I had my life together. I was successful and I had an amazing life ahead of me. No matter how long this war takes, I will still be me and he will still be him. He is a parasite who lives to feed off of people whom he wishes he could be. I have the power to NOT react to his terror; therefore, I had the power to take away his supply.
3) Finally, God works in mysterious ways and Karma is an angry, scorned woman who gets her revenge on people like Luc – psychopaths. I believe that God and Karma work as a good team. Luc will have to answer to God someday. He will be standing at the gates of heaven and likely receive a heavy kick in the butt on his way down to hell. Karma, on the other hand, works her magic here on earth. Psychopaths aren’t happy people because no matter how much they get away with – bad things always happen to them eventually.
There have been many moments over the past year when I have been reduced to tears – crying and shaking in a corner like an infant. I am sure I will have more of these moments before my son turns 18 and the courts finally allow me to remove Luc’s vampire fangs from my neck. In the meantime, however, I will always be baby boy’s mom. At some point, we are more important than all this. So allow yourself to cry, but don’t forget to also allow yourself to have some joy in the midst of the madness. Let Karma’s rage and fury take care of the psychopath.
I am not sure why I am still shocked when people choose to blame the psychopath’s victim. I have heard that this is normal from others who have suffered from an encounter with psychopath, but I still get a shock each time it happens to me. From friends, to family, to the courts, to complete strangers – people seem to want to find something wrong with me to somehow better explain to themselves how this happened to me. It has been happening so long that sometimes I find myself wondering there is something wrong with me that made me ignore the red flags and believe the completely fantastic story he was telling me.
This week alone, I have experienced both friends and family trying to psycho analyze me and question how I ended up with such a monster as the father of my son. I am not sure how to respond to people when they ask me absurd questions or decide that it was somehow my fault that I ended up being conned by Luc. Here are some of the things I have heard over the past year (the first two were said just this week):
1) “CQ, really…how did this happen? What were you thinking? I mean, please don’t feel as if I am blaming you…but how did you not see this coming?” - An old friend
2) “I know what happened….I think CQ must like to be controlled by an abusive man.” - A family member (behind my back)
3) “Let’s be honest…you wanted a bad boy…so you are now getting what you asked for and deserve. My daughter, who is your age, would never be in this situation because she doesn’t like bad boys. She is marrying a man who wears suits and collared shirts.” - My Lawyer
4) “You are not without fault here CQ, what you saw in this man…well, it must have been fairy dust…and now the fairy dust has disappeared and you are going to have to deal with him for at least the next 18 years.” - The Judge
5) “You didn’t have a problem with him touching you, so you shouldn’t be so bothered that he is now touching your son.” - Family member
The hardest thing for people to understand, it seems, is how a person can be conned by someone who is so clearly dysfunctional. My response to that is, “when a person’s full time job is to learn everything about you – your hopes, dreams, weaknesses – in order to exploit and con you – you will likely end up conned.” I have used the analogy before of the frog and the boiling water and in this case I can’t think of another analogy that would prove my point any better. Psychopaths control the boiling water. They know that if they threw their victims into a pot of boiling water, most people would jump right out screaming and cursing at them. Instead, they slowly bring the water to boil with the intension of burning their victims alive.
Every time I walk into court, I feel like I am holding my heart inside of my chest with my bear hands. This process, this war, with Luc has torn me apart from the inside out. Luc’s boiling water effectively ripped me apart, but sometimes I feel as if the judgement and misunderstanding I receive from those I love and society at large is worse. I went from being a beautiful, self confident, intelligent, and successful woman – to a victim of a completely misunderstood abuse. Luc burned me alive, but society will always blame me as if I willingly jumped into a burning fire along side satan.
I want my son to know his mama as the woman I was – but wiser. I dread the day when my son might join society and make judgements about what happened with his father. Will he understand how his father used my kindness against me? Will he understand why I tried to hold the relationship together even when it seemed clear to the rest of the world that it was a hopeless situation? Will he understand why I fought so hard to protect him from a man I once trusted?
It’s easy to think about all the horrible things Luc is and ignore the things that attracted me to this man. While many of the things that attracted me to Luc were not real (most of them were completely fake actually), there are good qualities in Luc. (Yes, you read that correctly) Despite the fact that my family refuses to see anything of Luc in baby boy, this is not the stance I will take as baby boy’s mother. Luc wasn’t born evil – he made choices. He took his talents and used them for evil. For example, being charming is not a bad thing if you don’t use it to manipulate and control others. Being a good actor isn’t a bad thing as long as you use it on stage to entertain instead of to lie and cheat.
I love baby boy for everything that he is and that means that I accept the fact that he is the product of what now feels like a violent emotional rape. I refuse to make my son feel bad for carrying half of the psychopath’s genes and I also refuse to lie to him. So while I kick myself every day for not paying attention to the now obvious red flags of Luc’s psychopathy, and I suffer through the constant judgements I receive from others, I would do it all over again for baby boy. I didn’t choose what Luc really is – but I will choose baby boy every day for the rest of my life.