Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Father Broke His Restraining Order

-Trigger Warning-

I was confronted this morning by the story of Tara Corrigan, 28 year old mother of 3, who was murdered with an axe by her ex- partner, while breast feeding her daughter of a few days old. She had only taken out a restraining order the day before it happened.

When I was a kid the police came to my house and their hands seemed tied on how to help us. It was either spend a night in lock-up or go to family counselling. Guess what my dad chose. Because there's nothing better than being trapped in a room with your abuser while he justifies every mean thing he does.
I loved cutting my own bangs (fringe), and the spanking stick loved my ass for it!

Here's just a small snippet of my life as a child of domestic violence:


It took almost two decades for my mother (of eight children) to gather the courage to get my dad out of our house. Two decades of living in fear every day. Good days for me, as a 15 year old, were the days my dad came home at around 3am, slept on the couch (which got stinky), and left before I got up for school. Those were better days than most because I could go a whole 24 hours with out seeing him.
When he had abused me or a family member for something (or nothing), I would beg my mum to leave him, and was always met with the same answer - "He's your father, don't talk about him that way. Show some respect."

Me on the right - Age 15

By this point I had little knowledge that my mum had already started the process of separating from my dad. We were living in a complex of townhouses and had a shared backyard ( - if you can call something so small a yard) with our neighbour, Sharon. My mum quickly became best friend's with her, and would often go across the yard and in through Sharon's back sliding door to chat. I noticed that my mum would also go over to Sharon's to use the phone (Remember? Because cell phones were still bricks at this stage, that barely anyone owned).

Once my mum finally announced to us that she was "leaving" dad, those phone calls  suddenly made sense. My mum was calling a lawyer. My dad was notorious for tapping our phones, and for recording our conversations at home without our knowledge. He did this through video camera, tape recorder and god knows what else. It was dangerous for mum to use our home phone, and that alone is an insight into how small her controlled world had become.

This is right after we down sized into a very small, low income town house with 4 bedrooms - one of which became my dad's study, and remained that way even when baby #8 was born and my 2 brothers had to sleep under the stairs.

I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home. Actually,  the reason I was born in Ecuador was because my parents were missionaries there. We left when I was 7 to move back to Canada. My dad always had speaking engagements on Sundays at churches of the same denomination as ours, spread across the local cities. He was very well known in that church community, and I think well liked too (not sure). Outside the home, he was very charismatic and fun with others. I hated sitting in the pulpit on Sundays, listening to him preach. I would begin to imagine myself standing up and yelling in a booming voice for all of the congregation to hear - "He's a hypocrite, he does not practice what he preaches, and is a scary person at home." But the leadership of our church knew he was like that. They would take him and my mum out for "coffee" to give my dad a good talking to and "straighten" him out.

It was years before the church finally told him he could not longer preach or lead in any capacity in their church, or any of the others in our denomination. I'm not at all bitter towards them but I am very disappointed that they didn't do something to help us, to "save" us from him.

I gave you a little bit of that family church history because it's another huge reason my mum struggled for so long with leaving my dad. She was ingrained with the belief that she could not divorce because it went against God's word. How many women have been trapped in loveless marriages for this exact reason alone? So when my mum finally separated from dad she still held out hope for their reconciliation. She wanted to believe that this would be the breaking point for him, that he would see the errors of his ways, have time without his family, and miraculously repent, and change.

Once dad was out of the house for good I looked my mum in the eyes and making her promise that she would never let him in the house again. Ever. Home never felt safe. Ever. This promise was giving me a small sense of security in my insecure life. After my dad was booted out I found out that my mum had gotten a restraining order, because of my dad's continued strange and scary behaviour.That seemed to comfort me more than a promise from my mum. I knew she was weak, and I also had a distrust for her keeping that promise because she was married to a master manipulator. I also knew how badly she was hanging on to that hope ...

We have "good" christian family written all over us. You can see the sadness, and I'm not just talking about the girl on the right who brushes out her curls (me).

But he showed up one day. She went out to his car, and he balled his eyes out to her, showing his "genuine remorse." I remember her saying to me "But Jessie, you didn't see him. He was crying, and he's so, so sorry ..." 
They had materialised; the apologies that had been so hard for him to offer for  the last 20 years of physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental abuse.  The apologies had come from the the biggest victim blamer I've ever known. Sitting in the car that day he said the things she wanted to hear, it wasn't hard. Shortly after that, maybe a week, I came downstairs to find the man sitting in my living room to pick her up for a date. Panic gripped me. SHE  HAD PROMISED ME, yet there he was. Looking right at me. She let him back in. We weren't safe.

There is more than one way to break a restraining order, and violence is just one way. If your abuser has a big enough hold on you, and is a master manipulator he might just creep over that line by whispering a few kind words and apologies into your ear.

Why aren't we doing more to prevent these horrible stories from happening again and again? I urge you to act if you know someone in a domestic abuse situation; do so thoughtfully and seek advice. The last thing you want is to put the victim(s) into any more danger. But please do not be silent. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence please call Lifeline today on 13 11 14. There are so many resources to help victims get away from their abuser.

38 comments:

  1. On reading your story, I'm literally so angry, furious in fact, and yet so sad for you as well. It breaks my heart. Unfortunately, the feelings are too familiar and I'm so tired of it. I just feel so frustrated- what can we do about this problem? I blogged about violence against women today and I will keep talking about it but I feel like there needs to be much greater action and far more resources available- it would be a start for funding that was cut, forcing the closure of refuges and legal centres, could be reinstated. It would help if restraining orders were more than bits of paper.

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  2. Jess, you've been brave to share your story. There must be literally millions of people in the same situation. As humans we definitely want to feel that other people will give us their best. Your Mum must have been such a trusting human, and your Dad, so damaged. Shining a light on the issue is a great way to help others see it.

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  3. You are so right. It's so difficult to understand, from outside, but as you say, master manipulators know exactly how to weasel themselves back into our good graces and convince us that they have changed.
    I don't know much about your story, but I hope your family are truly happy now, and have moved on from what must have been an often horrific childhood. I really admire your courage to share your story here.

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  4. Kirsty @ My Home TruthsMarch 24, 2015 at 4:31 PM

    I'm sorry that was the story of your early years - I can't imagine how hard it would have been to live with that constant fear. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of that life and having the courage to share the pain of your family x

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  5. Oh Jess. No words. Thank you for sharing this x

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  6. Jess, I grew up in a fundamentalist christian missionary family too. My Dad was a well liked member of every church we belonged to... and had numerous affairs. My mother was a faithful, loving wife who did not deserve what she got from him, but she continuously forgave him. I think being the volatile 'head of the house' was an unwritten part of Christian culture in the seventies. I remember asking her once why she stayed and she said "How could I leave? I don't even know how to write a cheque". Thank goodness for your Mum's neighbour. I don't think our fathers will ever comprehend to what level they have affected our spiritual journeys with their choices. I can say for certain that I have never been comfortable with the idea of God as 'father'. It's not really what I hope God would be. So I am wilfully agnostic. My Mum has passed away now.

    And I am so sorry to know that you suffered so much when you should have been so loved by BOTH of your parents. I am sorry the church didn't do enough, soon enough. I'm sorry life can be this way. And I think your post was authentic, brave and wonderful. Thanks for raising these issues. Thanks for sharing.

    And hugs to little Jess who still lives there in your heart. Little Rach is waving hello.

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  7. Lisa @ Mummy's Undeserved BlesMarch 24, 2015 at 7:49 PM

    It is such a shame that the words of the Bible are used to manipulate and to abuse people. I am so sad to hear that you and your family experienced this. Sadly it isn't rare but thanks to people like you sharing their stories people are hopefully finding it easier to speak up and call for help.

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  8. Very brave of you to share. So sad to think this story in so many variations is playing out in homes everywhere everyday.

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  9. I am so sorry to hear of the cr@p you had to grow up with. For a long time the Church has made the WOMAN feel like the guilty party, I'm glad that finally we are starting to see a turn around.

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  10. It's so easy for people to say "why didn't she leave if he was abusing her" but until you've been there you have no idea how hard it is to leave. I speak from personal experience. I totally understand how your mother felt and how hard it was for her to make that decision to leave. She was being manipulated when she was with your dad and even afterwards. Sometimes its easier to go along with the abuse because you know it will stop eventually, that when they leave the house you will get a break. My nights would be spent with little sleep just in case. Your Mum was so brave to make the decision to leave that relationship. It took me years to finally be brave enough to leave not just for my kids but for me too. I tried hard to protect my kids but some of the mental scarring always remains. My life since leaving has been constant ups and downs in trying to come to terms with what I went through and why I let myself go through it. I could go on but I won't. It happens too much and there is no excuse for abuse of any kind. Very brave of you Jess to put this on a public forum. So sad for you to think you had to go through this. Love, hugs and kisses from me to you.

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  11. I am so sorry to hear how hard you, your mum and your brothers and sisters had it. This is a brave outpouring of yourself, thank you for sharing. Thank you for speaking up against abuse.

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  12. Thank you for talking about this. I can't even begin to imagine what you've been through.

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  13. Thank you for sharing your story. It's very brave of you and I'm sure will help others understand. The lack of support for families experiences violence is the saddest thing...even today. Hugs!

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  14. Jess, thank you so much for sharing your story. You had me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. I am SO sorry to hear what you, your siblings and mum have been through. I can't even begin to imagine. I hope you are all leading happier lives now and feel safe and secure in your own homes. Much love #teamIBOT xx

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  15. You are so brave to share your story. I couldn't even begin to imagine the fear that you lived with every single day. You are right, there absolutely needs to be more done for victims of domestic violence.

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  16. What a brave and thoughtful post Jess. I am so sad to hear that you had to endure these things but I am grateful to you for opening up and not remaining silent. The lid absolutely needs to be lifted off this in the Christian community just as much as the rest of society. Women in those situations need to know they can break silence and be supported. Thank you for helping to create a safer community in this way.

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  17. Wow, Jess, what a terrible nightmare for your family and you. I heard about that woman and her newborn baby. She was a friend of an online friend, so I saw the only family photo of her and her 3 children, in hospital after the birth, There are no words.
    You are brave, telling your story and you were brave to try to keep your father out of the house. I had a friend when I was a teenager, with an abusive step father. She ran away to my house one day and told me what he had been doing to her. It was horrific. She and her mother, sister and brother went into a shelter for a while, but he somehow found a way to get to them, through tears and apologies and contrition like your father. I couldn't believe it when they returned to live with him, and everyone played happy families again for years. They used to keep getting pet kittens and they kept dying. I would go over and the new kitten would have a trickle of blood coming from it's nose, I would ask what was wrong with it and my friend would answer like it was no big deal, "Oh it got in Dads way, he gave it a kick". I hated him with a passion.
    I'm not sure what happened in the end, I moved away and wasn't in close touch with my friend, she and her mother came to my dad and brothers funeral. I remember her mum touching my face, saying "You poor kid."
    I know that they have nothing to do with him at all now. That family all turned to evangelical christianity after the fact. They are happy people now.
    Sorry to write such a long response, your post evoked that memory.

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  18. Jess I couldn't read every word, because the horror of the hypocrisy in churches just makes my blood boil.
    I commend you for speaking about things that I'm sure you were told not to speak about.

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  19. Jess darling girl I am so horrified by your story! I can not imagine the fear that you grew up with. It pisses me off when I read stories of priests/ ministers/ volunteers with in the church who know better but do wrong by women and children. My heart breaks for your mum. And for all your siblings. You are so brave to share your story but if believe it's important to keep sharing stories so we don't become complacent in fighting against domestic violence.

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  20. @Rachel Thank you so much for taking the time to share your heart and story with me!
    I always quoted that verse in the bible to my mum about how you can divorce if your husband has cheated on you. Did you try that one? I was desperate, clearly. I had some really great representations of fathers when I was a teenager. A couple men I met at bible camp; one became my youth pastor and one my (therapy) counsellor. I am still in touch with both today. And in year 12 I moved in with a family from my church who only knew of me and my situation - talk about generous. Can't be easy taking in a broken teenager. That man is still a dad to me also. I guess I was always searching for someone to fill the role. It's hard growing up fatherless. I have great joy watching my husband be a father to our son, every day!

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  21. @Annette @ IGiveYouTheVerbs Thankfully I ended up finding my own church when I was 14. That was a huge saving grace for me. The people at my own church listened, acted and gave a damn. Many condemned what the other church did.
    Actually, my mum often told me not to talk about the abuse. She always said that if my dad were given the right to preach again that he should be able to do that with out a broken reputation. Amazed me, even so young, how she could still have an ounce of respect for such a cruel human being.

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  22. @Dani Netherclift please don't apologise. This is exactly what's needed - dialogue. None of my friends at school seemed to "get" what I was going through. One even came to visit my home one day. My dad was a prick to me, and she said something I'll never forget "I don't really think your dad is the problem, it's you." I had shared with her the dark and painful stuff I went through and that's what she said. She'd seen him physically abuse me. What a sheltered girl. It's the worst when no one believes you. It says a lot about your family that your friend felt safe enough to run to you guys! I ran away a couple times too...

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  23. @sharonbigg I'm hoping some of the old conservatism in the church will die off with the old. I'd be foolish to think this isn't still happening in churches. It's often of greater importance to protect the man's reputation, than it is his family. It's really sickening. I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to pay forward the love that christians from my other church showed me, when I was going through it. I started going to my own church at 14 just to get away a bit, and received lot's of support from there.

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  24. Even being a a safe place for a kid to run to @TeganMC is doing something. Believing a kid's story and taking them seriously. I hope I can help in that way some day.

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  25. @Renee at Mummy, Wife, Me I'm very happy to report that the cycle of abuse has stopped in my home. I pinch myself at how much better life is now. Really, did I actually score a man who treats me with respect and values my opinions as he does with his own. I still have scars and respond from those places of pain but I've worked through a lot of the shit with therapy. Love me some psychologists. hahaha! Thank you!

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  26. @Sanch Living Life Thank you! I totally cringe when I'm out and see a man or woman verbally abusing their kids. I think "If they are willing to do that out here in the open, then what is going on behind closed doors." I feel so helpless so help them. I know authorities don't really do much with verbal abuse, but I've still reported neighbours for it ...

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  27. @Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me My old psychologist actually made me be "small Jess" in a session. It was really weird. And sad. Thank you!

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  28. Thank you Malinda! Having encouragement from all of you has made this scary thing not so hard after all.

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  29. Women who are strong are often called bitches in our society. Things are changing. Even the warped perception of feminism is changing into something good again.
    @Janet aka Middle Aged Mama I am happy I discovered that not all churches keep silent ...

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  30. @JM Peace Thank you! I cringe to think about it. Who is raising little boys into men who don't know how to love and respect a woman. My heart feels so full that my 1.5yr old son get's my attention with kisses rather than with hitting me. They are sometimes "aggressive" kisses" haha but still they are sweet as can be.

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  31. Thanks Lisa. Thankfully not every church responds like this old fashioned and legalistic one did. But I know it still goes on. We are amazing at keeping up fronts. Some of us, eh. I hope I can be the soft place to land for someone in trouble one day ...

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  32. Thank you for reading. If I can give insight into that kind of life and it helps someone then it was all worth it! @Kirsty @ My Home Truths

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  33. There's still a lot of pain in our family but for the most part I'd say we are a success story for being able to be what we are today considering what's happened to us. All my siblings are people I am proud of. Thank you for your comment @Sheridan Anne

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  34. @Michelle@myslowlivingadventure Yes millions. It's a sickening thought. Home should be the soft place to land and for many, many kids it's not. I think my mum felt like she was stuck. Lack of money makes a person stay longer too...and we were dirt poor. That's another story though ...

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  35. @HandbagMafia Thank you so much for sharing this story on your FB wall. I saw that you had posted about violence the same day I posted my story. Being my birthday week I didn't get to do any more blogging stuff except for this post so I will go catch up on your blog really soon. You are always a great voice for this sort of thing. Thank you for that too. I was trying to help a friend out of a verbally abusive relationship. It seemed hard to find some free legal advice. It's there but it's so much harder when you're the victim who's looking. This stuff should be easier to access.

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  36. That mindset of your mum's just disgusts me - yet it was so prevalent and probably still is in some circles.
    Fucking man worship!! So twisted.

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