Warnings Ignored

Warning: This post is about domestic violence.

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I read a brave, beautifully written post over at Deliberate Donkey this weekend. It is a warning to the new girlfriend of Melanie’s abuser aptly titled The Letter I Wouldn’t Have Read Either. That post has been nibbling at my brain since I read it. I had the opportunity to warn others and was ignored.

The most frustrating and angering aspect of my abuse, both the childhood sexual abuse and the abusive relationship that I was in later, is that I could do nothing to prevent future victims. What I went through was positively for naught. Neither of my abusers were ever punished in any way for what they did to me. They are still free to create a mountain of fresh victims and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.

Not long after I escaped the domestic violence in Boston, I went home to Detroit. This visit was twofold. I wanted to meet the infinitely sympathetic and helpful Detroit police detective who had spent hours helping me build a Detroit police report over the phone. He even liaised with the Feds to help me get Federal warrants for mail tampering and fraud, even though I didn’t even live in the city of Detroit anymore. I wrote a nice letter about him for his file, but I wanted to shake the man’s hand because he was a totally awesome human being. I could have mailed or faxed him the documents he needed to complete the arrest warrants, but I felt the need to do it in person in Detroit. Because Detroit was sociopathic asshole’s hometown, too, I wanted to feel that Detroit was mine, and not his.

The second reason I went home was to find out who my friends really were. Most of my friends in Detroit were mutual friends we had known since high school age. I wanted to get an idea of who was on my side and who was on his. My entire life had been shattered and I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone. I needed to know who was in my corner. With my emotional and physical wounds still raw, I was considering moving home with my tail between my legs. I wanted to see if I still had a life there.

The morning after the night everything went to hell, the Boston police sprung him from jail and he stopped by the house to grab his belongings. Then he set off to Detroit. I was about a week behind him. I was reassured that he was already gone by the friend who had been in Boston that night. I knew, of all people, that I could trust her since she had witnessed his brutality first-hand in Boston. Still, when I got off the airplane in Detroit, I became ridiculously paranoid. I could swear he was around every corner. It was probably just memories assaulting me, but it was uncomfortable nonetheless. I was protected in Boston by a restraining order, but that piece of paper wasn’t worth a thing in Michigan. At the first opportunity, I got a restraining order in Detroit, too. That made me feel safer.

My friends had a make-shift reunion for me. I showed them my bruises, still very much present a week later. I showed them my knocked out tooth. I showed them my fractured jaw. I told them the story of how he tried to kill me. I told them how he had scammed our neighbors in Detroit and Boston. I showed them police reports and restraining orders from two cities. I told them about how he had completely destroyed my life.

Little did I know that the very same people had a make-shift reunion for him the week before. They had heard him tell his story with victim and abuser switched. Apparently, I had lost my mind and tried to kill him. I kicked him out of the house and wouldn’t let him have any of his belongings. I stole all of his money. I gave him a black eye. I had completely destroyed his life. Boo hoo.

I had police reports from Boston with pictures of my battered body, car and friend. I had arrest warrants from Detroit with ATM surveillance shots of him stealing money. I had a federal mail tampering charge. I had copies of bogus checks and credit card applications, utility bills and leases in other people’s names with his signature. I had restraining orders, broken bones, strangulation marks around my neck, two black eyes, knocked out teeth and bruises everywhere.

He had that damnable sociopath’s charisma.

They all believed him.

All but two.

A lifetime spent in a city, my hometown, and I walked away with two friends. They are the two greatest friends anyone could ask for, still, the betrayal stung like hell. It was pouring salt in the open wound of abuse. That trip still makes me want to cry when I think about it.

Still, that was not the end of the betrayal. The worst was still to come.

Years later, when I had moved to California, away from Boston where most of the evil had taken place, I heard from one of my two remaining friends. Frantically, she told me that one of the friends who didn’t believe me was getting married to the sociopathic asshole who had destroyed my life. She begged me to do something. What could I possibly do? I warned them all years ago. I showed them the damage. I had warned her. It was all I could do.

Still, even through the betrayal, I didn’t want my former friend to go through what I had. I didn’t want anyone to go through that. So, I rang her up. I tried one last time to stop her, but she still wouldn’t listen. They were married a month later and moved to Las Vegas.

Six months later, my former friend the newlywed called me up. She said she was sorry for not believing me. I asked her if she was alright. She said no. I drove four hours to Las Vegas. We cried and hugged and raged and drank a lot. Both of us tried to pretend that we were the friends we once were before he ever came into our lives. It didn’t really work. We kept in touch for a while, but after a year or so, we drifted apart again. Sharing the same monster was probably too much for a friendship to bear. Too much had happened to both of us.

I hate to think of how many other victims that sociopathic asshole has chewed up and spat out. I’ve learned that some lessons just have to be learned the hard way. Even if you have the opportunity to warn someone, odds are they won’t listen anyway. Still, the knowledge that I’m not the only victim makes me rage and die a little on the inside. I can do nothing to stop the monsters and that makes me sad.

There are 32 comments

  1. behindthemaskofabuse

    I read Mel’s post the other day it was powerful. It’s so hard to watch friends or people we care about walk right into abuse and not be able to do a thing about it. For whatever reason, they never want to hear it. My sister is one of them. I’m so saddened by all that you’ve gone through, I’m glad you got two very good friends from it. xo

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    1. goldfish

      It really is hard. It sucks when people don’t believe you. I think part of the reason why the betrayal of my Detroit friends cut so deep is that it echoed my parents not believing me about the sexual abuse I experienced as a kid.

      I’m sorry your sister hasn’t snapped out of it yet.

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  2. Melanie

    That she won’t believe me is why that letter was made a post and not emailed to her (though I haven’t completely ruled out sending it to her).
    These monsters leave a wake of destruction in their path. I’ve seen F5 tornadoes do less damage than an abuser.
    I’m glad you found out who was who in your group of friends. It would have cut deeper had they masked their betrayal, had you not know for years rather than weeks.

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    1. goldfish

      Yeah, you’re right. She wouldn’t have believed you. I wouldn’t have had someone told me beforehand. Although, I was his first, and from what I can tell from others, worst victim. Still, I wouldn’t have listened.

      You’re right that it would have been worse not to know. I would rather have two ardent friends in my corner than a bunch of phonies anyway.

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  3. donofalltrades

    Most of them are shitty assholes when their true colors show, but can be very charming and convincing when they’re not raging. I believe that, like child abusers, that these people can’t be fixed. That may be pessimistic, and psychologists may say I’m wrong, but I’ve got 15 years as an urban cop who’s seen it all to tell me I’m right. It’s sad when the abused has no place to go because he’s cut her off from people and she knows and the cop knows that she’s stuck with him and won’t leave until she’s close to being killed. And that’s if she’s lucky.

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    1. goldfish

      Yeah, victims are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’m sure as a cop, you’ve seen it all. Every single cop I dealt with in Boston and Detroit from patrol to detective was absolutely wonderful. Even now, when I think about how genuinely nice and supportive they were, it makes me want to cry in a good way.

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  4. Not Quite Alice

    I understand and am so sorry. I feel for you hun. It’s so hard knowing that you are trying to do the right thing, and yet no one listens, and everything is pinned onto you. I’m sorry. **Hugs**

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    1. goldfish

      Thanks. Yeah, that sucked and it’s part of the reason why I won’t ever live in Detroit again. I hardly even visit. It will always be my hometown, and as such, it will always hold a special place in my heart, but there’s too much trauma there. It makes me sad. He took my hometown away from me.

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  5. Katie

    I cannot even imagine the frustration of that helplessness–of wanting to do something to help, but knowing at the end of the day all you can do is offer your warning and experience. Don’t underestimate either, though. They’re both very valuable.

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  6. twindaddy

    Well, at least you tried. That was the best you could do. It sucks that she wouldn’t listen, but hopefully your conscience is clean knowing that you tried to prevent it.

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      1. twindaddy

        No, it doesn’t make it easier, but there’s only so much you can do. You did what you could but some people walk right through warning signs and won’t learn until they experience the tragedy for themselves.

        I hope you harbor no guilt for what happened to her as it was not your fault.

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  7. sortaginger

    Wow, powerful stories here.

    Y’all are more eloquent (and nicer) than me. I remember meeting the girl he got pregnant while stalking me. I am 5’9″, she is very petite at 5′ even, and I told her “just because you are short doesn’t mean you still won’t have to duck when he swings”. Crass, but to the point.

    I was still being actively hurt by him then; maybe I should have been more empathetic (sympathetic?) to her at that time but I was too scared for myself and M to even think or worry about anyone else. Now I just try to share what I can,when I can and hope it gets through to someone so that they can see the other side.

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    1. goldfish

      It’s hard to be empathetic when you have the benefit of hindsight. Even police reports and pictures didn’t make my former friend believe me; she walked straight in anyway. I just hope that even though our warnings won’t help those involved directly, that maybe they’ll help someone else.

      I’m 5’9″ too! High five for tall chicks!

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  8. draliman

    It always seems to be the outwardly charming inwardly sadistic bastards who slip through life completely untouched. I’m in no way a fan of “vigilantes” but sometimes I think they might have a place, so people like this could have an unfortunate “accident” one day.
    I really admire you for being able to talk about things like this, goldfish.

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    1. goldfish

      I was actually offered the chance to “vigilante” his ass. No questions asked. I turned it down because I didn’t want that on my conscious and I foolishly thought the justice system would, you know, provide justice. Had I known then, what I know now, I might have thought a little harder on that offer.

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  9. dhonour

    This was a really powerful piece, so I can’t imagine what the post that inspired you is like, but I am off to read it now. You are strong, that is obvious. Writing about the things that make you who you are, confronting them, those demons, and letting the bastards know they won’t win, that’s going to make you powerful.

    Like

  10. braith an' lithe

    It is amazing what people can believe or turn a blind eye to. I know that but I’m still gobsmacked that your friends didn’t believe you with actual physical evidence like reports and photos. But as you said, you ended up with the two truest friends.
    All you can do is your best to try to warn someone then it is their responsibility. Though it’s hard to accept that when you care about them. That is part of the grief of my ‘saudade’ post.
    Then again…I once told another friend what I thought of her partner, how he was treating her, etc. There was not physical violence involved but he extremely controlling and undermining and she had actually started wasting away as he wanted her to be thinner. I was literally sweating with fear while I told her what I thought of him, as I thought I’d lose her friendship. At the time, she seemed to be a combination of deaf to my words / somewhat chilly with me. But many years later, she told me that she had been annoyed with me at the time, but 2 years later, when she eventually was plucking up the courage to leave him, it had been a huge help to her to remember my words and keep repeating to herself ‘it’s not my fault, it’s not just me – other smart, good, trustworthy people can see he’s awful’.
    I guess I’m saying, it’s worth taking the risk of trying to warn/speak up, even if it doesn’t seem to have worked, you might not know how you’ve helped in some way at some point.

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    1. goldfish

      One of the most difficult things we can do as friends is tell the truth. especially when it’s a truth that the person doesn’t want to hear. Humans have an amazing capacity for ignoring that which they don’t want to agree with. I’m sorry that your friend went through that, but in the end, I think it’s best that we be honest, even if it does hurt your friendship in the short term.

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      1. braith an' lithe

        Thanks, yes.
        To go all trivial on your ass, I suddenly remembered Douglas Adams ‘somebody else’s problem field’ – do you remember? The thing that stops people ever seeing that a spaceship shaped like an Italian trattoria has landed awkwardly somewhere. I *loved* that – so true of humankind to walk on by if they just can’t think how to process or cope with what they’ve just seen.

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