The first time I sat in Judge W’s courtroom I was frightened. I sat shaking, scared to death that my husband would be sent to prison for the threatened ten years for shoving me into a metal frame and punching my son in the nose. My concern was for my abuser and his fate. I was relieved when he received a fine, probation, work release duty, and mandatory “alternative to violence” classes.
Four years later I once again sat in Judge W’s courtroom. Again, shaking and scared. My oldest son sat to my left and a domestic violence advocate sat to my right. This time, however, my concern was for myself and my own fate. A month after he left, my husband petitioned the court to overturn his earlier conviction so that he could once again own guns, though he’d never owned or even liked guns in the past. I was serving him that day with a restraining order and divorce papers. I knew that if his conviction was overturned he would fight for custody of our children without any “proof” of his abuse and my restraining order would go out the window.
I submitted a log of abuse to the court. My son and I both submitted statements. My husband was furious! He stood and yelled and ranted and lied, accusing me of beating the kids. The judge stated that he found my log “highly convincing” and denied my husband’s motion. The advocate guarded me with her body and escorted my son and me out of the courthouse and to her car. She drove us around town before dropping us quickly at the getaway car we’d borrowed.
Two months later I again entered Judge W’s courtroom. This time I was there to defend my right to have the restraining order against my husband. He was contesting it and denying everything I claimed. To hear him tell it, he was a loving, kind husband and father. Well, he did admit to kidnapping me and beating me one time but that was only because I had accused him of having an affair, so I deserved it. His attorney jumped in quickly and asked, “But, you know now that was wrong, correct? Correct?” He stammered, “Uh, oh, yeah. Yeah.”
I sat on the stand for a long, grueling hour and a half, retelling and reliving years of abuse. My adult daughter and a friend of mine from high school sat directly in front of me. They were distracting to me as I testified because my friend cried as she listened to the horror of my life. At one point she leaned over and commented to my daughter about it. My daughter responded, “She’s not telling the worst of it. One time he picked her up by the throat and choked her for awhile before he threw her on top the stove.” My friend sobbed.
We didn’t finish testimony that day and were scheduled to come back in another two months. Then, it got pushed out another month. Then, another month, until it was nearly our divorce trial date. The attorneys worked out a deal though that forced me to drop the restraining order in exchange for supervised counseling and visits with a former DHS worker. The idea was that it would be the substantiating “proof” of his violent tendencies because the children would disclose to her.
R came an hour before the kids did and sadly gave his pathetic side of the story, along with a few chocolate bars, and the worker ate it all up. She put the blame on our 16 year old. She submitted a report to Judge W that stated my son’s bad attitude was causing the relationship difficulties between the other children and their dad. The younger ones were merely following big brother. She also stated that the 6 year old did not act like an abused child and she thought he refused to visit his dad only because my oldest son gave him the “better” offer of going to Walmart. My 6 year old cries when we have to go to Walmart. He hates shopping. He was happy that day because I told him it was his choice as to whether or not he visited his dad. He had not felt like he had the right to refusal before. He suddenly felt empowered. She either didn’t see that or denied it to protect her new candy toting friend.
By the time September rolled around and Judge W was scheduled to hear the divorce trial, I was a wreck. I was scared to death of losing custody to this horrible, psychopathic man who would stop at nothing to hurt his own family. I had spent many nights awake, watching my children and touching their faces, wondering how much longer I had with them, wondering what would become of them. Fortunately, my attorney subpoenaed my 16 year old’s private counselor. He did not want to appear in court so submitted a detailed report of R’s violence and my son’s maturity and outstanding character. My attorney faxed it to R’s attorney and suddenly she wanted to deal instead of go to trial.
A deal was worked out, and we appeared before Judge W only to enter the settlement on record. He thanked the attorneys for settling because “the other case is going to take all day, so [he appreciated them] settling this and not taking up the court’s time.” I was shocked! This man had read my abuse log. He listened to my son tell in private chambers that his own father had tried to kill him. He listened to me for an hour and a half as I gave the tip of the iceberg of sixteen years of abuse. But, he was relieved that we weren’t taking up the court’s time by hashing over visitation for an abusive father and protection for his abused children?!
The papers were drawn up according to the agreement, but R changed his mind. He decided that he didn’t want to carry life insurance on himself for the children; he wanted me to pay the first $250 of uninsured medical expenses; he wanted all of the exercise equipment (he was originally to get all but two pieces, now he wanted those last two pieces also), my computer, a gun we never owned, and the rifle; and he wanted money as reimbursement for the shotgun I sold when he left me sick, without a dime to my name.
Once again we were to appear before Judge W. This time, however, R didn’t show up. That was okay with the court. I thought that if a party didn’t show up they immediately defaulted, so I drove down the side of a mountain, in the ice, early this morning to be certain I was there. However, because of last night’s snow storm the court opened late. Wimps! I have PTSD flashbacks and anxiety because R tried to kill us all twice on an icy mountain, but I did it. It took matzi for me to drive down off that hill and into town. Apparently R and the court jesters don’t have much of that.
While they all pussy footed in my attorney and I waited in his office and drank coffee. I brought my well organized portfolio with me, including the Order Certifying Compliance With Federal Domestic Violence Firearms Laws 18 USC 922(d)(9) and (g)(9). It states, “A Judge’s signature and findings below certify that the misdemeanor domestic violence conviction meets the requirements of federal law and THEREFORE subjects the Defendant to federal prosecution for possession, receipt, shipping, transportation, or purchase of firearms or ammunition.” It is signed by Judge W.
When we appeared before Judge W. today I felt certain of only one thing: He would not award the rifle to R. I was wrong. My attorney very clearly stated to the judge that the DV conviction stands on record. The judge expressed understanding and then stated that I am to relinquish a firearm illegally to my highly lethal abuser via a third party.
What is truly ironic though is that I suddenly feel no fear. All I feel is anger at the injustice. And, I have a plan. This is not the end. Not for a judge who thinks he is above federal law. As soon as the ink dries, the appropriate higher authorities will be notified. I stopped on my way home and checked into concealed carry classes. Then, I went Christmas shopping and bought material to make my children, grandchildren, and myself new stockings–ones that don’t match R’s. New stockings for my new little family. My oldest daughter, my oldest son, and my third son texted to check on me and show support and love. My second son called to check on me and offer assistance and show his support and love.
I don’t feel like I lost today. I lost a rifle and I was denied justice, but I still have every single one of my children and I have found my matzi. I’m taking the concealed carry classes, and I will be packing. He should be aware that the one he is hunting will be shooting back. As for the court decision, I’m not going to lie down to such blatant disregard of the laws of the land I love so much. Someone will listen, somewhere, or I’ll go hoarse and destroy my wrists screaming and typing letters.
I was asked to write a letter to the state legislature regarding the benefit of state supported domestic violence programs. I may ask if I can appear and speak. I’ll need to think about that when I’m not so angry, but I think I really want to do it. When I first met my attorney he told me that he would not argue something he knew he couldn’t win, so he wasn’t going to argue abuse. If I didn’t like it, he said, I needed to take it up with the legislature. Okay, thank you, Mr. G, for the wonderful suggestion; I think I’ll do that.
As soon as the holidays are over, I’m finishing my book. It’s been a long time coming, and I’ve got sisters out there who need it. Domestic violence condoned by the church in the name of submission is a heresy.
I feel like shouting, “Bring it on!” Come after me, I’ll fire back. Deny me justice, get ready to justify your job. Preach lies about my God to my sisters, I’ll argue and direct them out. I’ve got my matzi, and the world of abusers better watch out!