Hi Dr. T,
One of the saddest things I have seen in the past few years is the blindness and projection around male victims of domestic violence.
My husband was divorced years ago, one his ex initiated. Their relationship was always tumultuous. She has a long history of emotional, financial, and physical abuse of him. For years after the split, as long as she was supported financially, emotionally and in parenting, she had no complaints. Once he found a solid new relationship (me, oh lucky me) she began ramping up problems.
Then came the restraining order, filed to prevent the children from seeing him outside her house and certainly seeing me. After that was the 2 plus years spent in a custody battle – she with a pricey attorney paid for by (wait for it) . . . his Parents. Yep.
When she decided she wasn’t happy with the outcome of that (only months after settling), then came the allegations he was emotionally abusive to the children, the “emergency” rescinding of his parenting time, the supervised visitation and the stalking order (and plenty more financial rewards from her generous ex in-laws.) Now we are left trying to rebuild his reputation after all the “experts” have decided he’s “unstable”, we are financially and emotionally drained – but at least the SO had to be dropped as it didn’t meet the standards. (Way to fabricate “evidence”.)
Why? What possessed this person to go to all this trouble?
While the ex has been successful in convincing court appointed “experts” and legal beagles she is the “good” parent; we believe she has severe issues, likely sociopathy. Of course, the average civilian can’t say that to a court or court appointed psych professional. So, her likely motivation – why it’s just a good game she wants to win, she gets to publicly punish and ruin her ex and – double plus bonus points – she gets to drag in the new spouse, disparage them, drain all their money and maybe (oh she hopes and hopes) ruin their relationship! Wow. What a reward!!
There are plenty of people who assume that if a person’s own parents do not support them they must be a horrible human being. I can vouch that this is total falsehood. My hubby is a wonderful, kind, generous person who is a fantastic father and husband. His birth family has a number of mental health issues (including narcissism, abuse, drug use) which of course result in a poor childhood that didn’t prepare him for healthy relationships.
He’s worked hard to overcome the impacts of this childhood. That he has cardboard cutout imitations of parents is not due to his being a bad person. He was in fact the scapegoat child of his family. So I guess there was no chance he could have a decent relationship with them. Give the abused man, the scapegoat child, a chance. They want to have a good life.
So the sociopath (let’s just agree this assignment fits, you’ll see the lack of empathy in her actions) found a good target. Like that proverbial lion, she found the wounded antelope and ran towards it. He fell for it and was used – used up. Willingly, she took his time, love and money. She kept him on a bungee cord of abuse: scream, abuse, seduce him back with love bombs, scream, abuse….repeat ad nauseum. And of course, she became pregnant. So he was caught trying desperately to do the right thing for his children. I think this was when she really ramped up her game.
Suddenly she had bait to dangle before his divorced parents. Bait to provide her with people she could twist to her side (with repeated emotional complaints about how bad their son was to her and their grandchildren), bait to attract as much money as anyone would throw at her, and most importantly for her must-win abusive game – bait to use to ruin the man who could not provide her with everything she wanted.
Now, we realize that she is incapable of ever filling that emptiness, so no human being could provide her with “enough” of anything. Since her husband would not bow to her every whim and was not providing the financial support she “deserved”, he had failed her and must be punished. And she quickly saw that the most painful punishment was to separate him from his children, to leave them in her care where he would worry incessantly about what abuse was occurring.
She even tried to get me on her side. When I failed to succumb to her “charms” – which really meant to agree to her side of the story and feel that this man was an utter failure, and a cheating one at that. She tried hard, repeatedly talking to me over some weeks. Having been raised in a pretty dysfunctional family myself, I was ready for that. Plus, just hearing her complaints over and over wasn’t enough for me – I guess some people give in to that sort of mind control. As I found out later, she certainly had a high success rate, as many people: friends, family, health or school staff; had completely bought her line of bull. Sad, very sad.
Fast forward to the fun world of American family “justice.” This is where I truly got a clear vision of how far she would go in her quest and how quickly those who where supposedly acting “in the best interest of the child” were willing to damn a man with no verified or cross-examined evidence and assume that “only women are victims of domestic violence, he has to be bad”. Almost 3 years of slogging through this legal swamp is too much to go through day by day, so let’s hit the highlights:
- First restraining order was approved with no evidence. Local judges apparently just say “Yes” for fear of being responsible for being wrong. Took months to drop it.
- She repeatedly denies him visitation and especially phone contact with the kids (which continues up until the “emergency circus act” where she gets his visitation pulled altogether.)
- Her lawyer requires that Dad is repeatedly drug tested, they all come back negative. Susie Sociopath will not agree to any similar testing for herself.
- She refuses a parenting plan settlement offer (one that did not include a change in child support) and will not negotiate. A year later (and tens of thousands in legal costs, a custody evaluation and parenting coordinator) she settles for a plan that is eerily similar to the one she turned down.
- She fires (or we suspect he quit) one lawyer, moves on to one of the most aggressive, sleazy attorneys in town. My husband’s parents continue to pay for her legal fees.
- Sleazy attorney succeeds in getting all incriminating-to-her evidence suppressed as non-admissible or illegally obtained. What’s she hiding so hard? We all know.
- Sleazy attorney delays and delays in the hopes that we will run out of money. Instead we dig a financial hole that will entrap us for years.
- She emotionally seduces the custody evaluator and succeeds in getting a male-negative evaluation report. Even though – their psychological test scores have some common items and certainly she does not come out looking like Mother Theresa.
- Ex then entraps the children’s counselor in her web. Susie Sociopath is clearly coaching the children on what to say. This will, in a matter of months, result in the emergency circus and the counselor’s decision that the father is emotionally damaging to the children. (And of course after they are removed from him, the children are “doing much better without his visitation.”
- Susie Sociopath works hard to get the parenting coordinator to side with her. When he remains somewhat neutral she begins the emergency circus.
- Parental grandfather takes Susie Sociopath and the grandchildren on a number of expensive vacations – all to very child entrancing locations. No one would think this was a ploy to keep the kids on their side – would they?
- It’s Circus Time! Merely days after a long vacation with father’s mom, there is an emergency ex parte that he is an emotional danger to the children, and he is banned from locations where the children frequent as well as losing all parenting time. Then the judge sides with Susie Sociopath and Sleazy Attorney and orders supervised visitation (which is always paid for by the “guilty” parent, not the parent who demands it, who decided on that twisted approach?) Quickly following that there is a stalking order requested (also ex parte) which is quickly approved by the same judge. This stalking order months later will be found to be illegal and be dropped – but there is no investigation of it when filed, just a signature and a lecture to the dad of how he is “damaging his children”.
- Susie Sociopath uses the stalking order to her advantage, calling the cops to have her my husband arrested for violating it. She apparently felt threatened by social media posts that did not have any threats in them, many of which did not even directly mention her. Now there’s bail (which because it is listed under “domestic violence” bail is $50k – $50k!), there’s a criminal charge that needs its own lawyer and has its own costs and timeline.
- More court hearings, all of which have Sleazy Attorney talking and talking to continue his tale of how evil the father is and how the Susie Sociopath is a saintly, patient victim. Judge (who has a DV professional background) sides with them on every issue. Now we have an order for a “comprehensive” psych exam of Dad, continued supervised parenting at outrageous prices (because of course no volunteer was acceptable to Susie Sociopath), and the counselor continues her own anti-Dad PR campaign. Oh, and he’s being held accountable for anything I post on social media and Susie Sociopath and Sleazy Attorney Internet stalk my blog. Where is the 1st Amendment?
Well, in these years we’ve met, dated, gotten married, spent tens of thousands in legal and related costs, been drug tested, lived in court, been vilified by friends / extended family / professionals / the court, he’s lost his children, lost his reputation and his record is damaged enough that jobs and possibly new housing have been denied due to the remains of these false allegations.
Why did I stay and deal with this? I have seen this man with his children – they adore him and he is an excellent father. I’ve learned that many fathers get such a raw deal that they need support, and the snap decisions made by family courts serve no one. I want to see him have a good relationship with his children. I do accept that it is highly likely she will continue with new campaigns and, at some point, we may have to cut of contact with her and the children altogether to keep from turning into emotional mush. And of course I love him deeply.
I cannot say I feel optimistic about the future, which is so sad. I think his relationship with his children may be in the early stages of being completely ruined. I think Susie Sociopath will stalk us indefinitely and we have no idea how to get out of her spotlight. But we are now active in family law reform. Realizing we may not benefit from the changes, we are fighting to change the system so other families do not have to go through this emotional hell hole. If you are experiencing this: document, have support, get a good lawyer, and have a counselor or way to safely vent. Good luck!
In His Own Words/In Her Own Words is an effort to help raise awareness about the invisible victims of domestic violence, men. If you would like to submit your story, please follow the guidelines at the end of this article.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Coaching individuals through high-conflict divorce and custody cases is also an area of expertise. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for more information.
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