I have a confession to make.
I aided and abetted the abuse visited upon me, and at points failed in my duties as a mother.
I let myself be abused for 3 1/2 years, then let myself be taken advantage of and legally screwed.
Before this happened, I never understood that there were types of abuse besides physical abuse. I never understood manipulation, emotional abuse, mental abuse, neglect.. I never understood what was happening to me before I got away.
And even then, I blamed myself.
For those of you who wonder why a woman (or a man) would willingly stay in an abusive relationship, it's quite simple. Abuse quite often begins small; criticism delivered the wrong way, insults, invaded privacy of all kinds. By the time full-blown abuse comes around, the victim is fully convinced that they DESERVE what is happening to them.
And so I was fully convinced, for almost 7 years. I convinced myself that if I'd been better, done something different, done something right, I wouldn't have been abused. Even when the kids were snatched from me, kidnapped from me, I thought it was my fault and I deserved it. At that moment I emotionally shut down, entered a continual panic attack, and completely turned my focus to just surviving.
I just recently pulled myself out of survival mode.
It is because I blamed myself, even though I knew what was happening was wrong, that I allowed the children to stay with their father while we fought the first case. The man who, in concert with his family, abused me and destroyed my dignity and will to live.
I honestly thought that even though they'd abused me, since I'd obviously deserved the abuse and the kids didn't, that the kids would be all right.
I will never forgive myself for being so stupid and blind. I've realized how utterly naive and willfully ignorant I was to leave the kids in his care. I should never have let him near the children again, and I realize that now. I don't know what happened to the kids in his care, but I know some things went wrong. I have no proof for most of them, but what I know is enough to give me enough regrets for a lifetime.
We're coming up against the end of the custody case, where all of the dirty laundry, real and manufactured, will be spread out for the judge to see. I've been advised by my lawyer that although he and I would rather not have to sling mud, he's never seen a family court case where taking the high road worked out. I need to be prepared for any allegations that could possibly be brought up against Chris and me, and prepare some mud myself. I'm committed to being honest and truthful, but being honest requires admitting to some very personal tragedy in court, and admitting to ALL of what has happened. Even the parts I'm ashamed of.
It's that preparation which has me thinking about the past as much as I am. Thinking about where I failed, and where I could have done better. Thinking about the kids and how much this entire business has hurt them.
If I had my way, I would not even be going through this. Everything would have been dealt with, negotiated, settled. It's the fact that I'm the only one willing the negotiate that has opened my eyes to the fact that if my ex were to gain custody of the kids, he would most likely abuse them as well. He thinks he's right in all of this, and that I'm the horrible person... it's the fact that he thinks he is blameless that scares me the most.
As much as I've made mistakes, I've never intentionally harmed another person. The fact that my ex has, and thinks it was RIGHT to do so, terrifies me.
So the case goes before a stranger in black robes, who decides the future of the children. The entire concept of a judge deciding the kids' fate is extremely wrong, but unavoidable. I'm praying the judge has the gift of seeing through bullshit.
In the meantime, I need to admit to myself, and everyone, my own portion of culpability in this sad affair. I fucked up in ways completely avoidable because I let someone convince me I was worthless and deserved what happened.
I will never make that mistake again.