Let’s talk about Domestic Abuse: The rate is shocking. Statistics indicate that “1 in 4 women experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the use of victim services” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.)
June, a victim of domestic violence, shares her story of abuse,
“He would come home and yell and throw things around. He would berate me for how the children were dressed and act very scary. He had left me on the side of the road several times when he would get angry at me in the car. He would just pull over and kick me out. I would be left there for hours in different places, in front of my children who were in the car.
He withdrew money from our bank account, so I couldn’t buy groceries. He was of course very verbally abusive, and also mentally, psychologically, and socially aggressive to me in ways that I couldn’t even recognize. He would also very frequently embarrass me in public situations that we were together and make jokes at my expense. He would demean me.
He was very sexually coercive, trying to get me to do things that I wasn’t comfortable with. The manipulation was really always present. But I would also be so grateful when he would make it right, and when he wouldn’t behave those ways. It was a huge relief, and so it’s almost like you become accustomed to the love bombing and the apology and the honeymoon period that happens after those abusive situations.”
Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery states,
“This is very typical of an abusive cycle. We see this with victims over and over again. The behaviors are the same. The patterns are the same.”
Knowing the Cycle of Abuse Is Important:
- The Honeymoon Phase-This is also known as love-bombing, where the abuser hooks the victim with promises of love and safety.
- The Tension-Building Phase-The tension starts to rise; the victim feels like the have to walk on eggshells to avoid confrontation.
- The Explosive Phase-Abusive behavior occurs, the cycle repeats.
“After I finally initiated separation, he was moving out and he packed up all of his guns and laid them in the hallway. Me and the kids were in the house and it was very obvious that he was doing that to cause me fear, which it did. It made me feel very scared.
One particular day he picked up the kids for a visit. He was obviously in a very destructive place. He called me horrific names, my children were there. He was demeaning, demanding, very scary behavior. After seeing this behavior, I did not feel safe sending my kids with him. They were all in the car and I went and I got in the car with them and he grabbed me from the car and threw me on the driveway in front of my children. Then he drove away with my kids in the car. I was left laying on the driveway. I was hysterical, traumatized, I was injured. I had an abrasion on my elbow. My clothes were torn in several places. From landing on gravel/cement, I had bruising on my hip.”
From this point, June was able to get a restraining order for herself and all of her four children. She made the decision to leave in the middle of the night to stay with family in another state, since she was extremely fearful of her husband’s escalating behavior.
“We received great services from a women’s center. It was a time of healing and a time of safety and security. I did struggle though, financially. I resorted to donating my plasma for money to live.”
Abuse Can Exist Anywhere
At this point, June and her husband had to go to court to settle custody and support matters. June states that as soon as she walked in the courthouse, she saw a friend of hers from church. The woman did not acknowledge her and ended up testifying for her husband. June recalls,
“She worked for the Department of Social Services in Roanoke, Virginia and she still does. She testified that I had planned to kidnap my kids. When that happened, very quickly put it together that they were in a relationship, they were having an affair. I had had some other information from a few other people, other evidence of that. She knew about the different kinds of abuse. She knew about the verbal abuse.
I’d confided in her that I was scared, and I’d said: All of the research that I’m doing says that I need to have a plan in place, and so that was the extent of the conversation, but she had come to court and said that I had planned to kidnap my kids and make up the assault. It was very sad to me to see how she was manipulated by him, but also how she was causing damage to herself, obviously, but the damage that she caused to me and my children.
It was irreparable and a traumatic, traumatic moment. It was horrific to realize that while I was in this really dire situation, living with my parents with my four kids, that he was here having an affair with her and choosing not to support his kids and actively working to discredit me with an employee of the city.”
Anne, chimes in,
“It is harrowing to see the lengths that abusers go to in order to manipulate others. The harm caused is so damaging for so many. Informing yourself is paramout. You need to know what you might be anticipating in this process.”
Abuse Can Happen To Anyone
June’s ordeal, sadly, does not get any better from that point on. She moved back to her previous town and in an attempt to co-parent, she attended her previous church with the children. She met with the bishop who told her that he would not support her in any way and that he knows she kidnapped her children because everyone is saying this. June states,
“I said to him: “I had a restraining order, would you like to see it?” He declined to view any of the documentation I had about the abuse. I told him, “My husband is not paying any support. He hasn’t been supporting us. I don’t think he should be permitted to serve in the capacity he is in the church. I don’t think he should have these privileges, like a temple recommend. Things that are contingent on supporting your family and meeting the needs that you need to meet as a righteous person.”
The Bishop said: “I don’t care about any of that. That stuff does not matter.” He didn’t believe me. I had mentioned to him that my husband was having an affair with another single woman in the ward and he had no intention of discussing any of that either. It was so uncomfortable and traumatizing, and by that time I had really learned how to set boundaries and I saw that this was not a good situation and so I just stopped the entire discussion and left.”
A few weeks later, June was in a dire situation without means to pay for food or other expenses. She reached out to her bishop to see about received temporary aid for her children, just asking for some food for them.
“My husband was still not paying support. We were going to have to garnish the wages, and that could take a long period of time to set up, to my understanding. I was very much in need at that point. I’d exhausted all of my credit cards, all of the resources that I had. I was in need of food for my children.
The bishop refused to help me and accused me of lying. He said he did not care about my issues. He told me to sell my house and get a job. I was trying desperately to be able to be self-reliant, but I was a stay-at-home-mom for the previous 12 years and had been out of the workforce during this time, raising my children.
I look back now and it is a miracle that I even survived that time because the darkness that I felt from being betrayed in so many ways and on so many levels and by so many people, was so great. It’s amazing really, to see the enablement of wrongs that are being committed right in front of people. Many people knew that my husband was having this affair and yet everyone chose to ostracize me.”
Victims Must Be Protected In Cases Of Abuse
Anne realizes that many women are in this same situation with their abusers,
“The person continues to lie. They continue to manipulate, and so if you have children with that person, then it really doesn’t end so we have to learn how to figure out how can I be peaceful, how can I find strength through this long-term trial because it is a very, very difficult situation for a very long time.”
June shares how things are now for her,
“I’m painted as this feminist who has gone crazy. I also received some very, very troubling evidence that the Bishop is defaming me in the community and that members, individual members, are doing the same thing. They use the same language, they use the same words, they use the same phrases to describe me. They talk about my divorce and they talk about the state of my mental health, and it’s very damaging.”
It’s a problem Anne has seen many times as well,
“With an unhealthy person, boundaries will make them escalate and they will make them more abusive and behave in more unhealthy ways. With a healthy person, I believe boundaries can be great because they will respond in a healthy, respectful way.
The abusive person continues to lie. They continue to manipulate, so if you have children with that person, then it really doesn’t end so we have to learn how to figure out how can I be peaceful, how can I find strength through this long-term trial because it is a very, very difficult situation for a very long time.“
Knowing The Cycle Of Abuse Can Be Life-Saving
June shares how she has coped throughout such devastation and betrayal,
“I have cultivated an authenticity in myself that brings me a lot of peace and the relationships that I have now, although they may be few, they are so meaningful to me because they are people that I do feel very safe with and they are people that have seen the other side of life and how awful and ugly it can be, and they still love me. We understand each other. There is this sense of empathy that comes with going through trials like this. Many people never really get the chance to cultivate this beautiful empathy within themselves.
Standing in my truth and knowing that I have survived is powerful. I have survived some of the worst situations that I had ever imagined I’d ever be in and I will continue to survive. I’ll continue to build resilience and I’ll continue to reach out to others and to gain community and connection with other people who have also survived horrific and horrible and unbelievable trials in their life. So, that gives me a lot of peace. That sense of community with others who know.”
Check Out Our Services For Support In Abuse:
Coach Joanne is a registered nurse and she can help women with the physical symptoms that they have related to the trauma. Many victims get diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder for example or other physical symptoms. So, if your physical health is taking a toll due to the trauma please schedule an appointment with Coach JoAnne to help start making your way to physical health.
While you’re waiting for next weeks podcast, scroll down to the bottom of this page and make a donation. Your recurring monthly donation supports this free educational material both through this podcast and through our website to all women throughout the world.
We’ve adjusted the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group schedule slightly, so please check out the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group schedule. There is multiple session per day in multiple time zones so that you can get support whenever you need it. Until next week, stay safe out there.
Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery this is Anne.
For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been talking with June about her story. First of all, about being a parent of a child with special needs while also being in a relationship with an abusive man. If you haven’t heard that yet I encourage you to go back 2 weeks and listen to this in order so that you understand what’s happening. This week we are catching up on her story, so if you haven’t heard the beginning of it listen to last week’s story so that you know where we are in the chronology of this journey that she is on.
So, I’m just going to recap really quickly. After being in an abusive relationship for a number of years, while also dealing with her child with special needs and also 3 other children, she starts recognizing that her husband is abusive, goes in to see if she can get some help from her clergy and ends up basically being emotionally abused by her clergy as well.
So, at this point, June, you’re realizing that you can’t get help from clergy and you need to turn somewhere else, what do you do next?
June: I started educating myself like I said, I went to the library. I got books on domestic abuse and violence, sexual addiction. I listened to BTR. I found a lot of comfort and guidance in really identifying the behaviors that I was seeing in my own home from my husband, as abusive behaviors. I became empowered enough and informed enough to know that this was not a healthy situation for me to be in and I did initiate separation. We were only separated for probably a week. His behavior escalated phenomenally during that time.
The name calling was getting much worse. I had no lawyer. We had no legal separation, although I had consulted a couple of lawyers on and off for the last 2 years trying to figure out what the situation would be like, and I do suggest that. Informing yourself is paramount. It’s key. You need to know what you might be anticipating in this process. But, when we would exchange the children he would come into my home and yell and throw things around. He would berate me for how the children were dressed and be very scary.
When he was moving out he packed up all of his guns and laid them in the hallway. Me and the kids were in the house and it was very obvious that he was doing that as physical intimidation. It made me feel very scared.
One particular day he picked up the kids for a visit. He was obviously in a very destructive place. He called me horrific names, my children were there. He came in my house, wanted to pack up some of their clothes because I didn’t do it right. He was demeaning, demanding, very scary behavior. After seeing this behavior, I did not feel safe sending my kids with him. They were all in the car and I went and I got in the car with them and he grabbed me from the car and threw me on the driveway in front of my children. Then he drove away with my kids in the car. I was left laying on the driveway.
Living With Abuse Can Be Traumatizing
I was hysterical, traumatized, I was injured. I had an abrasion on my elbow. My clothes were torn in several places. From landing on gravel/cement I had bruising on my hip. I called the police. He did come back with my children. The police came. I was very, very scared because of what had happened last time when I called the police, but I was visibly injured at this point and scared for my children who were with him. The police offer came, he assessed the situation. He talked to my husband who has a prominent position in our community and he introduces himself with his title, which is impressive to people. I remained calm. I told the police officer what happened, I showed him my injuries, and the police officer said that he could leave.
The children ended up staying with me, which I was very, very grateful for. I don’t think that they had really processed what happened and like I said, some of the stuff had become so normalized that when their Dad is yelling at their Mom and calling her names it really didn’t pique their interest. It’s very sad to say, but they didn’t really pay close attention to it. He was not arrested at that time. He was not cited at that time. I still to this day have no idea how that didn’t happen to him given the injuries that I had and the situation.
Anne: He manipulated law enforcement.
June: But that weekend he called me several times the next day. He came to my house a day later, tried to get in the door, knocking on the door, calling friends and family of mine. I found out later that he had called a bunch of our friends and told them that I was going crazy. Meanwhile, I am just trying to figure out how I’m going to survive this situation with an obviously dangerous and abusive person. I had no time to call anybody and try to manipulate them or even try to make them see my side of it. That was just not in my capacity. I had this injury, I was trying to figure out what in the world I needed to do to keep myself and my family safe.
I was able to get a restraining order.
Knowing How To Remain Safe In Abusive Situations Is Key
Anne: How did you feel when went to file the protective order? Did you feel like: What am I doing? How is this happening?
June: Yeah, I was very scared that I would be believed first of all because that is what was happening all around me. I was not being believed and I was being painted to be the instigator and angry and the scorned women, which of course I had felt anger, I was betrayed, but I was not an instigator. My anger was not driving any of this. My need for safety was.
Anne: By the way, this story, I know it’s horrific and difficult for our listeners to hear this, this is really typical for abuse victims. This period of confusion and what is happening and he’s blaming you and nobody can understand. This is exactly what happened to me, in a different form, but this type of manipulation and coercion with people around is exactly what we start to see, and women can feel like they’re going crazy.
June: Yes. He had left me on the side of the road several times when he would get angry at me in the car. He would just pull over and kick me out of the car and I would be left there for hours in different places, in front of my children who were in the car. He withdrew money from our bank account, so I couldn’t buy groceries. At this point, I couldn’t buy my child a birthday cake who had a birthday that day, and he was of course very verbally abusive, but mentally and psychologically, and socially aggressive to me, and in ways that I couldn’t even recognize because I didn’t know it was going on. I didn’t know that he was calling our mutual friends without me present and telling them these stories and painting me as this person who had all of these mental issues.
He would also very frequently embarrass me in public situations that we were together. So, make jokes at my expense. He would demean me. Very sexually coercive, trying to get me to do things that I wasn’t comfortable with. Manipulation.
Knowing What Abuse Looks Like Is Vital
Anne: When you started recognizing the behaviors, did you recognize that he had been this way all along, that you just hadn’t seen it, and what was your grief process when you started realizing that?
June: Yes, the trauma became so much greater when I started realizing that I was subjected to this behavior really from the beginning. Even after we got married, we went on a honeymoon to a foreign country and he told me in the foreign country, we were in this jungle, and he said that he wanted a divorce and I was like: We just got married! What are you even talking about? I was faced with feeling very threatened of being left in this jungle in this foreign country that I had no idea how to speak their language or anything.
If was very scary, things like that, but then I would also be so grateful when he would make it right, and when he wouldn’t behave those ways. It was like this huge relief, and so it’s almost like you become accustomed to the love bombing and the apology and the honeymoon period that happens after those abusive situations.
I went, and I got the restraining order. It was called an Emergency Protective Order, and I was granted that for myself and my children were also granted that for themselves. So, for 3 days, I knew that I had documentation that we were to be safe and secure and left alone. I knew that I was in a very scary situation. His behavior had escalated. I was unsure if he would even abide by the restraining order. I did make the decision to file for divorce at that point. I went to my parent’s house with my children. We live several states away. My parents live in a different part of the country, but legally I knew that I needed that protection and I needed to go ahead and file for the divorce and be away from the situation.
Abusers May Seem Remorseful At Times
My children and I, we left in the middle of the night. We had nothing really packed. We drove for a few days and lived with my parents while paperwork was being filed for the actual divorce. During that time, we lived with my parents, for about 4 months. It was over the summer. The kids were in summer camps and in all sorts of activities. I received great services from a women’s center. My children received great services at the same place, and it was very much a time of healing and a time of safety and security.
Now, it’s not to say that he didn’t abuse that situation. He would call every day, demanded that it would be on video, which I did facilitate because I was trying to remain reasonable, but he would call at all hours of the day, even into the night. Once, I couldn’t answer my phone and he called the police to do a well-child check in the middle of the night, which was very scary to my children and to me.
I had asked him also for money to buy diapers for one of my children, to pay for medication, to pay for food. I had very little money with me, but I had no means of paying for those things, and before I left in fact, he had taken all of the money that we had, cut me off, transferred it to an account that I did not have access to.
Anne: That happened to me too.
June: I was living on credit cards.
Anne: Yeah, took all the money away so you can’t even buy groceries, right. Yeah, that happened to me.
June: I had gotten on food stamps luckily when I went to this different state. It was purely by knowing that he would not make this right. That by getting the restraining order, setting boundaries, his behavior escalated, and that was really an answer to me that I did the right thing because it was a very, very scary time. He wasn’t supporting his children. I did donate plasma to get some money. We just, we were living with my parents, they supported me and my 4 children.
Abusers Can Tend To Use Others To Keeping Abusing
At that point, I was really liking where we were living. We were around family. His family had also lived nearby. We had seen his family when we were out there. The kids got to see their cousins and they were excited about that. I am in a state that very much expects parents to co-parent and to work with each other. It was clear that we would not be able to agree or decide on something that was reasonable together, and so we went to court. Unfortunately, there is not a way that the law identifies covert abuse or emotional abuse.
Anne: Yeah, we see that over and over again, where the law does not protect victims of emotional abuse from perpetrators. If there’s no physical evidence, and of the lying and the manipulation, there are no protections for victims, which leaves all of the burden of protecting yourself on the victims themselves.
June: The courts are inclined to give people a chance.
Anne: And that’s never helpful because if they’re really genuinely committed to change, and willing to take accountability, they’ll take accountability for their actions through whatever they’re the court gives to them. And if the court held them accountable it would be more helpful for the perpetrator to actually make changes and for the victim to be safe. I think there is a serious problem in our country right now protecting abusers and it’s scary for the victims.
June: When I walked into the courthouse for our hearing, I didn’t know how it was going to go and I immediately saw a friend of mine. We had gone to church together and we had done a few other things. She was in a similar situation, she had gotten divorced from an abusive person that had had an affair, and I saw her at the courthouse and she wouldn’t look at me. My first initial thought was like: Oh, my goodness, what is she doing here? Maybe she is here to say hi to me or to support me, and then I realized when we got up to the courtroom, she was there with my husband and she was called as a witness.
Abuse Is Personal And Traumatic For The Victim
She worked as a social worker. She worked for the Department of Social Services and she still does. She testified that I had planned to kidnap my kids and that she was my friend and so she had no reason to lie about this. When that happened, very quickly put it together that they were in a relationship, they were having an affair. I had had some other information from a few other people, other evidence of that. I realized what was happening. It was very clear that she was also being manipulated. She did not know the reality of the situation. She knew about the abuse. She knew about the verbal abuse. I’d confided in her that I was scared, and I’d said: All of the research that I’m doing says that I need to have a plan in place, and so that was the extent of the conversation, but she had come to court and said that I had planned to kidnap my kids and make up the assault.
It was very sad to me to see how she was manipulated by him, but also how she was causing damage to herself, obviously, but the damage that she caused to me and my children. It was irrefutable. That was a very traumatic, traumatic moment. It was horrific to realize that while I was in this really dire situation, living with my parents with my 4 kids, that he was here having an affair with her and choosing not to support his kids and actively working to discredit me with an employee of the city.
Anne: Yeah, and I know June’s story from us becoming friends through this period of time, it doesn’t get any better. It continues to be very bad. So, can you talk about the divorce proceedings and how those have gone and also your ongoing difficulties with your congregation?
Abuse Will Thrive If Enabled
June: Yes. So, I came back here and was very committed to trying to co-parent and trying to make the best of the situation that I was in. My children had experienced trauma. They had anxiety. They were unsure of what kind of situation we were coming back to. I wanted to make that as smooth as I could for them. When I did get back here, I came to the home that I would be living in and it was unkempt. He had moved out anything that he had wanted: furniture, valuables, anything that he had wanted from himself and moved it to the home that he would be living in. He had left a piece of chewed gum. That was very clearly a message to me because he had always said that divorced women were like chewed gum.
He had disassembled locks and doorknobs from the house. There were clogs in plumbing. There were feminine products that were clogging the plumbing at the house. He had taken the liberty of having people in the church move my personal belongings. So, my intimate clothing and my children’s clothing. I’m sometimes very uncomfortable with people seeing and people being involved with moving. Like especially when we had no discussion about it.
That kind of set the stage for how the period of time since I’ve been back has gone. It has not gotten better. It seems like so many things are very sabotaged and manipulated. That he does these things blatantly and there really is no recourse. I don’t have much of a way for recourse or even justice. I’d asked him for some of my belongings and some of the things that he took without permission, I’ve asked for those to be returned, and I haven’t gotten one thing back. So, that’s been a hard thing.
Abuse Can Leave Lasting Effects
When I did return, I went to church. I was making the effort to co-parent and keep my kids as stable as possible. I went back to see this Bishop, I was actually with my Father, and he went in with me. I felt safer because my Dad was there with me.
Anne: So, for those of you not familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, instead of choosing the congregation that you go to, you are assigned a congregation based on your geographical location. So, rather than saying: Oh, I just want to find a good church, you just find out where your congregation boundaries are, and you go there. So, that’s why June didn’t just go to a different Church because her boundaries were those particular boundaries and that’s what everyone does within the church. I just wanted to give you some background on that as to why she didn’t think: Oh, I’ll just go somewhere else, right.
June: Yes, exactly. I went to my Bishop with my father when we had gotten back here, and I said: I don’t know if you know about the situation, but I’m happy to share with you the things that have happened and what my children and I have been through. We’re going to be coming to church here, and he stopped me, and he said: I know that you kidnapped your kids. Everyone says that you kidnapped your kids and you have got a serious issue. It was so uncomfortable. I said to him: I didn’t kidnap my own children. First of all, I had a restraining order, would you like to see it? And I said: My husband is not paying any support. He hasn’t been supporting us. I don’t think he should have a calling. I don’t think he should have these privileges, like a temple, recommend. Things that are contingent on supporting your family and meeting the needs that you need to meet as a righteous person.
Church Clergy Can Be Abusive
The Bishop said: I don’t care about any of that. That stuff does not matter. He didn’t want to see any of the documentation I had. I had mentioned to him that my husband was having an affair with another single woman in the ward and he had no intention of discussing any of that. It was so uncomfortable that by that time I had really learned how to set boundaries and I saw that this was not a good situation and so I just stopped the entire discussion and left.
My Dad was in shock I think because he was appalled that the Bishop was not interested in hearing my side of the story and looking at any of the evidence that I had, and really keeping me and my children safe and making us feel secure as members of the congregation. He had made his mind up and that was the end of the story. There were a couple of other things that had happened from that point on. In our church, the women have an organization and it’s called The Relief Society, and it is for providing support for the women in the church and those who are in need and ministering, really, to women. I had called the President of the Relief Society and reached out to her about my situation.
My husband was still not paying support. We were going to have to garnish the wages, and that could take a period of time to set up, to my understanding. I was very much in need at that point. I’d exhausted all of my credit cards, all of the resources that I had. I was in need of food for my children. Regardless of how to pay for any of the other bills, I thought: Okay, if I could get some food for my children for the next few weeks that is one weight that I don’t have to worry about at least for right now.
Anne: For those of you who are not members of the church, the church has a Bishop Store House where members of the church who are in need can get food, and that’s what she’s talking about.
Abuse Can Have Devastating Impacts For Families
June: The Relief Society President came over and it was my understanding that she was going to come and discuss this with me, which we did, we had a discussion. I was very measured in my description of what was going on. I did not say that my husband was abusive. I don’t even think I told her about the restraining order. I didn’t berate or demean the Bishop in any way. I just explained to her my need, and she called me up a few days later and said that she had spoken with the Bishop and she doesn’t believe that my husband could afford to pay the support that the court ordered, the Bishop was also saying this.
I told her: I actually have no money. It was clear that the Bishop had gotten that information from my husband. It was clear that my husband said that he couldn’t afford to pay it. I had reached out to the Bishop directly when The Relief Society President declined to get involved and let him know what was going on. He declined to help me and my children with food. I said: I need my children to have some food, that’s it. He said: You’re not being truthful with me. You’re not being honest. Your husband said that he would never leave you or the children in this situation. So, he was just believing my husband.
I said: He hasn’t given me anything. I have not received anything. Plus, he took a lot of the food that was in this house. I have text and emails of many of these interactions. But, the Bishop came to me a few days later and wanted me to meet with one of his counselors who is actually a lawyer. I had reached out to my own lawyer at that point and she said that is grounds for filing a complaint against that lawyer. That’s grounds for disbarment. Like, you can not do that. We have an open custody case and divorce proceedings, and no one should be asking you to meet with someone else who is a lawyer.
Abuse Must Not Be Tolerated In Any Situation
So, I declined to do that. The Bishop said that he wanted to go over my finances and that the lawyer, his counselor, would be there to help. I showed the Bishop screenshots of my bank account and the bills that were coming in that I had no way to pay. He said: You can have some food. I think I had 2 orders and then I went to place an order with The Relief Society President and it was like 10 o’clock at night and the Bishop actually texted me back and said: There will be no more food. If you need food, you need to come in and meet with me and the Stake President.
Mind you, these were the same leaders, one of them had abused me, and the other had enabled that abuse. So, I was not going to meet with them under any circumstances alone or with someone. That was not a situation I was going to put myself in. So, he cut off the food and my children and I didn’t receive any more assistance in that manner from my church. I’ll tell you, that was a very, very dark time. That was very, very difficult. I think the year before that we had paid 10% of our income to the church in voluntary donations for tithes, which we were happy to do, and here I was now in this situation having no income myself. My husband was not paying the support that was ordered and I was in need of basic things for my family: milk and eggs and bread and cheese, just very basic things. I became the bad person for even asking for that and I was labeled a liar.
I look back now and it is a miracle that I even survived that time because the darkness that I felt from being betrayed in so many ways and on so many levels and by so many people, was so great. But, I did set the boundary that I could not attend that congregation anymore and I knew that that was no longer going to be a safe place for me or my children when they were in my care. That was a tough decision, but I did know that my safety was first. My children’s safety was first. My family’s safety was first. I hope that in the future I can attend a congregation in my area that will be free of the abuses that I suffered, but for right now that is not the case.
Anne: So, you’re not divorced yet, you’re still in divorce proceedings. How have the divorce proceedings gone?
Abusers Must Be Held Accountable
June: We have been in and out of court for almost 2 years now. When you’re going through a divorce in the courts, you have to deal with things like custody and support and visitation. You have to decide all of these things. If you cannot decide it together then you go to court. He has violated the order several times in small ways. Small ways that I really have no way to address. He has sworn at me at exchanges and does things to try and elicit a reaction or a response, but I just never respond. I never react. I have learned to know what I can control what I cannot control and let the rest go.
But, going in and out of court has obviously been very expensive. It’s been very time-consuming.
Anne: I want to stress that you are in a part of the county that is completely, totally far away from your family, so you are completely separated from family and friends who could be supportive to you.
June: Not only do I not have family here, but because I stepped away from the church and because I have the experience with my Bishop and my Stake President that I have had, I have also been very much alienated and ostracized from the members of the congregation who I had considered my friends. It’s amazing really, to see the enablement of wrongs that are being committed right in front of people. Many people knew that my husband was having this affair and yet everyone chose to ostracize me. My children are not invited to birthday parties anymore if it’s on my time. I’m not considered a person who has a testimony anymore because if I had a testimony why wouldn’t I be coming to church?
Knowing How Abuse Impacts Victims Can Help Them Be Safe
I’m painted as this feminist who has gone crazy. I also received some very, very troubling evidence that the Bishop is defaming me in the community and that members, individual members, are doing the same thing. They use the same language, they use the same words, they use the same phrases to describe me. They talk about my divorce and they talk about the state of my mental health, and it’s very damaging. It’s troubling, and there’s no way again, that I can really address it.
So, yes, I’m going back and forth to court. Doing the best that I can for my children and trying to advocate, my children all have special needs in some way or another, trying to advocate for services that they need. Trying to get them to the therapies that they need. Trying to co-parent with a person who will not co-parent in return and will use every situation to abuse or manipulate in some way, and all the while just feeling very alone in what I’m going through.
Anne: Yeah. (Sigh) It stinks. It’s really bad. I was thinking of different things we could put on Facebook and one of them was: It’s really, really, really, really, really, bad. WE GET IT! You know, because during this situation so many people try to tell me or you or other victims: It will be okay. It’s not as bad as you think. IT IS. It’s really, really, really bad.
So, you are in a super bad situation. What do you think you have learned along the journey or what helps give you peace when you have a really difficult time?
Abuse Can Happen Many Different Ways
June: It’s interesting. I have cultivated an authenticity in myself that brings me a lot of peace and the relationships that I have now, although they may be few, they are so meaningful to me because they are people that I do feel very safe with and they are people that have seen the other side of life and how awful and ugly it can be, and they still love me. We understand each other.
There is this sense of empathy that comes with going through trials like this. That many people, I think, never really get the chance to cultivate within themselves. Standing in my truth and knowing that I have survived. I have survived some of the worst situations that I had ever imagined I’d ever be in and I will continue to survive. I’ll continue to build resilience and I’ll continue to reach out to others and to gain community and connection with other people who have also survived horrific and horrible and unbelievable trials in their life. So, that gives me a lot of peace. That sense of community with others who know.
Anne: Yeah, because your still so in the thick of things, with nothing being final and he’s still doing all these things that are just not right. I hope that as I talk with you just as our friendship and as you study more, that you do have a sense of or at least a little glimmer of hope that things will get better eventually. Even though that right now a lot of times they still feel so difficult for you.
What advice would you have for other women who are in a situation that is really difficult like yours?
Abuse Can Exist In Any Institution Or Family
June: Learning about boundaries is crucial. You’ve got to learn about boundaries and how to set them appropriately. If someone is saying inappropriate things to you or if someone is not offering you wise or sound or righteous council, you need to be able to recognize that empower yourself to leave that situation immediately. You don’t even have to explain, and also cultivating your own worth within yourself. Knowing that you are a worthwhile and wonderful and loveable and an amazing person as you are.
So many times, in these situations our worth seems to suffer and how we feel about ourselves seems to really plummet because we are being actively abused or we are being lied to or cheated on or manipulated in these ways. I really feel like it’s important to be able to hold on to the knowledge and the core beliefs that you are worth it and that you do not deserve to be abused and lied to and manipulated and cheated on. That you deserve safety and happiness and security and peace. You deserve peace in your life.
Anne: Yeah, when we started talking, think it was last week, I talked about how it gets worse before it gets better, when you started recognizing: Okay, I need to start setting boundaries. I’m going to start setting boundaries. Did you imagine that it would get this bad? A lot of women don’t realize: Okay, I’m making my way to safety, this is cool, but they don’t realize it’s going to get a lot worse. Can you talk about that?
June: It definitely can escalate. With an unhealthy person, boundaries will make them escalate and they will make them more abusive and behave in more unhealthy ways. With a healthy person, I believe boundaries can be great because they will respond in a healthy, respectful way. That was not the case in my situation. When I set the boundary it had escalated things astronomically. I could have been more prepared. Although I knew that the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship is when she decides to separate or when she initiates separation or when she decides to leave that relationship. Really when a woman would set those boundaries.
Abuse Must Be Stamped Out Wherever It Thrives
Anne: Yeah, I think a lot of women hear about boundaries, and for some women, their spouse is like: Oh, this is a boundary and they realize that they need to change, and they change and it’s a miracle and it’s amazing. But a lot of women don’t talk about when you set that boundary things escalate and that is terrifying to think about. I think that we need to talk about that so women are more prepared for the escalation of the abuse as they start to make their way toward safety and knowing that that doesn’t mean you’re doing the wrong thing. You’re going to be accused of abuse. You’re going to be accused of all this stuff. Things are going to get really bad for you, but it is part of the process of getting to safety. I think it would maybe help women be a little bit more prepared for what’s going to happen.
June: Yes. I really wish that local women’s shelters and local resources and organizations that address domestic violence and domestic abuse would be more encompassing of that fact. I called and said I was experiencing abuse, I don’t know what to do, I’m scared, and they said: Have a plan in place. Pack a bag if you need to leave very quickly. Have the children’s medication and their birth certificates and important papers you need. Get a little bit of money and have those things ready.
Well, that’s not a hard thing to do.
Anne: I was going to say: That’s the easy part!
June: Right, that is very basic. Okay, what they don’t tell you really is: that if your spouse or your significant other who is abusive reacts in an unhealthy way to these boundaries, that you will be going through years of legal abuse. Years of accusations. Years of financial abuse. I mean I can’t even begin to describe how this abuse has affected my credit. There are loans that we share together that he just won’t pay simply because I am listed on them. Those are things that I wish that I would have known. I wish that I could have saved a little bit more. Maybe been empowered to plan more for the long term.
I am fully aware that they want to get women to safety short term, but that is what is hard. It’s that I don’t find a lot of resources address the long-term subjectification to abuse that a lot of these women do end up suffering when they set that boundary to leave.
Knowing The Signs Of Abuse Is Key
Anne: Yeah, and the abuse doesn’t end, right. The person continues to lie. They continue to manipulate, and so if you have children with that person, then it really doesn’t end so we have to learn how to figure out how can I be peaceful, how can I find strength through this long-term trial because it is a very, very difficult situation for a very long time.
June: Right, and so many states expect you to co-parent. So, you need to know those options legally. You have got to consult an attorney, know the law in your state. Know how custody is decided. Know what factors play into it. Obviously, the best thing for my children is that they have 2 healthy and stable parents. I would love for that to be the case. Those things are used against me often times even in court. Something that I’ll tell him he’ll bring up and twist it in a way that’s used against me. But I did a lot of research on narcissism and narcissist divorce and custody. Just learn about it. Learn so you can get yourself into a situation where you can be prepared for what exactly is going to happen or what could happen.
Anne: Which is really, really scary, right. It’s super duper scary to be in that situation and realize: Oh man, this situation feels impossible. But, I assure women it is not impossible. The no-contact boundary that I hold really helps me on a daily basis. It helps me feel safe. It helps me to just function and I’m so grateful for it. I’ve never been taken to court for this or anything. I’m not sure if I did what would happen, but I am so grateful that I’m able to do that. Some women are not able to do it, but there are options for women and I think as we get creative, as we at least for me being religious as I turn to prayer and pondering what the best thing that I can do for my kids is, that the answers will come to us.
It might take time and it might take effort, but we will be led and guided on this journey to create safety for our children.
June: Exactly, I fully agree. There is always a solution. Even when you try a solution and it doesn’t work, that is still a solution because you know what will work. I look at things that way sometimes through this journey.
Anne: Yeah. I will have June back on maybe in a year or so to see how her situation is and if she finally was able to actually get divorced (laughing) or if she’s still in court and what’s happening. I have a feeling that eventually, things will work out for all victims as we continue to study and make our way a little step at a time towards safety.
Abusers May Not Respond To Boundaries, But It Is Important to Set Them
Thank you so much for sharing your story. We’ve been with you know for 3 weeks and I really appreciate you having the courage to share your story and also having the courage to set boundaries.
June: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.
Anne: Summer is coming, and summer is a really difficult time in a relationship with a man who is exhibiting abusive behaviors because you can get stuck in situations that are very uncomfortable and harmful. For example, family reunions, situations where getting to safety is extremely difficult. So, it’s one of the most important times to make sure that you have support built in. You can join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group on your phone so that you can have online support anywhere in the world, anywhere you are, during this really difficult time. Summer seems exciting, it seems fun, but we have seen that is one of the most difficult times for victims.
To join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group (BTR Group), go to BTR.org, find the daily support group sessions page. It has the schedule of our daily support groups. We have multiple sessions per day in multiple time zones, and we’re adding more all of the time.
We are doing a trial BTR Group yoga session on May 4th and May 11th, those are 2 Saturdays, 9 am Eastern Time, so that’s 7 am Mountain. If you’re interested in joining these 2 free special sessions of Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, then email coach Jean at jean@BTR.org. In the subject line put Yoga BTR Group. If this goes well and people like it, we’ll probably add this session to our regular BTR Group schedule.
The yoga instructor, whose name is Katie Willis, she’ll be on the podcast next week talking about yoga, stay tuned for that.
Join our secret Facebook group by going to our website btr.org, scroll down to the very bottom, put your email in “join our community” and you will get an email about how to join our secret Facebook group. We’ll have information about the 2 free yoga sessions there.
If this podcast is helpful to you, please make a recurring monthly donation. That helps this podcast make it to every victim all over the world to learn more about abuse and what to do to heal. Go to btr.org/donate. Until next week, stay safe out there.