• Sarah Strong

The Endless Cycle of Abuse

The two-year anniversary of leaving the abuser is coming up in July. Over the past two years, I have blogged and done public speaking about my journey. And while I have come a tremendous way in healing over this time, it is still a constant battle for me, largely hampered by the abuse that has continued post-breakup. I want to address this issue—how victims of domestic violence often do not get a clean cut from the relationship, why the threat of continued or worsening abuse makes it difficult to leave, and how we as a society can help.

The last time he put his hands on me was July 14, 2017. I was 5-months pregnant with our second child, Max. I had lost our first child in a miscarriage that was likely the result of abuse. I still struggle with telling that story, but perhaps I will be brave enough to write about it one day. But after leaving that day in July, my life has been extremely rocky. My children and I faced eviction and homelessness, we have endured financial, emotional, and verbal abuse still, and the abuser continues to exert power by dragging us to court without end. I wish I could say it gets easier. But it doesn’t. And unfortunately, it won’t get easier. But I AM stronger, and getting stronger every day.

In August of this year, I am going back to court. I have lost count of how many trials, hearings, and mediations we have had over the just two years. This trial is one demanded by abuser. I knew he would make the divorce difficult, despite us only being married for 13 months. We had zero property or assets of any significant value. Knowing the process would be long, I took it upon myself to file for bifurcation of status change—meaning I had the judge declare us legally divorced and set aside all other issues (custody, support, property) as a separate matter. Well, this trial is that separate matter. I have attempted to settle with his attorney countless times. Abuser refuses. Even recently, he is refusing to pay child support and child care costs and wants to wait until the trial. It is honestly a huge mess that is too convoluted to explain in this brief blog. But needless to say, it is legal and financial abuse, and there is continued harassment and emotional abuse through his messages to me and at the custody exchanges.

Family court sucks. It really does. I tried to navigate the system on my own. I read books, watched youtube videos, talked with the “free clinics” provided by the court. And while I hear other people having great success with pro bono clinics (perhaps in other states and counties), I failed tremendously. This trial is beyond my scope of what I can do on my own. I have been running a gofundme to support my legal fees, and I have contributed every spare dollar I have myself. But in the end, I am still left with debt and hardship. I am still being abused. My children are still subjected to abuse.

On top of all of the legal troubles, I also recently received a copy of all of the CPS (child protective services) reports filed against me. I read through the reports in disbelief. What was especially troubling was the report filed before Max, abuser’s son, was even born. He filed a false report attempting to get my daughter, not his child, taken away from me. Maybe I shouldn’t have read the file. It was deeply triggering, especially that he used me struggling with depression after the miscarriage as his “proof” of me being an unfit parent. He weaponized my grief and pain from losing a child. Which is why I have such a hard time talking about that grief and pain and how much I miss my baby.

I do not want to live in fear anymore. Fear for my and my children’s safety. Fear for our emotional well-being. Fear of trusting others by opening up. I want to thrive. I want to grow and be the woman I know I can be. I want so badly for this case to be done and to not have to go to court anymore.

If you know someone who is going through or has gone through abuse, I hope that you can listen with a compassionate ear. I hope that you do not make judgments about “just” leaving, or ask why she didn’t leave sooner. There are days where I wonder if I had stayed and kept getting hit if maybe it would have protected my children because I would have been the sole recipient of the abuse. I logically know that that isn’t true, but this is what abuse does to your mind.

If you want to help end domestic violence, become educated on the topic. I highly recommend the works of Lundy Bancroft and Barry Goldstein. Volunteer or donate to your local DV shelter, I can GUARANTEE you that they are understaffed and underfunded. And most importantly, stand up against abusers. Do not justify abuse with things like “oh well he was drinking; or, what did you do to upset him?” And if someone tells you they are being abused, believe it. Oftentimes a victim will only reach out once, and their description of the violence is probably just a small glimpse into the reality. We need to hold abusers accountable. We need to, as a society, stand up and end abuse. Enough is enough.

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(...But they should have) When I left, I spoke with lawyers, domestic violence advocates, a therapist, and law enforcement. And I hate to say it, but none of them filled me in on what it would actuall