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When Your Husband Uses CSAM

by | Abuse Literacy

When Your Husband Uses CSAM

Have you experienced the fear, confusion, and betrayal when your husband uses Child Sex Abuse Material (formerly known as child pornography)?

Nora is back on the BTR.ORG podcast – her ex-husband was a CSAM user and is currently in prison. Tune in to the BTR.ORG podcast and read the full transcript below for more.

A Life-Altering Experiencing

Many women in the BTR.ORG community have faced immense betrayal trauma when their husbands or ex-husbands have been in possession of Child Sex Abuse Material.

Victims of CSAM users may experience:

  • Fear
  • Rage
  • Grief
  • Shame
  • Embarrassment
  • Denial
  • Avoidance
  • Numbness
  • Revulsion

Deciding to Report CSAM

Victims often fear for their future – understanding that CSAM is a crime, they may feel immense inner turmoil as they make the decision to report.

Some women feel that they’re betraying their husbands. Others fear for their own reputation or for their children. Some feel anxiety for the future if they have been a stay-at-home parent and the CSAM user has been the financial provider for the household.

CSAM is a serious crime for a reason – it is actively harming children and youth in the worst possible way. Please consider booking a session with Coach Renee, who can help you navigate reporting CSAM use.

BTR.ORG Is Here For You

At BTR.ORG, we know how confusing, painful, and terrifying it is to discover that your husband is using Child Sex Abuse Material. His decision to commit this crime affects your entire family.

The BTR.ORG Group Sessions are a safe place for you to process this trauma. Join us today.

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:00):
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. I have Nora Taylor back on today’s episode. I sometimes called her Nora and sometimes Taylor, it’s an alias we’re using to protect her. But if you didn’t hear that intro to her story last week, go listen there first and then join us here today. In this episode, you’ll hear the acronym CSAM, which stands for child sex abuse material.

(03:41):
Some people call this child pornography. We call it child sexual abuse material here, because that is what it is. So when you hear that acronym, you’ll know what we’re talking about. We’re just gonna jump right in. This is such an interesting story because so many women experience these same exact things. They experience the lack of empathy, the lack of him caring about their feelings, you know, all of that stuff. So this is really, really interesting and I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that this happened to you and I was so, it sounds like a nightmare. Let’s talk about the rest of the story. What happened after you found this child sexual abuse material? So how did your experiences with DV and counseling professionals, law enforcement, the courts, how did that exacerbate your trauma?

Did the Legal System Exacerbate Nora’s Trauma?

Nora (04:34):
It actually, whenever I think of this, now that I’ve been listening to your podcast, I think of one episode you did, and I’ve listened to them out of sequence, so I dunno how long ago it was, but it was when you were so raw and honest and vulnerable with the listening audience about having been in court and having gotten nothing of what you wanted and needed for you and your kids in terms of custody, I don’t know if you remember this or not.

Anne (05:02):
Mm-hmm, that was actually pretty recent. Yeah.

Nora (05:05):
Yeah. I’m so sorry for you because that feeling came right to the surface for me. Again, I don’t think I cried so hard as I have in family courts because people have not recognized this and it’s actually an identified thing. It’s not a diagnosable concern for the non spectrum partners in a relationship, but it goes by different names. Cassandra phenomenon, which is named from the Greek goddess, who is cursed with this ability to tell the future, no one would believe. It goes by Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome or Effective Deprivation Disorder. Those names as well. But it’s this idea of describing these experiences and not being believed by friends, family, professionals. And I’ve faced it over and over again. First time we were in family court, he agreed to a psych evaluation then even before the autism diagnosis, and the judge wouldn’t allow it. She says it’s overdone in her courtroom.

“He Was Looking For Me To Be The Problem”

(06:05):
She wasn’t going to allow it. He was arrested a year later. So my ex got his own therapist, wonderful. But he, you know, through work and he told them, I don’t need support for any PTSD. I need this because my wife is so awful to me. And that therapist even called me in to talk to me, didn’t believe me that autism was an issue. He dismissed me. He was saying in court later that he was blocking my emails. You know, he invited me in and then didn’t wanna hear from me. I think again, he was looking for me to be the problem. There’s something wrong with her.

Anne (06:36):
Yeah. At the time, were you saying autism was an issue or were you saying abuse was an issue? I think that’s an interesting thing because even though he was autistic, the result to you was still emotional abuse. Do you know what I’m saying?

Nora (06:52):
That’s so interesting. I hadn’t thought of this in this way before, but I think in the timeline of events, I hadn’t identified it as abuse. I was just trying to give him a, it’s what everybody views as a label, but I wanted it to answer a reason. So I started with personality disorder. I said, Can you look into this? I think this therapist, I want to help him. I want our family back together. Right. This wasn’t, you know, to label him.

Anne (07:20):
It wasn’t like to like catch him or something. It was to solve a problem.

When Professionals Harm the Victim

Nora (07:25):
Right. And I didn’t identify it as that. It’s, this man is leaving the family like outta nowhere. From my point of view, at that point, that’s a problem. And he’s blaming me for everything that I’m not doing. I didn’t see it as abuse, but I saw him as being very confused. I mean, PTSD could be an element of what goes on with him. I mean, he was in law enforcement for a long time. He was in the military for a long time. He served overseas. He was teased as a child, you know, that that could contribute. But yeah, that’s a, that’s a good question. No, there was no discussion of that. And I wasn’t surprised for that to be the case because this was a therapist chosen by law enforcement. And that’s another bullet on my list of, you know, people who weren’t safe people to go to because they exacerbated the problem he was making. He made at least one false allegation of physical abuse by me to his department.

Anne (08:21):
You had physically abused him, was the allegation?

Abuse Is NOT Nuanced

Nora (08:24):
Yes. Okay. And this was later down the road, but it was still, um, a matter of, well this is a department I can’t go to because they’re going to back him up. And this is before they, you know, his, his arrest clearly. So they didn’t know that he was guilty. But even when he was arrested, the people in his department went to the FBI agent and they said, Oh, well, you know, of course she set him up, right? I mean, he didn’t do this. And the FBI agent said, Go read the filing documents. And then I think some of them did believe, but they weren’t, they weren’t a resource for me. You know, even I even had one domestic violence counselor, cause I’ve been to several of the centers in my various towns and one said, Oh, well it’s very nuanced, cause I went to them at one point thinking, am I the abuser? Is this all my fault? Did I do something wrong? Oh, it can be very nuanced, because she didn’t hear anything that I said that made her say, Oh yes, he’s abusive. So there I was in this fog of self-doubt already and that set me back.

The Cause of His Abusiveness DOES NOT MATTER: Please Get To Safety

Anne (09:22):
The reason why I keep coming back to this is cause this is something that I think it’s super important for every single listener of this podcast. And I say it repeatedly, but I just want it to hit home for everyone. It does not matter what the cause is of the abuse. If it’s abusive to you, it’s abusive. Right? So it doesn’t matter if it’s a brain lesion or if, if his particular type of autism and the way that he deals with it is abusive to you. Not saying the autistic people are abusive in general, right? But just saying the way he treated you is abusive. So I think that like, that’s really hard for women to figure out because they’re always thinking, if they can figure out why he’s abusive or why he’s doing these behaviors that are harmful to their family or that hurt her, they might not use the word abuse, but then they think, Okay, then we can solve it.

(10:20):
Not realizing that even when you do find the, perhaps cause trauma in their childhood, you know, all kinds of other things that there are autistic people who are not abusive. They have learned to interact in appropriate ways. They’re kind even if they don’t quite understand, you know? Right. There are people who have really traumatic childhoods who are not abusive. So the abuse is the thing that is affecting us. That’s the thing that we need to focus on: how do we get to safety from abuse. And I think it’s interesting that as you were trying to get help and as you were trying to like explain what had happened to people at the time, you didn’t have the words and at the time you hadn’t processed it. And so the thing that you were talking about the most, which was the most appropriate thing for you to talk about at the time, was his autism. Right? He’s autistic, so we’ve got these problems. And even then with a diagnosis, they didn’t believe you.

“Getting To Safety Has Been The Journey”

Nora (11:16):
Yes. And thank you for saying that because that is, I mean, if there’s one take home, you know, let’s say six years out from the major crisis is that I have come to understand that it’s abuse and the autism is not enough to set aside his behaviors. And certainly getting to safety for me and my boys has been the journey. I amplify that message that it’s abuse and you need to take care of you and your children.

Anne (11:46):
Regardless of the cause it breaks our heart because it could be something that is completely not their fault. You know, someone could be a super healthy, amazing person and get like a head injury for example, right? And their head injury, uh, alters their personality or whatever and causes them to be abusive and you are unsafe. And that’s a super sad situation. So in that case, you know, you don’t have to like say they’re an evil wicked person or anything like that. You can with compassion look at them and say, this is such an unfortunate situation that they had this head injury and then it caused them to be abusive. But that doesn’t mean that it’s okay that I get abused, right? So I wanna reiterate that over and over and over again that you can have compassion for people who perhaps it’s not their fault for some reason or maybe through no choice of their own, you know, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not affecting you negatively and it doesn’t mean that it’s okay that you’re just a victim of abuse if you’re being harmed.

Trauma Mama Husband Drama

(12:50):
It’s okay to get to safety regardless of the cause. I’m gonna take a break here for just a second to talk about my book Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page which has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book Trauma Mama Husband Drama is a picture book for adults. So it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations as well as infographics at the back.

As you were trying to explain the situation using the context of autism, did you find that the more you tried to get help and the more you tried to explain what was happening, that the more they didn’t believe you? And was that a part of the trauma?

Nora (14:10):
It became less about that and and more about the fact that, um, the courts just don’t have a space for listening to any of the categories you discussed in your podcast. You know, whether it is autism, whether it’s a personality disorder, they’re so focused on, well this must be, uh, two parties who are contributing equally to a problematic dynamic and they’re both acting childish or, um, irresponsibly. And we’re just gonna shut this down because the best thing for children, except for in extreme circumstances that we can’t identify here, is for them to have access to both parents. So it was less of an issue for me because of just the timing because I, I hadn’t pursued in the family court, uh, the revised visitation enough post diagnosis and before he was ultimately arrested to have tested this a lot. But I will say that it, stepping back a little bit, my support group, this is a challenge we discuss all the time: is it better to bring forward the autism diagnosis or should we shut it down and not mention it? Because autism, for all the reasons you’ve pointed out through this podcast, but because autism, it doesn’t make people abusive, then it also doesn’t automatically make people bad parents.

“It Has To Be About the Behaviors and the Traits”

(15:35):
So we can’t go into the courtroom and say he has autism, so he can’t have custody. It has to be about the behaviors and the traits. And I’m not sure I ever got that bulleted list together for myself of really what is going on here that makes him unsafe because it was so nebulous. And that is the reason why I’m not believed. Because if I say, you know, he called me up and had custody of the kids and he hadn’t fed them dinner at eight o’clock, they were all under the age of seven. I’m like, well, you know, like that’s not child abuse to not feed them until eight o’clock at night. But I’m watching it and I’m saying, here’s a person who doesn’t have the ability to think flexibly enough. He had to go out to the grocery store because he had a missing ingredient for a recipe he’s making for a bunch of children.

(16:21):
He should have just fed them. And that sort of inflexibility, it will strike dozens of parenting decisions across a day or a visitation. But it’s so difficult to make that list and make that case you have to document for a very long time. This is kind of a roundabout way of addressing your question, but I just kind of felt stuck at the, how do I demonstrate that this is problematic behavior regardless of its label. And then I got the crux of the situation – that he’s clearly unsafe because he’s looking at CSAM, but I have colleagues whose, whose partners don’t do that and they’re just as unsafe in other ways. So he was never fully explored to this degree.

“From the Outside They Just Think, ‘Oh, People Parent Differently'”

Anne (17:13):
Yeah, it’s interesting because a lot of people said, Oh, your ex got arrested for abuse, for example. So I have a guilty verdict with a 14 month probation and a protective order. And the courts didn’t see that as a reason to be dangerous around children either. And it’s so interesting when you try to define these sort of psychological and emotional abusive things or they’re like, Oh well, you know, he just isn’t into trombone. You know, when I say he will not support my son in his trombone, you know, or something like that. From the outside they just think, oh, people parent differently. There are different styles, you know, that sort of thing. So it’s also interesting that there’s no abuse diagnosis, right? There’s no, there’s no space for that. Even though the courts say that there is, it’s crazy making, for those of us who have tried to get our kids to safety,

Nora (18:13):
It’s physical abuse, sexual abuse, they will see that I will say, you know, I went and read the entire transcript three years out I testified and then I promptly left the courtroom never to return because I didn’t wanna hear it, but I felt like I was ready to read it and ready to understand what I’m up against when he’s released. And in at a sentencing hearing, the judge, the federal court judge who sat there and heard all this testimony and all the lies he told, and I mean that’s all explicitly on record. You perjured yourself, you blamed your ex-wife, you are at fault and you will not admit it in the next breath. He said, I released this hold because during his house arrest period, he was not to go near me or the children. He released that hold and said, you can have unsupervised visitation with your children if the family courts allow it.

Anne (19:07):
And the family courts don’t understand emotional and psychological abuse. They don’t understand these issues of sexual coercion, sexual safety unless, unless they’re in pretty much in prison or there’s some kind of severe bruise.

Parents Using CSAM Are NOT Safe

Nora (19:21):
Right. And it, it wasn’t enough that my ex was, I mean the content he was watching I, you know, will not get graphic, but incest was a theme in his content. So how would you be able to say that my children are safe?

Anne (19:35):
I had a Guardian Ad Litem like look over it when I was saying he was unsafe and say, I don’t understand why she’s saying her ex is unsafe. He seems very safe to me.

Nora (19:44):
Like I had a Guardian Ad Litem when I, when he looked at me two weeks before I gave birth to our third child and said, I want nothing to do with this baby. And I told her that. She said, well, he wants to be a parent now, so we need to let him.

Anne (19:56):
I know, it’s so crazy. Oh, it’s not funny. Sorry. I had a one star review the other day on the podcast because I laughed on the podcast when someone said something like what you just said, instead of like being horrified, which by the way, I am horrified. But um, I thought when you’ve been through this, there’s this sort of dark sense of humor that we sort of adopt as a coping mechanism, especially when we’re in support groups and, and interacting with other victims. We sort of adopt things that maybe people who haven’t been through it would not laugh about. So just wanna throw that out there that I am horrified, but also it is like, if this happens to us again and again and again at some point it just becomes sort of ridiculous, right? That people are not believing us. Let’s talk about friends and family. Apart from professionals, right? Apart from counseling professionals in the court, how did they see this? Did they believe and support you?

“You Learn Who Your True Friends Are”

Nora (20:54):
Well, I mean on the side of, of my friends, you, you probably know this and your listeners probably know this, that you learn who your true friends are and you learn who your tough friends are because it’s not easy stuff to process. And for the people who can hang with you and listen to it, you know, you know, they’re your people, my friends group, I have some that are in my long standing friends, uh, but a lot of my, my tribe now are newer people who came in when I was in the midst of the story or post the story and were okay with me telling it and retelling it and visiting it as I need to. My family, not, not as much. I think there are probably, we could point to a lot of the psychology of why I chose this partner and you know, you look to your early family history, my ex’s family, I suspect that they knew about the behavior because it did not, it did not start, you know, during my marriage; it started, I would suspect in his tween or teen years just knowing some of the things that I know and I think they’ve been covering for him.

(21:57):
They’re a family with some social status and quite a bit of money because they’ve, they’ve funded all of his, his lawsuits in the family court in all of his federal trial and an appeal and whatever legal steps he’s taking right now, not entirely clear, they supported him. And in fact his parents, I believe to be on the spectrum too, they petitioned me for visitation of the kids. They were already taking steps before he was even arrested. So to me that said they knew he was, it was only a matter of time they knew I had his computer and it was only a matter of time that before I figured out what was on it and before something happened. So they pursued visitation rights, got them. And the opening questions when I was cross examined at his federal trial were about how I was keeping the grandchildren from their grandparents. Because the whole narrative for him was that I was a vindictive spouse who just wanted the kids and the money and to make his life miserable.

Anne (22:58):
So this was at the federal trial for his child sex abuse material case. They brought up that you were withholding the kids from the grandparents because you were vindictive in, in order to sort of blame you?

When The Abuser Forces the Children to Take Sides

Nora (23:20):
Yes. I mean he hasn’t actually said those words. He sends bimonthly letters to my children and you know, still says, you know, I’m pursuing this aspect of my case. Again, it’s going back to the courts and they’re looking at it and they, it’s past the first step, which is important because it shows that I’m telling the truth. And so, his defense, it was this, the way I read it, and this is me trying to interpret his just autistic brain when I do not have one, is that it just, it’s plausible deniability. Well you can’t prove beyond a doubt that it was me, cause it could have been her because she knew this password or he’d make lies just to make it, it seem as if I was, I could be responsible. So he keeps insisting that they have not proven that I did not know it was there, that I didn’t put it there.

(24:13):
That because I had a shared computer and we shared passwords, it could be me. So he has not let go of that? No, it puts my children in this position and, you know, we could talk about my children . It’s, you know, I’m laughing now, now I’m in this laughable space, but my kids are in this and this is not, not funny unfortunately that they’re in this position that, you know, most divorce situations, I think you can say, you know, the kids don’t have to take sides. They can love their parents equally and there isn’t, you don’t have to bring them into this, but because he did this and he blames me and it’s on public record as is his infidelity. He’s putting my kids in the position of having to believe one or the other of us. Cause it’s either/or.

Living in Anxiety Post-Court

Anne (24:58):
It’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare. So he’s currently in prison, How long will he be in prison?

Nora (25:04):
Another two and a half years, roughly. A little bit more than that.

Anne (25:09):
And I imagine that for the moment you’re like, okay, we have a little break, but you’re, you have anxiety and worry about him getting out.

Nora (25:18):
Exactly. And I and I thank you for validating that and I think that’s where the, the friends network breaks down a little bit. Why you keep worrying about this, why don’t you just live your life, just be and worry about that later. And you, you can’t predict the future and so many things. And I don’t live in that moment every single day of my life, but I have to be prepared for it because there’s no doubt, I mean this is his entire life right now is, you know, standing by his, his truth that he’s innocent and, you know, planning to come out and, you know, be super dad.

Anne (25:54):
Ugh. It is, it is really, really rough. Um, especially with your kids being not grown up right. That they’re still on this young stage. Well how old? Your youngest now?

Nora (26:06):
He just turned six.

How The Abuser Has Harmed the Children From Prison

Anne (26:08):
Yeah. Yeah. It’s really, really hard. So in addition to them having to pick sides in addition to your justifiable concern and worry about him when he gets out of prison, how has his behavior affected your children in other ways?

Nora (26:26):
There are a couple different ways. He, he sends letters every other week. It, the court ordered that he’d be allowed to do that and I worked that out with a therapist for the boys so that it would be a way they could process it. But his, his letters are so out of a fantasy world that it’s also very confusing for them. He talks about, you know, going to the beach and how he has neighbors and he had, you know, this special meal for dinner and all these wonderful things that are happening. It’s this sanitized version of reality that’s confusing for them cause they say, well, does he not know that we know where he is? Um, so it’s, it’s threatening to pull them into his way of being that’s not healthy. So we, we have to work against that when, when we’re living as a family or, or working with their support system.

Support the BTR.ORG Podcast

(27:21):
And then unfortunately it’s perhaps forever going to be an unknown whether he actually harmed them in any way. They were fairly young and I’ve had dealings with Child Protective Services who have investigated this and it’s, so my kids have been put through that too. I will say a positive is that we’ve moved a couple times since this all happened. So we no longer live in the town where this took place and they were young enough that their friends weren’t talking about it at great length. So there’s a chance that they can keep it private in their, their school and friends circles if they so choose. So that’s, that’s a positive.

Anne (28:01):
We’re gonna pause the conversation here and pick it back up next week. So please stay tuned for the end of Nora’s story. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.

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