The only way I can write this is to tell myself I won’t publish it. I don’t even know how to write it. I know it’s convoluted because the only person who could understand it on the first try is the criminal lawyer.

When I moved to Pennsylvania with the kids last November the Farmer gave me a bill for $35K.

I told him, “Fine. I’ll pay you back in a few months.”

I have a long track record of paying him back huge sums of money.

But then he called his bank and told them I stole his credit card and have been charging things on it for half a year.

I leave 20 messages for 20 lawyers. I tell myself it’s like a job interview – each time you explain you get a little more clear. But I can’t get the story to make sense.

My husband’s credit cards were tied to my PayPal account and he’s saying all the transactions on PayPal with his cards are fraud.

My ex-husband is frustrated that I’m not paying him back fast enough so he is taking the money I paid other people.

I was living with this guy for seven years and I used his credit cards to pay our bills but now he’s saying I stole the cards.

In the meantime, I try to make the boys feel normal by watching Silicon Valley. Season 3 episode 4. We snuggle together on the too-small sofa and watch Pied Piper implode.

No callbacks.

I call my dad. No answer. I do two calls right in a row – the universal signal for an emergency.

I tell myself maybe he wouldn’t have helped me anyway. We’ve asked him for help with legal stuff since we were kids. My brother asked him to argue a parking ticket and my dad said, “I’m not a traffic lawyer.” My mom wanted him to write a letter to the neighbor about sewage, and he said, “I’m not a civil litigator.”

My dad becomes a master of all things legal only when it’s useful for him. Like when I finally called the police on him.

I call my brother to see if he can tell me what kind of lawyer I need to talk to. He tells me, “You should go to a domestic violence center.”

I get pissed. I hang up on him. I am not homeless. I need a lawyer. When he needs a lawyer he goes to a million dollar NYC law firm. When I need a lawyer he thinks I should go to a place for women who are falling apart.

I call my mother for help. She points me to her divorce lawyer. She was his favorite client. In 1987. They still keep in touch. He listens to me for 30 minutes. I can tell I’m still explaining it poorly.

I call Melissa.

This is all my fault. I’m terrible with money. I misused his money. He had such nice life before he met me.

She tells me to go to the same place my brother told me to go. (He texted Melissa to tell me since I hung up on him.) She tells me what he’s learned: that the financial stuff amounts to harassment and harassment is a form of abuse and it fits the pattern of people likely to conduct more physical abuse.

I ask Melissa if she thinks I should go. She says yes. There is data to back this up. She reminds me of this article.

So I finally call the number my brother texted me. I try again to explain what happened, this time to the crisis person.

I was in an abusive relationship with my husband and I left. And he’s not really my husband. And he thinks because I haven’t paid him back what I owe him yet that I’m a thief. And he is telling his banks that I stole his credit cards.

She says, “It’s very common for physical abuse to turn into a another form of abuse once there is physical distance.”

I start crying.

I get lost on the way to the domestic abuse place. They hand me a form that asks me about the last time I was abused. I leave it blank. I am not sure what was abuse and what wasn’t.

The form asks you to check off the types of abuse you have experienced: One of the choices is vehicle. My first thought is: What? Then I remember the Farmer trying to run me over with his tractor. I make a check mark. I am shocked. I make another check mark next to physical. I would never be checking these boxes if I didn’t document it all here on this blog. I take a picture. Here. Right now. I’m scared I won’t believe I was ever here.

The social worker hands me a printout. It is a circle to show the cycle of domestic violence. I cry again. I tell her the Farmer would say I do all these things.

I have written about the cycle. But I can write about the cycle and it’s like I write it and then it’s out of my head.

She shows me the part on the wheel where the abuser makes the victim feel responsible.

I tell her he would be so so angry to hear someone summarizing our relationship this way. He thinks I’m manipulative and full of shit.

The center of the cycle says control. The social worker says, “The abuser is always trying to get control.”

I feel dizzy and sick but I don’t tell her that because the Farmer says I make him feel dizzy and sick and he would say I’m manipulating people when I say that.

The lawyer comes in. I cannot get a restraining order when I’m not in the same state. She tells me she can help me file a criminal complaint with the Attorney General. “What he’s done is very serious,” she tells me. She warns me I cannot withdraw the complaint once I file.

I feel too sorry for him. I don’t file.

The criminal lawyer calls me back. He says, “Wait. I don’t get it. Is there a lot of money here or not a lot of money?”

I say, “Do you watch Silicon Valley?”

He says, “Yes.”

I say, “It’s like that. I either have tons of money or no money.”

He gets it.

Toward the end of the call he says, “I totally agree — this an extension of physical abuse.”

Wait. What did he just say? I didn’t even hear what he said after that. I write it down. So I’ll believe it later.

He says it’s not a big deal. He’ll call PayPal. It’ll take him an hour or two. He’ll call the Farmer and explain this is not credit card fraud. He says in the worst case the Farmer can sue me in a civil case, but it’s highly unlikely because he has a weak case and it would cost so much money.

In the middle of all this my older son gets a text from the Farmer: “Hi. How are you doing? Did you get the package I sent with your mail?”

I lay down. I feel delirious. I shut my eyes. My phone rings. It’s my dad.

I don’t answer. I text instead: “Thank you for calling back. I needed some advice but I figured things out.”

He texts: “I called your mom. Is everything okay? Is the marriage over?”

I text: “Yeah. I don’t think he realizes that it’s over. He actually thinks things are fine. He thinks he is doing nothing wrong and I have poor judgment and that’s just how life is. He said he’s coming next month to celebrate the boys’ birthdays.”

He texts: “It seems that he has always had doubts about your judgment, but managed to accommodate. Be careful. He’s a good man who can deal with your quirks. This is not easy to come by.”

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  1. GD
    GD says:

    Thank you for writing this. I am going through something that seems similar to what you went through. It is so hard to know the right thing to do — the rational part says to leave, when I’m by myself or talking to my therapist it all seems clear. But then I can’t imagine how I could ever actually leave. It is easier to endure hitting and being called names and accusations than it is to contemplate the huge horrible fight that would be breaking up. I know it makes us terrible parents to be exposing our daughter to this, but somehow my fear takes precedence over my responsibility to her. I would love an update on how you are doing now. Hope you are in a more sane place.


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