The Lazarus Project

Resurrecting hope for Christian victims and survivors of family violence.

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Recognizing Snakes

An e-mail from a survivor (who had left her abuser years before) detailed glitches she was having in court-ordered visitation. Here is my response to her:

    From what you've said, it certainly does sound like he is being manipulative
and controlling. Also, it sounds like your ex has difficulty with
responsibility overall. That can be very problematic.

     What concerns the kids -- scouting, homework, church-- doesn't seem to be very high on his list of priorities. It seems that what matters to him is him. It sounds as if the kids are merely his playtoys, to pay attention to or disregard as his whim dictates. Sadly, that is not uncommon for most abusive parents. Since most abusers are narcissistic, being genuinely concerned about others (their children or their spouse or their ex) is contrary to their nature. You might want very much for him to be as concerned about the children's welfare as you are, but that would require him to have a personality transplant. It's simply not in his character.

     I'm sorry to sound so glib about the whole thing. But after you've seen this again and again, after a while, you get to where you can recognize these things and you simply call a spade a spade.

     One of the things that is so hard for victims/survivors is to see beyond the fantasy of what we want things to be and to differentiate out what really is. Knowing that it is the nature of a snake to bite, one would be wise to avoid snakes, right? But one must first learn to recognize them --especially when they are cleverly-disguised as normal, healthy, loving people.  

     And you know, deep down in your heart, that the man is a snake. If he wasn't, you would not have left him. Though he is playing the part of the concerned father, he still hasn't changed his basic nature. He is still a snake. And he will bite you if he can --and the kids, too, if it means he can get at you.

     It is common for changes in visitation to take place as children age. As they get older, they have more and more responsibilities and opportunities, and a wise parent would understand that and try to work things out for the best interests of the children. However, from what you've related to me, it seems that there is only one wise parent in this equation.

     If he is unsatisfied with the arrangements the way they are currently, he has every right to take you to court to request a modification in the visitation schedule. But, if he does, you have every right to mention that he has not been paying the child support that he was ordered to pay (as I recall from a previous conversation).  The judge will likely not view his irresponsibility in a very positive light.

     By the same token, you also have a right to go take him to court to document the visitation arrangements, and to plead to the court that he stop manipulating the children. The court might even make an order to that effect. But he will likely continue to do so, because snakes don't morph into teddy bears (unless they have a serious encounter with Jesus Christ).

     If you have not told both the kids about the game he is playing, I suggest you do so, hard as that might be.  Because I have seen abusers twist their children's minds to the point that they hated their mothers who loved them and sacrificed for them. They tell wicked lies that turn their children's hearts away, and lead to roots of bitterness, unforgiveness, and strife. And, the only way to deal with it is to tackle it head-on. As Ephesians
says, we are to "speak the truth in love."  

    Sometimes, the truth hurts. But then again, so do the lies and the false
beliefs that get set up in the minds of vulnerable children by those who
would deceive them.

--Christine Hagion Rzepka

Posted on 03/29
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