I found pictures of my right upper arm that I had taken the night before I went into my attorney's office and filed for a divorce - slight bruising, not bad enough to make a fuss about.
I was being kept from leaving the marital home with the two children my husband and I shared. My intentions were to go and stay the night with my parents due to extremely toxic and torturous behavior from my husband. It was 9:30 at night, our children were barely 3 years old, I was terrified, traumatized, and desperate. My flight response had kicked in pretty good and since my husband wasn't letting me leave, I called the police to help me.
As I waited for the police I'm on the floor, legs bent underneath me, with each arm around a twin. They are crying and confused, I'm sitting as still as a statue, eyes straight ahead, my mind trying to understand what was happening but unable to. The view for the kids and I as we waited was our glass front door and I did this on purpose - 1) If I was going to die, he was going to do it for the whole world to see and 2) It was comforting in an extremely tragic way to watch the tree leaves for any hints of red or blue lights.
By this point the trauma being caused to me over the past couple of months was so severe, I am certain I was dissociating and had no idea my husband had been standing behind the kids and I watching out the glass door, as well, and when the police pulled up I felt him rush past us. Before I could even comprehend what was happening, he was out that glass door I had been intently staring at.
I had been doing hours upon hours of research regarding the type of person I was starting to understand I had married and one of the last things I had read was how these personality disordered people will often try to usurp the abused by immediately setting the narrative when police are involved. I vaguely remembered reading in that article that police are supposed to respond to the caller first, so I sat there thinking "I'm the one that called the police - the police are going to come talk to me first. He's an idiot".
Turned out, I was the idiot.
After 10 minutes of waiting and repeating to the kids (and myself) that the police would be in to help us soon, a 6 foot something, young, white officer came inside of the home, laughing with my husband. After telling me who he was, the first thing he asked me was if I had taken any drugs or had any alcohol. As I mentioned before, I had read enough to know what my husband was trying to do with the narrative and with those being the first questions out of the officer's mouth, it appeared my husbands attempts to set the narrative and control the situation had potentially worked.
Still naïve at that point, I held on to hope and thought (logically?) once the officer heard the truth he would realize he had been deceived, gaslit, and manipulated and that the kids and I would be whisked away to safety. I was unaware at that time that the likelihood of the officer believing me was extremely low. I was unaware at the time that my reactions to trauma made me look as though I was the instigator. I was unaware at that time, that most people in this world don't have a clue how to tell the difference between a wound up, paranoid, skittish, confused perpetrator versus a wound up, paranoid, skittish, confused victim.
Tldr: I didn't know at the time that the police would be fooled (or he was already biased) by my husband.
Getting back on track...
So, I'm sitting there with my children and this officer asks me if I've taken drugs or had alcohol and I reply with a defensive "NO" (would not recommend). I immediately followed that "no" with why I had called the police - because I had found out a couple of months prior that my husband had placed hidden devices to secretly record me nude in our bathroom and was now following me around the house with his phone camera and light on me and kept saying he was recording me. I didn't know if there were cameras all over the house watching me, his erratic behavior had been escalating over the months after a brief "I'lL dO aNyThInG tO sAvE tHe MaRrIaGe" act from him, and I wanted to leave with our children and go stay at my parents until morning but he was not letting me do that. I'd worked myself up by this point, rightfully so, and I'm growing impatient with the seemingly indifference this young officer had towards the situation - the atmosphere was quickly turning from a domestic dispute call to 2 dudebros shooting the breeze.
I had convinced myself, or maybe it is just the overabundance of hope I seem to have, that this officer, this helper of the people, was going to see the situation for what it was - a woman scared, abused, and on the brink of a mental breakdown wanting so desperately to get her and her children somewhere they felt safe.
Again, I was the idiot.
Instead of seeing the situation for what it was and simply letting a woman save herself and kids, the officer told me that I had two options - either he can take me to my parents alone because my husband didn't want the children leaving, or I could stay in the home where I was being heinously abused, as were my children by extension.
So here I was, a traumatized, terrified, walking disaster with the fragility of a newborn kitten, being told that I had to choose between leaving behind my children with a man that had done things so wicked to me, that at that point I had no idea what he was capable of, or, I could remain in the home with this man.
I didn't need any time to make my decision, as there was absolutely no way I was leaving my babies behind, so I watched, with both kids still on either side of me, as the officer shook my husband's hand, left the home, and my husband shut the door behind him - making sure I heard him deadbolt it. I kept my head down, told the kids to go to my daughters room, and I prayed.
Still sitting on the floor, now shaking uncontrollably, my husband walks by me headed to to get a relaxing night of sleep, and I'll never forget the smirk on his face when I lifted my eyes as he passed. I stood, up, headed to my daughters room, and after packing bags for my children as they slept (I had nothing as everything was in the master bedroom), I looked at the dresser I had pushed up against the door for the night and sent a text to my mom that read "mom, it's time. pls come get the kids and i at 5 (a.m.). i've got their bags packed. love you."
.....2 months later, at our first hearing for the divorce, my husband's attorney approached me on the stand with the police report from that night and asked me to read a certain section of it out loud. The section he had me read was the officer claiming that I was paranoid and hypervigilant that night - mentally unwell.
I saw red that day.
"OF COURSE I WAS PARANOID & UNWELL" I wanted to scream - I was being horrifically abused, Sir.
That officer could have been the catalyst for the protection I and the kids desperately need(ed) but he made mistakes. I'll never know why those mistakes were made but what I do know, is that I, as the victim of someone who was committing crimes against me, as well as continuing to psychologically, mentally, and emotionally abuse me, have been forced to defend myself against the words of that officer AFTER he turned his back on a victim. It's been a gut wrenching wake-up call to the reality of those in positions of power to help us but don't/can't because this world has zero knowledge of what abuse really looks like.
I, like thousands of other women, have taken an extra interest in the Gabby Petito case, because at some point, we've been Gabby Petito.
My story from above is just one of many that share eerie similarities to events in the Gabby Petito case and I'm positive many of the women out there taking an extra interest in this case, too, can echo similarities between their own experiences and this one.
You see, there are some of us out there, lots, probably, that have been that girl - the one being abused but misidentified as the mentally unstable one. We know it is the abuse causing our hysteria and mental (un)wellness. We have cried in silence over our own horrors that went unheard or mocked. We are having survivor's guilt. We are feeling, on a visceral level, the things Gabby went through and the things her friends and family have/are/will be going through. We feel, on a visceral level, the things Gabby must've felt as the officer painted her as the villain and the boyfriend as the victim. We are watching in real time all of the evil tactics both abusers and their family/friends use to stay in control over the victim &/or situation. We watch, along with others around the world, as the boyfriend successfully manipulates and fools multiple people - except when we watch the same things you all watch, our stomachs knot up recalling all of the times we've witnessed our own abusers switch from dehumanizer to charmer in a flash, creating a narrative based on fictitious evil, and the people that fall for it.
A lot of survivors are feeling a sense of despair, right now, and if I'm being completely honest, we're also probably feeling some borderline rage. Rage at our peers, communities, the general public, and those in professions intended to help and keep us safe. Rage at the lack of knowledge & the lack of care or concern to even become knowledgeable about covert abuse. Rage at all of the times we, too, have been let down, ignored, & forgotten.
And maybe this is something we, as survivors, have to come to terms with - that life isn't fair. But, while life might not be fair, it should be safe.
The hardest lesson in going through what I went through and now watching identical things happening on the nightly news is recognizing that I can't make people want to understand this rapidly growing problem of personality disordered abusers. I can't make people not want to automatically finger point because of bias. And the one I'm still trying to learn, is that I can't make people want to do better, do more, to have a healthier and safer world for our youth and those raising them.
What I can do, because I'm still alive to do it, is use my voice and have hope that maybe one officer, one bystander, one anybody will read this, remember it, and have learned enough from it to maybe save a soul some day.