If you had asked me in early 2013, I would have said that my marriage had become difficult, my relationship to the person I had married was strained on good days. I knew this was the way of any long term pairing. I could reason my way around most anything. Even an abusive marriage. It's what I did best, making excuses for other people's actions at my own expense.
It's the echo of that little girl so long gone now, but ever present. The five year old who was a pedophile's favorite play thing.
Sometimes, to survive, we bargain ourselves away. It is a hard habit to break.
In July of that year I was finally finished negotiating with my abuser. Harsh words lead to threats, threats to a physical attack. I was done. We were done, but I had to bide my time.
Just as on every other occasion apologies were made. Attempts to keep me silent. I obeyed. I stayed still. Every trapped animal knows not to move when their predator has them cornered. I watched the clock, knowing he would be catching a flight in a few hours.......It's funny how survival instincts come back to you, just like being pushed off a bike, you learn how to fall so it hurts less. It took me one more day before I was brave enough to report it. I was trying to minimize things again. Trying to find a way to stay in the balance between reality and the fairy tale I had lulled my judgement, my dignity, to sleep with.
The Deputy who came out was named Larson. I showed him the bruises on my arms and wrists. The ones that were a perfect map of what was done to me, in blues and reds and purples, some of my favorite colors. There was a bloom of vivid hues on my chest where I had been held down, a knee with weight behind it, on a stone floor. Deputy Larson agreed to take pictures, only after my son insisted. When I bared my shame, my humiliation his response was almost flippant "Those don't look too bad" he remarked without emotion. I should have known then. I should have realized abuse here was tolerated. His questioning was odd. Did I think my husband was cheating, was he seeing someone? I did not care, that was the last thought in my mind.
You see the artist, who left me a canvas study in realism, had promised to kill me, to kill my family and I believed him. I still do.
I forced myself out of the house and filed for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. I cried the entire time. I hated crying. However I could not stop the flow of tears and with them self blame. I had to enter and reenter information at a Domestic Violence kiosk near my home. I misspelled my name, my address...forgot my birth date. All I could think of was what he was going to do... When he found out I told, what was he going to do to me?
It's not what you don't know that hurts you, it's the truth that leaves scares that burn.
Somehow I thought that little paper Pierce County issued me was a shield. A safety net. I was such a child. By January he had broken the order multiple times. Deputies would be called out, but nothing was done. I was told if he was still there when they showed up they would arrest him. That would prove a lie. In September, that flimsy court order was no match for an angry estranged spouse and a sympathetic Deputy. I had been gone out of town for a few days. When I came home I discovered the garage door had been kicked in. I called 911. It took an hour or so, me sitting on the concrete block block steps, grown cold as the sun faded out. That time the Deputy was Kreis. He stepped out of his police vehicle already speaking. "I was just here the day before yesterday. Do you know why I was here?" I confessed I did not. He said my husband had called him out to the house. That he had wanted to file a report against me. That I had taken his things.
I had my own question. I was shaking as I asked it. "Why didn't you arrest him? He broke the restraining order and you were right here." Deputy Kreis was unmoved. He stated that my estranged husband had said it was not in effect. He later said he didn't check to see if there still was one. He didn't want to discuss it with me. What Deputy Kreis did want to talk about was my divorce. He asked me "what it going to take to end this?" four times he asked. He stated that my estranged husband had told him "all about me." I stood in my driveway stunned. Silent. Deputy Kreis was not done. Taking a step towards me, he made air quotes with his fingers and said "Let me give you some "friendly Deputy advice", sign whatever you have to sign, get out of here and get on with your life."
What is the proper response to such a statement? I stayed still. That night I made an online report of the incident, not for the first time. Sargent Batista called in response.
He promised to talk to Deputy Kreis. He assured me there was no reason to make a written reprimand in Deputy Kreis's file. He would not need to talk with my Step Father who had witnessed the conversation. Actually, that was about the gist of his phone call. It was not about the continuing escalation of my abuser's actions, or any plans to keep me safe. No, it was all about helping his own officer. In the weeks since, there have been more incidents, my mother has been threatened and things stolen from her property. There is no need to point a finger in these things. My estranged husband readily admitted he did it. Yet he is free and I am still trapped.
I would discover the man I married had a history of assaulting others. A history of arrests. A history of being in possession of guns despite being banned from them. He had been a member of two local gun ranges. He spoke before Kitsap County Counsel to support Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club. I cannot wrap my mind around that one. When questioned by Pierce County Deputies, in the Summer of 2013, he stated the weapons belonged to me. They did not. In fact they were held in the name of his friend, a gun dealer who sold them to him. Ironically the very man who introduced us, on the gun range in Gig Harbor. Now, in his latest filings with Pierce County Superior court, my abuser states the weapons are his personal property, that they always were and he seeks them back in the divorce.
It doesn't matter what he does. He has become emboldened and I am hunted, haunted, tormented with no end in sight. That this is happening here....HERE ...is unfathomable. For all the fine talk, nothing has changed. I was at the Crystal Judson Justice Center today and I had to ask...."What happens to the others like me?" What happens when no one will help. When Pierce County Sheriff's Department not only refuses to uphold retraining orders, but actively inserts themselves in domestic violence cases on the behalf of the abuser?
I am afraid to leave my home. Afraid to be outside. I am fearful when I see a patrol car. Fearful of people. I trust no one. How can I.
I cannot be the only one.
Where do we turn? Well, for me, I turn to you. Please, pass my words on...remember those that came before and those that will come after and let there be a clear message "This is not okay."
I send you love, strength and hope, never forget hope. I've no idea what to do, but I am not going to cower. I have overcome too much. This will not be the thing that ends me. I pray, I am not prey. I will not be silent, I will not be still and I will not give up. I will slip the snare.