Ema...when your daughter has freed herself from the "spell" as you describe it, you will
have the happiness you (and she) deserve. In the meantime...keep talking.
The professional literature about toxic relationships speaks
of "magical thinking," which objects (victims) of domestic abuse
practice with regard to our marriages and families.
In the context of my divorce, I wished to give my young daughter
access to her father and his parents. Not being egocentric or a law-
breaker, I thought in those decent, conventional terms.
My estranged and then ex-husband and his family used the opening
that the Family Court made available to them through generous
visitations, to incite and otherwise manipulate my daughter against
her life with me and to alienate her from me.
De facto and then de jure, her father and his family removed her
from me. It took them nearly four years, but they did it.
Not only doesn't my ten-year-old live in my custody, but also, she
barely wishes to know me. First, they punished her with ridicule
for her sharing my lifestyle, and then they seduced her with
material luxury. They destroyed the entire infrastructure of her
life with me, turned her against all her childhood friends and
against all our (my and her) adult family friends. She can't even
imagine a life with me anymore.
As of this writing, we have not celebrated a single holiday
together, nor spent together a single weekend or portion of a school
vacation, in over a year. In fact, I can count on the fingers of
one hand the number of times that we have even seen each other.
Her father, a pathological liar in most circumstances - in ALL
circumstances when dealing with the Family Court and Social Welfare
Department -- spoke the truth when he told her that he would take
her from me, and that she would not see me again.
This is not something that he, even with the help of his family,
could have accomplished alone. He needed a cadre of judges, social
workers and child psychologists backing him, and he got what he
needed. He was able to co-opt an entire legal system.
[WHY I AM WRITING THIS BOOK]
I am writing this book out of a depth of loss, pain, guilt and
confusion that has left me, some nights, on the living-room floor
thrashing about or curled up in fetal position, with my dog
whimpering beside me and licking the tears from my eyes.
I am writing this book to reclaim my voice, which was taken from me
by a legal system that serves powerful social interests, and serves
itself, but certainly does not serve, or protect, the children of
It is terrible to lose one's voice in society. It is an experience
of absolute powerlessness.
Even people who have lost the use of their hands and must write or
paint with their feet, even quadriplegic artists who hold their
paintbrush in their mouths, even people with locked-in syndrome who
communicate with eye blinks, possess compensatory voice. It is
their lifeline to self and world.
Even babies, who lack verbal language, insist on having an effect on
their surroundings. If they drop their drinking bottle or cup on
the floor, they are delighted to have made something happen in the
world. In this way, they come to human self-awareness and self-
My voice was silenced. Not by my abuser, and not by something as
gigantic and careless as "the legal system."
Individuals, who exercised their official powers and then retreated
into the vast irresponsibility that belonging to a bureaucratic
collective affords its members, silenced me.
Over the years, I grew so overwhelmed and frightened by how
individual judges and custody evaluators spoke to -- and about - me,
with such hostility and disdain - that I grew quieter and quieter.
Over the years, I became so exhausted by the no-holds-barred
campaign of personal humiliation conducted by my daughter's father,
and his attorney, IN THE COURTROOM - which no judge EVER put a stop
to -- that eventually I despaired.
My experience in the legal system taught me despair. I learned that
whether I stayed silent or spoke up, and no matter what I said or
did, I would not be believed, and if I were believed, it would
achieve no protection from bullying for my daughter or myself.
I am writing this book to reclaim my voice in society, to bear
witness to the injustices that were done to me and my child, as
separate individuals and as mother-and-daughter, behind closed
doors -- first, by my husband in the privacy of the family home, and
then, by judges, social workers and psychologists in the privacy of
their courtrooms and offices.
When my daughter will have grown and can release herself from the
spell of her father's household, perhaps she will rediscover her
mother and aspects of herself through these pages.
I wish to believe that if she can recover her mother's drama in the
world, and if she is able to hear my voice in all its flawed, human
wholeness, I will earn from her the respect, affection, forgiveness
and love that I hope I deserve.