It was one of the few things he felt good at and seemed to be able to find employment in. If I filed a Restraining Order against him, he wouldn’t be able to pass the background check for a guard card. All I wanted was to get out, not destroy my abuser.
That was how I felt even as I sat in a 60 day emergency shelter for battered women. I was still healing from strangulation marks around my neck, PTSD, and a few other post stress manifestations. Even though I was in a desperate situation because of his abuse, I was still concerned about his well being. I was still putting my welfare and that of my children second to him.
I went as long as could without filing against him. I was told that if I didn’t file for a permanent restraining order and have it in place by the time I timed out, I would not qualify for the transitional rehabilitation program. If that happened I would lose custody of my two girls, I would have visitation with them, and I would owe child support while trying to recover from being economically, emotionally, and physically damaged by my abuser. The only child I would have left with any contributing say with would be my youngest son. I didn’t feel like I justified in filing.
It was difficult for me to wrap my head around how bad things were with my abuser. It was also difficult to come to terms with just how afraid of him I was. Filing a restraining order seemed more like an invitation for more trouble. It seemed like a challenge of his authority over authority. A restraining order was an opportunity to for him to demonstrate that the law could not protect me and that it was just a piece of paper to him. But it had to be done. It was him or my children. I refused to live in any more fear of him.
So I filed my temporary restraining order, which was granted, and waited for my hearing date. Each day I waited stories would be passed around the shelter of restraining orders that failed to protect. I watched women come back denied their permanent order. There were others that were granted only a minimum amount of time and there was a minimum of two years needed for the transitional program. Fear was mounting.
Every now and then the shelter staff would ask if I needed an advocate to come with me to the hearing. I would continually turn them down sure of my own confidence. Well, that and, he would have to be transported in by the sheriff’s department because he was in custody. What could he do to me anyway? Yet, two days before the hearing I could feel panic start to well in me.
I was more afraid of my abuser than I realized. That advocated that I needed was not available so I had to face a judge and my abuser on my own. I had to explain in front of both parties why I felt I needed a permanent restraining order, my abuser only a few feet from me, with no attorney in between. I was sick to my stomach.
Fortunately, my abuser was not transported in from where he was being held. That was helpful. Instead of being nauseous and dizzy I was predominately just nauseous. Another fortunate outcome for me was that on October 24th, 2011, I was granted my permanent order with the maximum amount of time. Although I was quite happy with the outcome, I had a question.
“Your honor? How can I can protect the best interests and safety of my son in the form of sole custody once the restraining order expires?”
He responded by giving me instruction, acquiring some needed paper work to follow through with, and having the bailiff hand it to me. His instructions were for me to open another case to establish parental rights. It would run concurrent with my restraining order until the order expired, remaining effective until my son turned 18. Seemed simple. As far as I knew this was going to be open and shut. This had come down from a judge.
I was wrong. This was going to be an ongoing struggle.