When it comes to domestic violence and an abuser staying in control, that's their most valuable and powerful asset -- the victim's silence.
A couple months ago, Aiden's other parent resurfaced, He started texting and calling me non-stop, and then showing up to my apartment building uninvited.
Stalking and harassing and trying to intimidate me.
I wasn't sure what his motives were, but I had two guesses: either he found this little space on the Internet, got a glimpse into Aiden's life, and wanted to be a part of it... or something in his life is currently out of his control and he's looking for a way to exert power over something or someone else.
And that someone is me.
Deep, deep, deep down inside, I'm hoping it's the former. But my heart, mind, and soul are telling me that it's the latter.
Either way, I've been afraid. More afraid than I ever thought I'd be. And, consequently, more stressed than I ever thought I'd be.
I've always tried to imagine what it would be like to run into him or see him again. I figured I'd be a little scared, but still brave. Brave enough to walk with my head up and shoulders squared. Brave enough to speak my truth and tell it like it is. Brave enough to act from a place of power and strength, not confusion, fear, or despair.
But when I saw him standing on the corner of my block a few weeks ago, I froze. My head was not up, my shoulders were not squared. Instead, my heart stopped on that Tuesday evening.
You have got to be kidding me, was my first thought.
I hope he doesn't try to start some shit, was my second.
I held Aiden's hand as tight as I could and hurried into our building. I was shaking and the tears were beginning to form in my eyes and my mind was racing... Please just let me make it inside my apartment. Please just let me be safe. Please just let me spare Aiden from witnessing anything horrific right now. Please let us just get upstairs and lock the doors behind us...
Once upstairs, my phone rang. Over and over and over again. It was him. Then the text messages came. Over and over and over again.
I didn't respond. I contemplated calling the police, but I didn't want Aiden to have to hear or see any of that. (Although he was clearly aware of my stress and emotional state.)
That's the thing about living in a constant state of fear and stress and panic... it effs up your entire life and it's no way to live.
In fact, it's downright debilitating!
Having to look over my shoulders every five seconds whenever I was leaving my home or coming back to my home is no way to live. But I've lived that way these past few weeks. Having to literally run from my building to the train station or from the train station to my building because I didn't want to run in to my abuser is also no way to live. But, again, I've lived that way in these past few weeks.
I started locking the top lock of my front door during the day (something that I've never done before!) because I had crazy thoughts of him somehow getting into my apartment while I was at work and holding me hostage in my apartment once I got home.
After all, he's done it before. Twice.
I've spent sleepless nights starring out of my window wondering if he was outside of my building and thinking that I should use the basement exit when I leave for work in the morning.
One weekend, I cancelled lunch plans that I had with a girlfriend (sorry J!) and a fun event that I planned to take Aiden to (sorry A!). Instead, we spent the entire weekend in the apartment because I was too fearful to go outside. I called it our Pajama Party weekend and we made pizza and watched movies.
I always tell folks to share their story, to give a voice to what has happened to them, to begin the healing process. Yet, here I was hiding, running, being silent, being afraid, being powerless...
So I got my power back.
A couple weeks ago, I went to family court and filed for a restraining order. With my head up and shoulders squared. I had to go to that place and relive the abuse so that I could tell the court clerk and the judge exactly what happened to me, but I did it. I was nervous and scared, but I knew that I had to push pass those feelings to end up on the other side.
The judge granted my restraining order and the police served it to him.
He's not allowed to be near me, my home, my work, Aiden's school, or any place that I frequent. He's not allowed to contact me by mail, phone, e-mail, voicemail, or use any other means to get in contact with me. He can't assault, harass, menace, strangle, attempt to intimidate, coerce, or engage in any other type of disorderly conduct towards me. He can't interfere with the care and custody of my parenting. He can't try -- in any way -- to exude power over me.
A schedule will be set up by family court in order for Aiden and him to have visits with each other and I have to walk around with my extra copy of the restraining order at all times. (You know, just in case shit hits the fan.) It feels kinda weird having to walk around with a piece of paper at all times, but if it means that Aiden and I will be safe, I'll do it.
I told my story. It's documented. It's on the record. And I can't help but to feel a bit more free.
After all these years, I got a restraining order. And my power back.