Here is her story:
"I was married to an abusive, controlling, truly awful man for eight years. He was arrested on a domestic violence charge early in our marriage, but manipulated me into not pressing charges and convinced me he would change.
He only changed for the worse. And after many years spent in a living nightmare, I found the courage to leave him.
We had two children together - Megan, who is now age 6, and Lucy, age 4. And have had split placement of both girls since the beginning of 2012, six months before our divorce was finalized. They spend four nights a week with me, and three with him.
I receive a modest amount of child support from this man - $200 per week for both girls combined, $800 a month total. He is the president and CEO of his own company, a firm with several high-profile corporate clients. I am a former teacher, trying to get back into teaching, and currently work as an office manager. My present salary is very small, but I try to live frugally and manage to pay my bills and care for my kids.
Last week, he had me served with papers at my job. He has filed a motion seeking full placement of the girls, because he is moving to a town where his girlfriend of four months lives and he
wants them to go to school there next year. When he first announced this plan to me I was shocked and tried to reason with him. I am moving to another nearby town with a much better public school system, so our girls can get a first-class education. He would hear nothing of it. His exact words were, "It's about what's convenient for me." No, it's about what's best for our girls.
Furthermore, he has filed financial statements with the court claiming to be nearly broke and seeking child support from me, to go along with full placement of the girls. This is a man who drives around in a BMW convertible, eats out at fancy restaurants, buys expensive things, attends high-priced fundraisers, travels frequently for business and pleasure, and generally lives a lavish lifestyle.
I don't know where to begin to tell you what life with this man was like. I slept with my purse underneath my bed, so I could be ready to leave at any moment if things got bad enough. If he was mad at me, he wouldn't let me sleep, just turned the lights on in our bedroom and shoved or kicked me while I laid there in the bed. The night the police took him away from our house, he had thrown me from one room into the next. Once he dragged me through the downstairs by my hair and threw me against the wall. One night he pushed me onto the floor and choked me. I truly believed I was going to die.
He had multiple affairs, one of them while I was pregnant with our second daughter. Then he moved out the day before I had the baby. Taking most of the furniture out of our house while I sat on the couch with my stepsisters, wondering whether my water was about to break. I should never have let him move back in. But I was so scared of him. He had a power over me that is very hard for someone who's never been abused to comprehend.
Despite all the abuse I endured, I somehow never thought he would mistreat our two girls. That all changed about six weeks ago.
My ex- dropped them off outside my house one evening in mid-February. I came outside. The girls were excited to see me, but he wanted to give them hugs. He makes a big show of hugging and kissing them goodbye when he drops them off with me. So he picked up Megan, and she turned around to look at me and was smiling, and suddenly, he yelled at her, and shook her, and told her not to do that, that she was too big to be turning around in his arms and was hurting his back. Then he set her down, and continued trying to hug her, and she squirmed in his arms and turned to look at me again, this time with a scared look on her face, and he did the exact same thing for a second time. Shook her and yelled at her in a very mean tone of voice.
I saw and heard the whole thing. I had not seen him act this way towards them before. His harsh tone of voice brought back memories of how he always talked towards me, an incessant torrent of verbal abuse. And it concerned me greatly. Reflecting back, I realized there were other signs. For quite a while, the girls had been getting upset when they knew they were going to his condo the next morning.
So I went up to the girls and said, "say goodbye to Daddy," then brought them in the house.
Megan was pretty shaken up by what had happened. I waited until the next morning, and then asked her, "Does Daddy yell at you like that a lot?"
And she said, "Yeah, but not as bad he yells at Lucy." And I looked over at Lucy sitting on the floor, and she had a big sad look on her face and just nodded her head. My heart sank. I couldn't believe this was happening all over again to my babies.
He drove them around without car seats for a year and a half. He's late with his meager child support nearly 75% of the time. I make almost all of their doctor's appointments and have attended all their parent-teacher conferences, while he's barely attended any. He sends them to sleep over at a sitter's house on nights when he has dates or travel plans, refusing to notify me and let me take them for the night, in violation of our divorce agreement.
My heart hurts thinking about my two little girls being forced to live under this man's irrational control and irresponsible care for five days a week. He is counting on the fact that his money can buy attorneys' fees (even though he's claiming near-poverty!), and thinks he can easily outspend me in a protracted custody battle.
But friends have loaned me enough to retain a good lawyer, and now I am telling my story and turning to others for help. Thank you for reading and for anything you can contribute to this fight."
Like most people in abusive relationships, my friend kept much of this story to herself during her marriage. When she shared more details with me about what led to the divorce, my only surprise was that another strong woman had to become even stronger just to survive. But she can't face this battle - the battle to protect her children - alone.
I feel compelled to help her out any way I can. With a little help from all of you out there who care about kids, and their fundamental right to live in a safe, loving home, two of the sweetest little girls I know will get to remain in their mother's protective care and attend good schools. We can't thank you enough for your kindness and support.
Note: Megan and Lucy's names have been changed. All donations will be going directly to their mother's legal fund. Her lawyer estimates a case like this, if it drags out, could cost her nearly $20,000. Please like or share this page on Facebook or Twitter.
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