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What you don’t see CAN hurt you

Father, what should I do?

Having been away from the Catholic Church for about ten years at the time (but knowing fully the church’s position on marriage) I think I sought out the priest’s advice because I was looking more for someone to talk me out of what I was about to do.

I had purchased an airline ticket for my then-husband to fly from our home state of Virginia to Hawaii so he could spend some time with the kids and hopefully, we’d be able to settle our own affairs during his visit. Christmas (2000) was just within reach and I reasoned the perfect time to either reconcile or amicably divorce after a six month separation. December meant a lot to us: a month that celebrated our daughter’s birth, our wedding anniversary and of course, Christmas; Hawaii was where we had spent our honeymoon so I had hoped that the spirit of the season combined with the warm Hawaiian breezes would be the right mixture to help us figure out “where do we go from here”? Those were my thoughts; my then-husband’s thoughts were much different…

His thoughts were wrapped up in enforcing kidnapping charges that he had filed against me in Virginia; the only way he said he would “drop the charges” is if I agreed to go back home with him – and if I refused then he had a Plan B: to have me “locked away in a mental institution for so long” that I’d “never see the kids again”.

I already knew from past experience that he would make good on Plan B. Three years before he had called our local psych ward to have me committed because I wouldn’t/couldn’t stop crying after he had hit me when I was pregnant with our son. Thankfully, the intake worker on the other end of the phone didn’t think I was crazy when my then-husband said “I hit her and now she wants to leave me”. (The guy hung up on him.)

Now I was looking at something altogether different: a yellow carbon copy police form that my then-husband was holding up in front of me as proof that he had indeed initiated some kind of legal action against me; it wasn’t a verbal threat, it was physically real.

The next few days were a blur (figuratively and literally) but I recall being pushed to take a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) out on my then-husband, which I frankly thought was extreme at the time. I knew - beyond a shadow of a doubt - that if I even applied for a TRO and he found out, the marriage would be O-V-E-R with absolutely no chance of resuscitation. Like most DV victims I didn’t want the marriage to end; I wanted the cruelty, callousness, condemnation and contempt he had for me to end (which never did by-the-way) so in a last-ditch attempt to talk myself out of a TRO, I sought out my priest.

Father’s reply to my question surprised and stunned me. He said “When God gave you those children and entrusted their care to you, they became your priority. We’ll worry about your marriage vows later but for now, you and your children must be kept safe”. Moreover, Father’s reply was quick and without hesitation – said firmly and decisively. Safe? What was all this “safe” talk about? I wasn’t safe from the father of my own children? Nope, I just couldn’t see it.

Each experience we live through provides us with a “pair of glasses” with which we view things. The glasses are rose-colored when we fall in love and if depressed, the glasses we wear rob the world of its color. When I sought my priest’s advice I didn’t have my “DV glasses” yet (those would come later compliments of PACT’s Family Peace Center) so when I recently saw something that Albert Einstein had said in 1930 during a speech to the New History Society

Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.

family court and the many dangerous judicial court orders intended to force peace between a DV survivor and the abuser (co-parenting, cooperation, compromising, direct communication between the parties, etc.) was the first thing to come to mind thanks to my bifocaled “DV/family court glasses”. And that’s the whole thing with all of this: until you’re wearing the glasses, you’re completely blind to what other glass-wearers are seeing!

If you think about understanding as a matter of simply putting on a pair of glasses, it’s an easy problem-solver, right? “Tell me what glasses to wear and I’ll put ‘em on” BUT what about the consequences of doing so?

Putting on the “DV glasses” makes the world an uglier, more confusing and perverse world to live in - just as putting on “sexual abuse glasses” can turn a scantily-clad young woman into a traumatized little girl who dresses the way she’s been groomed or into a prostituted slave.

If glasses existed that allowed you to see the whole, ugly truth would you voluntarily choose to put them on when offered to you or would it be easier - and a happier way to live - if you remained “blind” and comfortably ignorant? Would the choice become harder if I told you that you had a moral obligation to see the truth and act accordingly?

Last year there was a movie released called “Odd Thomas” where instead of glasses, Odd had a “gift” of seeing creatures that harbinger death and doom if present. No one else could see these creatures except for Odd but just because everyone else couldn’t see these creatures doesn’t mean they or the danger didn’t exist. (Click on the attached You Tube video to see what I mean. If you’re not familiar with the story, the creatures will attack once they know you can see them so Odd is pretending he’s not seeing what he’s seeing.)

This scene from the movie perfectly illustrates what survivors experience when they’ve been handed and are now wearing their DV glasses. Those who’ve “successfully escaped” DV are similar to Odd Thomas because now they finally see. Stormy, Odd’s girlfriend, is like the advocates and allies who support victim-survivors; they may not see the demons but they know they’re out there and that they can do harm. The mom who sees nothing wrong and believes she’s taken appropriate measures to protect her children is no different than anyone else without “DV glasses” but more disturbing is that too many family court-related professionals either don’t have a pair of “DV glasses” or refuse to put them on and this is resulting in too many innocent lives being damaged or lost to something those professionals don’t see.

We can’t see the sun creating skin cancer cells and we don’t see our arteries being clogged with high-cholesterol foods but we do see the end results. The primary form of domestic violence is invisible and just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean that it’s not real. Wearing “DV glasses” does mean seeing some things you’d rather not - some scary and horrific stuff that will keep you awake at night and haunt you – but for those who accept money for doing any kind of human service work (counseling, family court, CPS, legislative, medical, etc.) you need to find a good pair of “DV glasses” and never leave home without them – lives are dependent upon it.

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