It’s day 18 of Domestic Violence Awareness Month for men and boys, the invisible victims of domestic violence. ABR (Always Be Recording) is advice every man or woman in an abusive relationship should follow — especially abused men!
The family court system is extraordinarily biased in favor of women and female victims of violence enjoy special protections that male victims of violence are not afforded courtesy of VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act), an unconstitutional and sexist piece of legislation.
ABR has helped many men avoid wrongful arrest and restraining order abuse due to the false allegations of an abusive wife, girlfriend or ex. It has also helped some men obtain custody of their children. Today’s In His Own Words is an example of how ABR helped to save one man and his children.
Here is Max’s story:
ABR Saved My Kids and Saved Me
My wife and I were together for over a decade. We had a whirlwind romance and were married 6 months after we met, even though there were several things I now recognize as red flags.
Bright, burning red flags.
For example, she told me about how she had a car chase with an ex-boyfriend to “make” him talk to her. She confessed that she faked a suicide in order to try to manipulate him. Then there was the drama. There always had to be drama. She was attracted to it and created it when there was none to be had. And the biggest red flag of all, she actually told me, “You really shouldn’t keep seeing me, I am going to destroy your life.”
Despite these red flags and others, I was smitten. She was beautiful, fun and smart. Plus there was always something to get stirred up about in her life, and while it wasn’t fun, it was satisfying to be her “knight in shining armor,” to be the hero for a pretty girl.
Unfortunately, a professional victim must have a villain.
Though it took years to recognize it, things were bad, and kept getting worse. About 3-4 years into the marriage, things were bad enough that I felt very confused, but couldn’t talk to anyone about it because I just didn’t think anyone would believe me. She was so confident, capable and calm in public! I was certain no one would believe what she was like behind closed doors.
Plus, I never talked to anyone about it because I was embarrassed to admit to my own groveling behavior just to keep her appeased. I was embarrassed to admit that I spent a lot of time reassuring her that all her ex boyfriends (and current boyfriends) still loved and missed her. Yes, I actually did this.
I was embarrassed that I would put up with someone who was always breaking cupboards, dishes and other things on purpose during tantrums. I was embarrassed that I spent so much money on her just to keep her from acting on the threat, “Well, if you can’t buy it for me then I am just going to go get a job stripping!”
She wasted away our first child’s pre-school years messing around with boyfriends on the Internet and obsessing over them, sneaking away to meet with them, etc. It only got worse after our second child was born.
Day after day, I would return from work to an unkempt home, household shopping that wasn’t done and the baby strapped into a highchair, parked in front of the television with a bloated unchanged diaper, usually the one I put on in the morning before going to work. Once, our baby broke her arm trying to get out of the highchair (according to my ex). Did my ex take her to the hospital?
No, she put our baby in the crib with the OBVIOUSLY broken arm and let her lie in agony for several hours with the expectation that I would take care of her after I got home from work. Our two kids were mostly on their own. As time went on, our oldest child started to assume the responsibilities of parent to my wife and our youngest, or what psychologists call parentification, which is a form of child abuse.
Through it all, and year after year, I kept hoping things would get better. She would be better after she graduated from college. A new therapist would help her. New medication would make her better. A new house. More money. Fancier clothes. A bigger house. More time at home. A new baby would make it better. Different medication. Different therapist, etc., but it just kept getting worse.
She started to beg me to help her commit suicide, and even begged me to agree to a murder-suicide pact. She would talk for hours about how easy it would be to turn the cars on and leave the door open to the house. She said we should just drop our youngest off at the hospital and never come back. She would scream for hours, mad raving screams until she was literally frothing at the corners of her mouth.
She kicked, scratched and slapped me regularly. As time passed, her physical violence escalated and became more frequent. The objects she threw at me became bigger, harder and heavier. She started to physically assault me in my sleep. Nothing is more startling or unnerving than being hit with something heavy and hard in your sleep. Try falling asleep with this thought in your head, “Is tonight the night she finds the baseball bat?”
But I was scared to leave, scared to divorce. No way I could abandon my kids to live alone with someone like that. I couldn’t let them be her next target. I was stuck because, as I mentioned, she was FINE in public. She was wonderful in front of her family. All the awfulness would disappear the moment someone was there to observe.
Worst of all, she can tell a lie better than most people can tell the truth. She believed her lies. To her, her feelings were reality. If she felt you were a villain then, suddenly in her mind, she had a whole villainous backstory for you, things you had done. She was clever enough to weave in dates and places and whatever she knew about you to make it seem more real. She would tell me things that I knew were lies, yet I would believe her or feel chilled by the fact it that she believed it.
She wasn’t lying. She thinks she is telling the truth. If she felt like you did a bad thing, you did that thing even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
I was also afraid to leave because she described the lies she would tell the police about me and anyone who would listen. She would describe in rich, vivid detail, stories that would get me barred from ever seeing the kids again, if not put in jail.
Somewhere toward the end of our marriage, I was in a bookstore with my wife and caught sight of a psychology book. Reading the title made my hair raise on end and my blood run cold with an odd recognition. “I hate you, don’t leave me.” Oh how often I had heard those words screamed at me in exactly that way and in so many other variations. It’s an odd, impossible phrase I thought no one would ever believe. [*THIS IS BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER]
Around the same time, I got my first smartphone with video and audio recording features. It occurred to me that I should ALWAYS have it on me. That my only chance of getting the children and I out of that hell was if I had proof.
I switched to pajama pants with pockets. I always had the phone on me. I bought many other little audio and video recording gadgets that could be turned on with a simple switch. I left them around the house and my car, ready to go in case something awful should start to happen.
I started to catch things here and there, sometimes a little video, usually some audio. Helpful things, but nothing that would be a slam dunk in court. I missed a lot of things that would have been even more helpful. It’s not always easy to Always Be Recording and it’s tricky to be discrete about it sometimes, but I kept at it.
Then one day, the nadir of our marriage, my ex had a full blown psychotic rage episode. She raged, screamed, broke things and hit me with enough volume, intensity and duration that our oldest child called a relative for help. Once my ex realized our child had “ratted [her] out,” she went nuclear.
She chased our child around the house until the child hid in the bathroom. Then she grabbed a 9-inch butcher knife and tried to break down the door of the room where our child was hiding. I was able to intervene at this point, and got her to back away from the door to the other side of the room while I backed away to another corner of the room.
She was frothing at the mouth and screaming at our child, “Come out here and see what you did! Come out here and watch! Watch what you are making me do!” as she raked the dull side of the knife across her own legs. She demanded that our child come out to see his mother stab herself.
Eventually our child came out for a moment and my ex continued screaming. Then she lunged at our child and chased him back into the bathroom, still with the 9-inch butcher knife in hand and froth on her lips. I intervened again and got a small cut on my hand for the effort.
I knew I could disarm her without either of us getting seriously hurt. However, I was pretty sure it would leave a bruise on her arm, which would, of course, play into the lies she threatened to tell the police. Then it occurred to me, “This is what the police are for.” So while she was looking away, I took the house phone off the cradle and dialed 911.
Next, I loudly started saying, “WIFE’S NAME, please put down the knife” and repeated it over and over. She continued raving for what seemed like an eternity, then the doorbell rang. Like a light switch being flipped off, my ex immediately calmed down, put down the knife and began arranging her hair. She calmly asked, “Oh, who is at the door?”
I opened the door and five very anxious looking policemen with weapons drawn were standing there.
My ex began to lie to the police, but her lies didn’t work this time. I got it all on video. And my children and I, we got away.
Sometimes people tease me about how much I love my phone, how much I love little recording devices and that I buy so many. I just smile and nod. I don’t explain. How else am I supposed to feel about something that saved my life and rescued my children?
Always. Be. Recording.
In His 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.
Counseling with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
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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This brings back a lot of memories. Glad you persevered and got your kids to safety. One of the most mind-boggling things to witness is that “turn the monster off and turn on the painted smiling face” when people suddenly appear. Scary.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
I thought of you as I readied this for publication, David. And wished you father had been able to get you and your brothers to safety.
Agreed. The change like a light switch thing… whoa. When you see someone go from 100% out of control raving mad, to easy breezy calm in the literal and actual blink of an eye, it will raise your hair on end and haunt your dreams.
Great post! Last word in 2nd paragraph should be “legislation.”
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Thank you for catching my error and welcome to S4M!
You suggest to always be recording. Secret recording is illegal in some states. And my wife would rip my head off if I whipped out a recorder when she’s going nuts.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
If you live in a state in which one-party recording is illegal, I would still take the risk. It might just keep you from being arrested for a false DV charge. Also, you don’t whip your recorder out in front of your wife. You record without her knowing. There are many voice activated recording devices and apps for smartphones.
BE DISCREET! If you are obvious about it, it does not work. And don’t ever tell or threaten or brag about it. The first person (and sometimes only person) to know about your recordings should be your lawyer. Your recordings are your “nuclear option” treat your recordings with the same cautious respect you would a bomb. You don’t just whip out a bomb and show it off and toss it around. Always be recording! Yes! But don’t let anyone know especially “HER.”
I speak as someone who was saved by ABR. I lived in a place where secret recording is not illegal, and took full advantage of it. She eventually discovered it, but not after I had acquired (unexpectedly, I had no idea what she was doing when I was out of the house, but it wsa worse than I imagined) a tremendous amount of very embarassing evidence. She eventually found one recorder, and while I took a tremendous amount of heat for it, I kept recording.
At that point the value of recording changed from directly protecting me, although it still did, to forcing her to act as if she was always being recorded. She now never knew when she was being recorded, and did that ever mess with her constant drive for control. She, like so many, could not keep the mask on 24/7, and it took a huge toll on her.
Don’t advertise that you are recording. If you are in a one-party state, let her know she is being recorded and that if she continues, she is consenting to be recorded. Geez, it really is that simple. Ever see the sign over the door of the retail store, saying that by entering you are consenting to being recorded for your safety and the safety of the store? Put those on the doors to your house. Let her guess where the recorders are. Always have one on your person.
Technical point–use recorders that use batteries and will quickly let you download via USB. It was hard enough keeping three recorders in circulation, but if I’d had to charge them via USB, I would have failed. Mine used AAA batteries, buy them by the gross, and DL every time you swap out a recorder. Get a filesharing service to serve as backup for your recordings.
ABR. It save mine and my children’s lives.
You don’t even need a smartphone or a voice recorder, cheep mp3 player will do the work just fine.
As Dr T said, maybe it won’t be useful in court but it will save you from a false dv charge and it will help you to keep your frends, family, colleagues and acquaintances when she starts smear campain against you.
It will also give some sort of satisfaction if you later post it on youtube ( to warn others, ofcourse 😉 )
It really would be satisfying BUT I would really reconsider the “post on youtube” idea. There is only one reason you want to be recording this stuff. To protect yourself/your kids. Making it public is just going to make things worse and make it look like you are the problem instead of her.
Here is a good spot for checking legal rules on recording.
And I wanted to throw this idea out there. See what you all think. If secret recording is illegal in your state, but things have gotten REALLY BAD. Like your “wife” is currently waving around a knife or throwing stuff at you. Take out your phone, start recording openly and announce that you are doing so, loud enough so that she and the recorder can hear it and Back out of the house. (Take the little’uns with you if they involved.)
That way you don’t have to physically defend yourself or leave any red handprints while you are trying to defend yourself. But hopefully you get out safely and you won’t have to go to jail for not getting stabbed. (defending yourself)
I dunno. Maybe that wouldn’t help. All the options are bad in situations like these. I guess you just have pick the least horrible option.
Cousin Dave says
The problem you’ll have if you do that is, she’ll now be double-amped to get revenge on you — and you can’t stay awake to defend yourself 24/7. So if it comes down to where you might think you need to do that, you need to have a bug-out kit in your car. (Which actually isn’t a bad idea anyway for any man dealing with a personality-disordered spouse.) It needs to have food, clothes (be sure to includes clothes for children if any are involved), money, copies of any important papers, and a password-protected computer or communications device. It would also be a good idea to have in the kit a checklist of things to do, people to contact, and places to go; if you have to use the kit you probably won’t be thinking very clearly at the moment, and having a list of steps to follow will be a big help.
OMG!! I thought I was reading my own story (which you are very familiar with) for a minute even down to the book spotted in the book store “I hate you don’t leave me!” These women are domestic terrorists and need to be taken out of society. My outcome is bad enough but cannot imagine what it would have been without the recordings. We need to get these things on line so that everyone knows that these PSYCHOS are dangerous and they are real! These are the “Songs of the Borderline”
You married a terrorist. How does one get one of these digital recorders? Is it just audio or does is it equipped with a video component?
For video. Using your smart phone on a belt clip so that the camera is pointed out is the easiest discrete thing. Looxie 2 is another easy discreet item to use in several different ways.
For Audio. There are any number of audio recording options that are discreet and easy.
my stbx complained to the judge that i was recording her and the judge ordered no recording in or around the house!!!! if your not doing anything wrong why no recording? the system is so biased it is disgusting. she threw a cup of coffee on me because i wouldnt have an “adult conversation” with her. i called 911. the state trooper that responeded gave her a ticket for 2nd degree harassment. i told him if i did that i’d be in the back of the trooper car with hand cuffs on. he agreed!!!!!one of our friends(a female) blamed me for calling the police on her!!! i”ve tried calling domestic violence they said there is no help for men. she has punched me, bit me, left a bruise that didnt go away for almost a month. she tried to stab me with a knitting needle in the throat then called the police on me. the sherrif that came called it a mutual shoving match. i never raised a hand in self defense.
I would clear the following idea with your lawyer.
If you can figure out a way to do it discretely, audio if nothing else, record anyway.
You can probably tell when things are about to get ugly. Start your discrete recording and if it (unfortunately) turns into something useful, then go over that recording with your lawyer. Don’t let anyone else know. And it may not be useful in court, but could be useful in some other context like custody evaluations etc… your recordings are NEVER useful for making public or trying to embarrass her. That is a sure fire way to make it worse on yourself. Especially if you have kids.
mobilesteve that is what i did. the custody evaluator actually did listen to the tapes i had before her lawyer found out and strongly objected. she threatened to kill me in my sleep with my 4 yr old talking to us in the back ground amongst a bunch of other threats. the evaluators report was very critical of her with very little criticism of me. it did not seem to make much differance in court. she lies with impunity and projects all of her behavior on to me. i did finally get her to move out of the house i buildt and payed for. i do have my children half the time but i have to sell the rental house we own that i totally renovated. and give her half the equity. she ran up 50,000 in credit card debt and 25,000 in lawyer fees.so i think she is just going to be giving all of my hard earned money away. any man that gets married or has children in this legal enviroment is insane. the worst part is i lived with her for 8 years before we got married. she says now that every thing she did in those years was to trap me into marrying her. when i said i didnt even know who she was anymore her response was”how do you like the real me” I DONT
Max, as tragic as your relationship was, your story brought tears of joy to me… funny how victims of NPD relationships can relate in the details… and most certainly relish outsmarting them.
I’m one of those “dodged the bullet” ones who spent 2-1/2 years dating, yet desperately avoiding commitment, an NPD. Sadly I still love my “crazy”… but have cut most contact.
I spoke to my therapist about reading these stories on shrink4men, and how it helps remind me of what I was involved with. She asked what parts made me think of my eX… but I didn’t really know… I don’t have children with her, but why did I connect with your story? I just realised it’s everything. Yes, all the behaviours, twitches, rants, rages… I could have been exactly in your shoes. Your eX could have been my eX. She called the police on me because I broke 2 eggs and raised my voice at her… yet I now realised I’m a very empathic and enabling partner… nice guys do finish last with NPD’s… it takes a lot of awareness and will power to get out.
All that to say, thank you for sharing your story…
So happy you got away! I love the happy ending. I’ve had to go through this myself — recording things the ex said and recording the kids telling me things he did and said. I knew no one would believe it otherwise.
Also, be sure to save email messages from the crazies. Text rather than talk on the phone. Keep phone logs — I will soon be able to show how the ex perjured himself in court because I kept an electronic phone log.
More power to the normal folks — and happy families.
I am very happy all ended well for “Max” and the children. I hope they all received the help they needed to understand and heal from this horrific life with a monster.