The following piece was written by WCA Ambassador and survivor, Arlene Hull.
We were the perfect family. Wonderful kids – excelling in school, music, and sports. Charming husband – principal of a treasure valley high school– my own daughter’s school. Dedicated wife, mother, teacher.
I would stop my car a few blocks from away from our home to gather myself – to stop the tears. I was fearful of what would happen when I got home. You see – we were NOT the perfect family. AND our family did not fit the stereotype of domestic abuse. This kind of abuse can be AS or more damaging than the kind that turns you black and blue.
He was not the man anyone knew in public. He is an addict. Addicted to pornography. Addicts, as we know, can be abusive. We were being emotionally and financially abused.
- The kids and I were lied to, ignored, manipulated and shamed.
- My ex-husband took my daughter’s computer then blamed his perversion on his son. My son (age 14 at the time) was accused of viewing child porn. His father berated him for months – until I found out about it. When I asked my son why he didn’t come to me, he said – no one would believe a kid – and I was starting think it WAS me, Mom– his father’s manipulation was powerful.
- He would explode with anger. We learned to walk on eggshells when he was home.
- He used abusive language– especially toward my son – calling him names I cannot repeat.
- He destroyed my chances of finding better paying jobs by deleting emails for follow up interviews.
- He put us at financial risk – the risk of losing his job. He was failing at work and was asked to resign. He took a lower paying job in another district. The school didn’t know about his addiction – because I was too afraid to tell — they just knew he was not getting the job done.
- I tried for years to help him – but he said – 3 psychologists, a psychiatrist and several marriage counselors were all wrong.
- He told me he “didn’t know what he would do to himself” if I left him.
- During the divorce, he refused to sign paperwork unless I kept quiet.
- And he withheld child support after the divorce.
I was being sexually abused. I was told I was not sexy enough, not pretty enough, and was coerced/forced into things that were demeaning.
He was very smart, smart enough to cover his tracks – even if it meant entering our home to remove evidence – once even when the kids and I were home. This event continues to worry us.
After I finally found the courage to get him to leave (the scene was like a very bad Lifetime movie) – and after I thought the kids were in a safe place emotionally – I contacted the authorities. A long investigation ended in enough evidence for a search warrant. His school district’s IT department found that he was accessing my email accounts. He eventually pled guilty to a computer crime – was fined and sentenced to 90 days in jail, 2 years probation, and a no contact order was put in place. Here is the shocker – he is still employed as an asst. principal even though he violated many of the District’s and State Department’s codes of professional ethics. He used school computers to commit a crime – so this is not a personnel issue – this is a public issue.
For my own safety, I was advised by my court advocate not attend the trial. Usually sentencing occurs at another hearing, but the judge decided to sentence at trial. So – I was denied my right to share my statement.
My children were fearful of what he might do next – and they SO wanted to begin a new life. They asked if they could change their last name. My daughter told me his name seemed vulgar. The judge denied her right to change her name until she served papers to her father – even though she had met all the requirements – she was a legal adult . When my son became an adult, he was allowed to change his name without contacting his father. To us – it seemed the system was working against women.
I am sharing today, as I was unaware what the WCA could offer us at the time – Free counseling, court assistance, and support. When I filed for divorce, I was frozen with fear. If I hired a lawyer – what would he do to me? He revised the divorce agreement on his own many times and expected me to accept his demands. After I finally found the guts to hire a lawyer, it took 2 more court cases to eventually put an end to his threats and manipulation.
Had I known about the WCA, I would have been on the path to healing in months, rather than years.
Another reason I want to share our story is that you can become a lifeline.
Ask. Ask questions if something don’t look or feel right.
Listen. Listen to your friends, family, and colleagues.
Speak. Speak up in support – you can support the WCA financially and in other ways. You can also support tougher laws for survivors. You can stand up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Thankfully, the WCA has worked to make things better in the ADA county court system. For my family’s sake, I wish I had known about the WCA. I do now, and I am honored to be a WCA ambassador.