Over the period of almost a decade, I occasionally asked myself, “what is it going to take, in order for me to leave for good?” At the end, I saw what it took looking at myself in the hotel mirror – at 5’10, I was down to 130 pounds – something I hadn’t weighed since Junior High. A shaking bag of bones, physically shaking and hypervigilant, eyes sunken in, and unable to think very well, from 8 months of living with the constant threat to my safety and the safety of my children after walking out of an abusive relationship.
After a life-threatening situation my ex tried to execute against me, I knew going to the police was pointless, so I drove straight to town and filled out a paper for a protection order. I had been there at least five times over the years, but always ended up not following through with it as the secretary once told me I would have to face my abuser in court.
I’d never been through any court system, I never paid attention in Mrs. Parker’s 8th grade Civics class, and I was clueless of the structure, the process, the players, and their games, but not for long. I was later told by someone who grew up in the Hollywood entertainment industry that the town we were in was worse politically than Hollywood as far as all the games and favoritism, etc.
The Judge who ruled over our court session was more irritated with me than my abuser. I had filled out an order 3 or 4 times before which he had to be tracked down to sign, only for me to take it back it. Fear would win out every time. When I was crying and shaking and telling the Judge what had happened, he asked me if there were any witnesses. The whole process did not seem victim-friendly.
As I have previously mentioned, I had no clue about court, who the players were, how it worked, the politics involved, etc. I was a total idiot. So I did not have an attorney or any witnesses, just a letter from my doctor when he walks in with two witnesses and an attorney. Victim’s Advocate told me they couldn’t do anything for me. He had a prior DV charge and a DWI, he had been through the system many times. His charges against me to get a protection order from me was ‘kicking up gravel with my truck in his auto repair shop driveway,’ and ‘calling him a baby killer.’ A big bad Marine needed protection from that and from me.
I was shaking and felt like I was going to throw up. It was the first I had seen of him since the gun incident. Being in such close proximity drove my anxiety and flight mode through the roof. I agreed to whatever his attorney suggested, to be able to leave as quickly as possible. Being naïve, I believed it was over. I believed I would be safe. I had not studied the psychopath discard as a have since, and I had no clue it would all escalate before it was finally over.
After the mutual protection order was in place, his anger and jealousy increased as he once again observed me moving on and continuing to live my life. He utilized his prior smear campaign against me, incorporated his friends in law enforcement, and employed his ‘flying monkeys,’ wittingly and unwittingly for months ahead of the final discard to spread his narrative and lies. All intentionally set up for his final act of demolition – to destroy my family for good.
I was new in town with three small children to raise on my own when I met him. I was more vulnerable and needy than I realized at the time. There was a part of me, having been recently divorced from a man with similar qualities, that was scared to death to be alone as a single mother of three. Little did I know I added someone to our lives that would be continually, in a predatory manner, sabotaging my efforts for a better life.
This man suffered with many symptoms of PTSD: water, wind, rain, low thumping base noises triggered him. We ended up in the ER at least several times a month during severe anxiety attacks. He had nightmares most nights. I tried to accept the ghosting, anger outbursts, and unexpected and unwarranted criticism. He had his own apartment and two daughters he was raising on his own. For so long I thought he was such a great man for choosing to raise his daughters on his own when really he used his children as pawns in an evil game to hurt their mother.
Around the four year mark, his jealousy and pathology began to show up in soul-crushing ways, destroying me and my children time and time again. My worth and emotional state began to become dependent on whether he was happy with me and around, or if he was angry and ghosting me. He would accuse me of cheating on him every time he left. Or even when everything seemed fine, out of nowhere, I would be accused of cheating with the lawn boy, the furniture mover, the cable man, or any other man I was in contact with on a professional level. He would start building or repairing something for me I wouldn’t be able to do on my own, find a reason to have a fit and leave, and make me sit with an unfinished project until he decided to return. Again and again.
At the five year mark we tried living together which lasted less than a year before he moved out. This time he bought an RV and began setting up electrical and other necessities to be able to live in his RV at his mechanic shop. A few weeks prior, he asked me to marry him, in a truck he just financed for me. Less than 3 weeks later, he had taken the ring back and returned the truck, leaving me without a vehicle and trying to figure it out on my own. I still let him come back. Over and over.
I didn’t know at the time, I was experiencing the intentional creation and strengthening of a trauma bond. A trauma bond is created when the psychopath repeatedly gives and withdraws attention, acceptance, support, and affection to the point that the victim bases all their worth on how the perpetrator is behaving, and how he is feeling about the victim at any given time.
I figured if I loved him, it was right of me to accept him and take him back every time he disappeared, after every fit of rage, after every false accusation of infidelity. In the end, a number of people told me he had always made it seem like he and I were just an “on again, off again thing, nothing serious.” Yet on my end, he talked of engagement and house buying and family. His goals and desires seemed to match mine. He would tell me I was the, “love of his life.” I didn’t know he was setting me up in order to gain the most out of destroying me, my life, my livelihood, my family, and all that I had worked for and created over the past decade.
Many of the attitudes and behaviors of psychopaths have a distinct predatory quality to them. Psychopaths see others as either competitive predators or prey. To understand how psychopaths achieve their goals, it is important to see them as classic predators. I didn’t know at the time he was using stories of his violent capabilities to intimidate and control me and my children – this came into play at the end when he would stalk our house after getting a mutual protective order in place. I would lay there on the couch in the dark at night, wondering if he was out there, about to snipe me at two miles off as he had stated a number of times how capable he was at doing that, and wondering if I should go sleep in the basement for the night.
Psychopaths are master manipulators and pathological liars, they will lie just to lie. Law enforcement, Lawyers, Judges and court employees do not have the knowledge or understanding of the Anti-Social Disordered individuals and are unable to recognize they are dealing with cases that involve these very sick individuals. Therapists even find themselves manipulated. Because the Anti-Social disordered believe their own lies, they are even known to pass lie detector tests.
It is rare that victims recognize what is happening to them until it is too late. Because of this, many victims never fully understand the full complexity of the situation. Frequently, they are so entangled in the web of confusion the psychopath has managed to spin, that seeing the psychopath for what he or she is, rather than how he or she portrays himself, may be quite difficult.
Some victims attempt suicide as a result of hopelessness, helplessness and the belief there is no way out. Some victims have reported that psychopaths have encouraged them to take their own lives or have indicated that they would put them through so much turmoil that their only recourse would be suicide.
One night at the Irma Hotel, as we were eating dinner for my birthday, he saw a man who hadn’t paid him the money he owed for mechanic work. In the middle of dinner at this restaurant, he goes over to the man and challenges him to a duel in the street. Another time, he became jealous of a client I sometimes met in the community, went to his place of work, and told him to go get a gun so they can duel in the street.
Both of these times the police were called, both times there were no consequences. Little did I know at the time his connections to local law enforcement and the illegal activities some were involved in at the time.
The grooming of friends, relatives, and professionals is clear in many cases, and in particular some psychiatrists, psychologists and family evaluators/reporters have been hoodwinked by such tactics and ploys by the psychopathic individual. Their reports, of course favoring the psychopath, have very considerable influence on the Courts and their determinations.
The abuser rarely leaves the victim alone even if he or she does break up with the victim. In the cases where victims leave their abusers first, it is common for abusers to retaliate in ways that retraumatize their victims – from stalking and harassing them, threatening physical harm, to release their personal information, and staging a smear campaign.
Most stalkers stalk their prey as a way of maintaining the dissolved relationship (at least in their diseased minds). They seek to “punish” their quarry for refusing to collaborate in the charade and for resisting their unwanted and ominous attentions. Some might use binoculars to watch you from afar. Rejected stalkers are intrusive and inordinately persistent. They recognize no boundaries – personal or legal. They honor no contract while they taunt, harass, and pursue their target for years.
While the justice system has a long way to go to sufficiently protect victims of covert emotional violence, it is inspiring to see survivors come out and share their stories, as well as the growing number of therapists, coaches and advocates who are now recognizing the impact of this type of abuse. Laws need to be in place to hold these criminals accountable for their abusive and criminal actions. Something needs to be done to prevent these predators from continuing their reign of terror on past, current, and future victims. Victims must be heard, believed, listened to and validated, given their day in the justice system, and awarded permanent protection so they can escape these abusive situations, and the right to live a life free from their tormentors, and recover from this type abuse.
Little did I realize the relationships my boyfriend was involved in within the small community. He rode motorcycles with a deputy investigator. One of his best friends was married to the head of the SWAT team in town. He bought a Chocolate Lab from another law officer in town. Owning his own auto repair shop, he was able to facilitate and manipulate all types of people to achieve his goals. By the time I asked for help from the law, they would refuse to report or help me. It was terrifying.
My nerves were so shot at the end of 8 years with this man, along with the constant life-threatening discard event for the last 8 months after I tried to leave and get protected by an order. I had lost 40 pounds, my Thyroid died out, I was shaking and having panic attacks and fighting off suicidality on a daily basis.
Some antisocial manipulators may have a lifelong habit of evading legal charges by flirting with the law without “technically,” overstepping it. They may have access to the best lawyers that enable them to have their charges dropped or expunged from their record after a period of time. They often place themselves in a position to develop superficial relationships with law enforcement, business owners, attorneys, and other court employees to intentionally gain support, sympathy, and ears ready to hear the latest smear campaign as the psychopath carries out their plan of destruction.
My ex had a history of domestic violence in another town in the same state, being mandated to attend anger management classes. Of course the way he explained it to me was that it was all his ex-wife’s fault.
I was stronger than he had figured. I did not succumb to his plan. What makes what happened to me intriguing is just moths prior to the final discard, I witnessed information of illegal activities he was involved in, that included law enforcement, and it would be damaging had I said anything to anyone. I wasn’t even considering saying anything as I had started my own project involving my horses and helping Veterans which my ex also demolished out of jealousy.
The first year and a half after leaving I had to stabilize my physical body and emotionality. Then I started doing research on psychopaths, their behaviors, and how their treatment negatively impacts a person’s health and mental well-being. After three years, I was able to talk about it without crying, and I was able to stop taking Lithium for my suicidality. Having my Great Dane Sophie has made all the difference for me. She gives me companionship and comfort.
Erin Willard MA LCMHC
Owner/Therapist A New Day Counseling LLC