It begins slowly. My daughter met a boy, well actually he was a young man- age 18 years old when she was 16. As soon as I met him I had a bad feeling but I had nothing to base it on other than a mother’s intuition.
Always follow your intuition, it rarely fails you
I knew my daughter was struggling with her self-esteem but I didn’t know how to help her. When she was in 9th grade all of her “good friends” turned their back on her after she began dating an 11th grade student. He was popular and they were jealous. Losing all of her good friends so suddenly changed my daughter for the remainder of her high school years.
Her crowd of friends changed drastically and it scared me. But, I was hoping it was temporary and her old friends would come around- at best, I was hoping she would realize these kids were possibly going to lead to trouble and she would pull away. It’s not easy to pull away from your “new” crowd when you are in High School.
Near the end of of her junior year in high school she met “Mark” (not his real name). She brought Mark home one day to meet us and I had a sick feeling in my gut as soon as I met him. After Mark left, I asked her what she saw in him, and her reply was a typical teenage girl’s reply, “He’s hot and nice to me.”
Mark got high a lot and drank. I would have conversations with my daughter about it, and she would get defensive and tell me I was “too judgmental and wrong!”
Mark was very quiet when he would come over. He would sit very close to my daughter, as if he was trying to say, “she’s mine, all mine,” sort of like an animal claiming its territory. If I tried to make small talk with Mark, which I did quite frequently, it was rare that Mark would look me in the eye when I spoke to him. His eyes were always red, but my daughter made excuses when I would bring up my concerns about drug use.
As their relationship progressed my daughter would come home at times (many, actually) and run to her room. Mark would stand in my kitchen crying and giving me lame excuses. Part of me wanted to believe him because she wasn’t being honest with me and I had no proof that Mark was worse than I could have imagined.
I wasn’t able to sleep at night, I called her High School Guidance Counselor for “guidance” and she told me that my daughter was just going through a phase and she was actually the top dog… feeling in control after what happened to her in 9th grade. Her counselor told me to give it time and my daughter would make the right decisions. She had faith that my daughter was in a temporary situation and she was the one in control. I even sent my daughter to a professional counselor, only to find out later in the years my daughter lied to her counselor in order to be released from therapy as quick as possible.
Near the end of my daughter’s 12th grade year she had an awakening. Mark had been threatening her physically for some time and there were times he did become physical but she never told us- not until she ended the relationship. She was afraid of Mark. She was afraid to tell us what was going on while they dated because she feared him more and the retributions if we confronted him.
I felt a sense of relief but I also feared for her after she broke up with Mark
I worked in health care for years and I knew what the pattern of an abuser was. Because of my knowledge, I also understood just because she ended the relationship didn’t mean he was going to go away easily.
But, my daughter reassured us that he realized she moved on and he was moving on as well. That was lie, it wasn’t an intentional lie; she just wanted to believe it was true. But, abusers don’t take rejection very well, something my daughter wasn’t aware of until after she broke up with Mark.
Mark would call and text her frequently after she broke up but she told us that he stopped at some point. Finally, I was feeling a sense of relief… that didn’t last long.
We headed to Maine during the summer of my daughter’s senior year
My daughter didn’t want to go and she was 18 years old at the time. We allowed her to stay at home with a friend. One evening she called us to tell us that she had to call the police because Mark found out she was alone and was banging on our door and windows. Talk about feeling out of control, the police were still there when she called and I spoke with one of them. He reassured me they would have a car monitoring our home until we returned home.
We left the next day to return home
Once we got home and settled back in, my daughter FINALLY opened up to me. Mark had been calling and texting her approximately 100 times a day, threatening her along with begging her to go back out with him!
I also called a friend of my daughter’s who had a wonderful boyfriend who I trusted. He confided in me that Mark stole his mom’s car one evening (this happened before we even left for Maine), Mark also took a gun with him. Mark’s mom called one of the guys to let them know. The guys took my daughter to another residence so she’d be safe and confronted Mark. They thought they could get through to him. The guys were unable to reason with him. Mark’s mom never reported him for stealing her car, let alone taking a gun with him- she was fully aware.
After watching so many TV shows about true crime stories and abusers that kill, I knew I had to do more. I wasn’t sure who to turn to because there isn’t text book information out there when it comes to serial abusers.
I ended up calling A Safe Place For Women to get advice. They told me to write her a letter (because she refused to turn him in). They even told me what to write in the letter and went on to say, “Put it on her bed, she may not tell you she read it but hopefully she’ll reach out soon.” At the time, I thought, “right… as if that will be of any help.”
I was wrong
My daughter called A Safe Place For Women within a day of the letter I wrote and they gave her another number to call, along with telling her they would be her advocate. She finally reported him and got a restraining order. The State Police went to his home to serve him and they took away all of his guns after he allowed them in. My husband went to court with my daughter to validate the restraining order- he wanted Mark to remember she has a loving family who were protecting her. Mark was told he couldn’t come within 500 ft. of my daughter for 18 months and his guns were also in their possession for 18 months as well. I feared this would push him over the edge but he finally left my daughter alone.
I’m not sure when I was able to sleep again without fearing for her when she was out with friends but that day did come. Mark never bothered my daughter again after he was served with a restraining order. I also live in a small town and the Police were really tough on Mark, he did fear the police which was good for my daughter.
The good news?
My daughter went to college and earned her nursing degree. She didn’t date for a very long time. Once she began to date again she asked her brother and sister in law to go with her the first time to meet up with the young man who asked her to meet him publicly. My son really liked “John,” which was reassuring to me. My daughter and “John” began dating slowly.
My daughter is now 31 years old and ended up marrying “John.” They dated for 4 years and he proposed to her. They have 2 children and he treats her with so much love and respect. “John” is a great father too. I believe that time she gave herself without dating allowed my daughter to reassess her choices in guys. She realized she was worthy of being treated like she treated others, with compassion, respect and love.
There isn’t one answer when you know your daughter is in an abusive relationship. All I can reiterate is to follow your gut. Don’t give up when you feel they are shutting you out, my daughter shut us out for self protection. If you feel your daughter is in an abusive relationship, make all the calls you need until you find someone who can direct not only you but your daughter too. They may fool you into thinking everything is okay, even though you know it’s not- they may fool you into thinking they can handle it but don’t believe them if you suspect otherwise.
Don’t be afraid to call professionals who deal with abusive men for advice. Don’t be afraid to call law enforcement for advice. Just keep reminding yourself, your daughter’s life is more important than her temporary anger she may project towards you. The anger that’s projected is fear and that’s when they need us along with outside forces the most.