Friday, January 13, 2012

Forced to flee…from a domestic violence shelter

I just realized that today is Friday the 13th.  The Western superstition concerning Friday the 13th is based  upon the fact that the Catholic Church slaughtered the Knights Templar on Friday the 13th during the Middle Ages.  For this reason most buildings in Western countries do not possess a 13th floor. 
Last Monday night I had a surreal experience.  For weeks I insisted that I did not want my dad to sign the lease for my apartment.  I felt that he would be able to re-assert control over me if his name were on the lease.  My mother had falsely promised me for weeks in response that my dad’s name would not be on the lease.  She also pretended that she alone could sign the lease in the name of the real estate corporation that she co-owned with my dad.
But in reality she and my dad knew all along that my dad’s signature was necessary for me to obtain the lease.  My mother has no independent income and therefore no credit.  Thus, she cannot sign the lease on her own.  In addition, her signature on the lease is largely irrelevant because really my dad is the only one who can sign the lease.  My dad has a steady income as a physician lasting over 30 years.  And so my dad could have easily signed the lease on his own – without my mother at all.  My mom is only on the lease for symbolic reasons – to appease me. 
So on Monday night, once it was too late for me to protest, my parents sprung upon me the terrifying news that my dad would be the primary signatory on the lease.  My parents had obviously manipulated me by earning my trust and then breaking it.  By this time, Monday, January 9th, the domestic violence shelter was scheduled to close in less than a week, by Sunday, January 15. 
Upon receiving this devastating news, I was completely terrified.  I cried powerfully for over an hour in reaction to this news.  In response the house manager “Jane” came downstairs and verbally assaulted me in an incredibly vicious way.  Rather than hugging me and comforting me in response to my distress, Jane only added tremendously to my feeling of trauma. 
Jane demanded to know what was wrong in a hostile tone of voice.  Sensing that I was in immediate danger from a severe verbal assault, I cried to her and pleaded with her to leave me alone. I remembered how she had sided with my abusive father against me during a frightening conversation several weeks earlier, utterly dismissing my concerns about his abuse and implying that he had never actually abused me.  She had said I had no right to refer to my abusive parents as ‘my captors’ and that I should be so grateful to them for their financial support that I should overlook and tolerate their horrific emotional abuse against me.
This time I told her that she didn’t care about me and so I begged her to leave me alone.  But rather than leave me alone, she unleashed a well-planned and effectively orchestrated verbal assault against me.  She repeated her cruel insistence that my parents had never harmed me and insultingly told me to look up the word ‘captor’ in the dictionary.  She further hurt my feelings by saying that I was a well-educated person, but I was also a slob who ate food off the kitchen floor.  She also defended her attack on me several months earlier and added that she didn’t appreciate me telling senior management about that assault against me.   And to add insult to injury, she told me to quit crying about my dad’s presence on the lease.  
It was obvious to me right after the assault that Jane had previously planned this attack against me and was simply waiting for the right moment to unleash it.  I suspect this because Jane had not simply attacked me blindly but rather had carefully prepared a detailed list of insults that she planned to use against me.  I think she had drawn up a list of the three most devastating things that she could say to me based upon over six months of living with me.  I had confided in her about my history of parental abuse and about many other painful issues in my life, and now she turned this information into a weapon to be used against me. 
Her abuse was much more severe and sophisticated than my dad’s abuse against me.  It also painfully reminded me of the fact that one of my prior therapists “Shirley” had done exactly the same thing to me just over a year earlier. Around October, 2010, I had been seeing a therapist for nearly 3 years.  My father had stopped paying Shirley’s fees because she had criticized my dad for abusing me and my mom for colluding with him against me. 
Shirley at first promised to see me even after my father stopped paying her fees.  But several weeks later she turned against me even more viciously than Jane.  She drew up the list of the most painful things she could say to me – and hit me with all of them at once. Among other things she called me an abuser in order to maximize my sense of trauma, fear, and pain.  Knowing how hard I work not to become an abuser and to break from both my father’s patterns of living as an abuser and my mother’s life as a victim, she hurt me in the gut.
I could not believe that I was being subjected to such severe verbal abuse at the hands of the house manager / employee of a domestic violence shelter.  It seems to me that this kind of abuse violates the whole purpose of living in a shelter.  The shelter is supposed to be a safe place where victims can go to heal from the trauma of abuse by their partners or parents, not a source of additional trauma for already frightened abuse victims.  I was very vulnerable to Jane’s abuse because I had still undergoing a fragile recovery process from a lifetime of abuse at the hands of my parents and grandmother.  In addition I had counted on the shelter to be a safe place where I could process and overcome the abuse I had previously suffered in other environments.
I felt as though my worst nightmare had come true.  I was in shock to realize that Jane had hated me all along for having more money than me and was just waiting for a chance to brutalize me.  It was hard to believe that the house manager of a domestic violence shelter could be a vicious bully and verbal abuser.  Jane’s assault completely destroyed my sense of safety in the shelter and made me realize I had to leave it immediately.  My friend Monica, a fellow abuse survivor, agreed with me that it was shocking to see a DV shelter turned into a place of vicious verbal assault against an emotionally vulnerable victims.      
I could not sleep all night in reaction to this assault and went to bed late and woke up late.  I told my mother what happened to me on Monday, and the next day she announced that she was coming to pick me up from the shelter on Wednesday.  I had two appointments on Wednesday: to see a nationally known psychiatrist who specializes in Asperger’s and to meet with the owners of an apartment where my dad had signed the lease for me. 
I had originally planned to stay in the shelter until it closed on January 15 and then move directly into a rental apartment.  But it was clear that I could not stay in this shelter any longer because I was now under vicious assault in this environment.  I first looked into staying in a youth hostel for four days in Miami Beach but decided against it because the cost was over $85 a night, or $344 for four nights. 
My mother suggested that instead I should move out of the shelter on Wed January 11 and come spend 4 days with my grandmother.  The plan was to move me into an apartment in Miami Beach on Sunday January 15 or Monday January 16.  I agreed to this plan because after suffering this abuse in the shelter I welcomed the opportunity to return to my grandmother’s house temporarily.  I had basically reconciled with my grandmother a month earlier and she had apologized for threatening to throw me out of the house and to take away my food.  She said she was just trying to scare me and didn’t expect I would have the courage to run away like I did.  She said she realized she had been very mean to me and she was sorry. 
On Tuesday I spent the day packing to move back to my grandmother’s house.  I was also crying to the senior management of the transition house where I had been staying.  I explained to Julia that I was devastated because the system had thwarted my attempt to liberate myself from my abusive and toxic family of origin.  And I told my fellow survivor Monica that I was terrified of having my dad as the primary signatory on the lease. 
Monica suggested that I should consider going to court to seek a no-contact order against my dad.  I didn’t know how I could do this with my dad paying the rent for me.  But Monica explained to me that I could get a no-contact order against my dad that specified he had to pay the rent for me.  I don’t know if I actually plan to do this, but I feel empowered knowing that I have this option should it become necessary. 
For now I am refusing to see my dad face to face because he terrorized my mother and me during his visit on December 25 to the transition house.  I am in phone contact with my father for now, but I am prepared to suspend or end this phone contact with him if he abuses me again.  And I am prepared for the possibility that I might need to seek a no-contact order against my dad in order to put a permanent end to his abuse against me.   
I feel safe in my grandmother’s house for now and am looking forward to hopefully moving to Miami Beach in either mid-January or early February. Also my mother told me that her best friend “Christine” told me she read my account of my dad’s assault against me on December 25. Christine said that she thought I am such a good writer that I should write a play based upon my experiences.  Christine also shared my writing with another person who agreed with her assessment that I should write a play. 
It is clear to me that my career is writer.  I am writing a book on verbal abuse in intimate relationships.  I am also thinking of doing freelance writing in fields ranging from women’s issues to disabilities to military matters.  And my mother suggested I consider writing children’s books.

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