book reviews, divorce, domestic violence, family, marriage, mental health, psychology

Repost: A review of Bullied to Death: Chris Mackney’s Kafkaesque Divorce…

This is an as/is repost of a book I reviewed on September 26, 2015.

In April 2014, I blogged about a man who apparently committed suicide after being “broken down” by the family court system.  Chris Mackney was married to northern Virginia jewelry designer Dina Mackney.  He had two kids with her, a boy and a girl.  They split up and Mackney was both separated from his children and obligated to pay an oppressive amount of child support.  He spent time in jail when he couldn’t come up with the money.  He was repeatedly hauled into court and harassed by child support enforcement officials trying to get “blood from a stone”.  He lost job after job and finally sank into an abyss of pennilessness and despair.

Like me, Mackney was a blogger.  On his now defunct blog, Good Men Did Nothing, he posted about his situation as it became more and more dire.  Finally, on December 29, 2013, Chris Mackney had reached the end of his proverbial rope.  He sat in his car and placed a rifle under his chin, and pulled the trigger.  In the wake of his suicide, his ex wife became executor of his estate, which basically consisted of his car and his computer.  He had lost everything in his divorce, including his grip on his sanity.  Mackney’s ex wife then sicced lawyers on everyone who posted about Mackney’s suicide and managed to get his blog taken down.  Dina Mackney’s lawyers also supposedly had every comment Chris Mackney ever posted on the Internet wiped out.  It was as if his presence on the Internet was being systematically erased.

Not long ago, Michael Volpe, author of Bullied to Death: Chris Mackney’s Kafkaesque Divorce, left me a comment on my blog post about this case.  I usually erase comments that consist of sales pitches, but I was interested in Mackney’s case.  So I went ahead and downloaded Volpe’s book and just finished it last night.  I mostly thought Volpe’s book was a very interesting read.

Volpe explains that decades ago in Texas, Dina Mackney’s father, Pete Scamardo, hired a hitman to kill a former business partner and friend named Sam Degelia, Jr.  The hitman, who was paid $2000, was none other than Charles Harrelson, actor Woody Harrelson’s father.  Once Degelia was successfully offed, Scamardo moved to Virginia where he proceeded to make a fortune in building.  Apparently, Dina Scamardo grew up privileged in northern Virginia.  She married Chris Macknij and then got him to legally change his name to Mackney, because it was a better name for her jewelry design business.

Volpe writes that Dina Mackney came from a family with ruthless and criminal tendencies, which may have made her especially likely to go after her ex husband with zeal.  According to Volpe’s book, there was little left of Chris Mackney when she and the Fairfax County family court were finished with him.  He saw no way to salvage his life or climb out of the bottomless financial hellhole he was in.  So he decided to kill himself.

Volpe’s book is perhaps misnamed.  I purchased it thinking it would be only about Chris and Dina Mackney and their relationship.  That was probably a naive assumption on my part, since Dina Mackney seems clearly against getting her late ex husband’s story out to the masses.  In fact, I think Volpe may be pretty brave to have written this book, since Dina Mackney has established herself as willing to litigate.  Bullied to Death doesn’t include a lot about Chris and Dina Mackney’s marriage; it’s more about what happened after the marriage and what led up to Chris Mackney’s decision to kill himself.  I’d say that makes up a good third of the book.

Another third of the book consists of Volpe’s thoughts on the family court system and how it’s unfair to non-custodial parents, usually fathers.  Volpe has some rather radical ideas about how post divorce parenting and child support should be handled.  At times, the writing is a bit emotional and disjointed and I spotted more than a couple of places where some editing would have been beneficial.  On the other hand, I appreciated that Volpe was gutsy enough to write Mackney’s story to the best of his ability.

While I didn’t always agree with some of Volpe’s ideas, as someone who watched her husband get screwed over by an ex wife and saw him lose contact with his kids, I had some empathy for Volpe’s viewpoint.  While Bill was not hounded by child support enforcement or lawyers, he did pay out the nose in child support for kids who eventually dumped him.  Attentive fathers should not be treated like sperm donors with open wallets.      

Something does need to be done about how divorcing couples with children are handled in the United States.  While I am not at the point at which I’d say child support needs to be abolished, I do think that the system should be more equitable and flexible.  Chris Mackney’s child support was established when he was employed in real estate and had made a lot of money.  Not long after his divorce, Mackney’s business took a downturn and he could not pay the child support ordered by the court.  He quickly went into arrears and was soon completely buried in debt he’d never be able to repay.  He had no contact with his children, whom he dearly loved.  It’s no wonder he became so desperate.

The last third of the book consists of notes, appendices, and citations.  They are useful for those who want to do some follow up research on this sad case and others involving men’s rights in divorce situations.

Volpe’s book was apparently self-published, so it lacks the polish one might expect in something published by a big name outfit.  Moreover, I think it would have been a stronger book had it included more information about Chris and Dina Mackney’s relationship and why their divorce was so acrimonious.  Volpe seems to infer that Dina Mackney came from a family accustomed to resorting to criminal behavior, but everyone knows there are always at least three sides to every breakup story: his, hers, and the truth.

I’m not sure we quite get the whole truth about the Mackneys in Bullied to Death.  However, I do think Volpe basically did a good job writing about this case as much as he was able to.  I doubt he got much cooperation from the other interested parties, so naturally that affected how much of the story he was able to share.  I also think this is a case that needs to be publicized.  While I’m not sure what happened to Chris Mackney or even my own husband is the norm, there are men going through divorce becoming so hopeless that they turn to suicide or other drastic measures.  Their lives matter, too.  

For those who are interested, here is a video of Victor Zen reading Chris Mackney’s suicide note.

This note was originally posted on Chris Mackney’s blog, but his former wife had the blog taken down.

Mike Volpe later left me this comment on my original review:

mike volpe September 27, 2015 at 2:16 PM

This is a fair review of my book. I’m glad you liked and I wish you loved it. I only have two small points to make 1) I never suggested mostly men get screwed and in fact, I was careful in the book to show stories from all angles and 2) while Chris’s ex-wife wanted to remove even all his comments from the internet that failed miserably and most of what Chris has written has remained intact. You are correct that the marriage was not described in too much detail and that’s because one person was dead and the other one didn’t share any of their details. While divorce is he said/she said by nature, I feel comfortable that I presented an accurate description of what happened and not simply choosing Chris’s side. I presented his flaws, including his adultery, but committing adultery compared to covering up a murder are not, in my opinion, in the same league.

A few other people also left useful comments.

See Lo December 10, 2016 at 1:57 AM

I will soon be reading this book. The corruption and child support extortion needs to stop. #ChrisMackney will live on and his story is only the beginning.

Walter Singleton January 3, 2017 at 8:28 PM

Chris Mackney’s story is an extreme example of what happens to fathers (and sometimes mothers) in family courts EVERY SINGLE DAY. Family Court is a place where corruption reigns supreme – malicious spouses, dirty lawyers, and apathetic judges often join forces to destroy one of the parties. Once they decide which parent is on the losing side, there is often no recovery. This is a system that NEEDS to be fixed.

Those of you who have been regular readers of my blog may know why this subject interests me, although I don’t have the same level of interest in it as I once had. I do think domestic violence against men is an often overlooked and ignored problem. I applaud any author who is brave enough to take it on, even if they self-publish their work.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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divorce, domestic violence, marriage, mental health, psychology

Repost: Man commits suicide after being broken down by family court system…

I am reposting this entry from April 24, 2014 because I am going to repost a book review I later wrote about this case.

Today, I heard the tragic story of Chris Mackney, a father of two who split from his ex wife and then got financially raped by the family court system in Fairfax, Virginia.  He posted a suicide note, which was then posted to a number of Web sites, including A Voice For Men.  After Mr. Mackney’s death, his ex wife Dina sicced lawyers on the Web sites who dared to post her ex’s suicide note and discuss his demise.  If you follow the link to A Voice For Men, you can read the note in question, since at this writing the site is refusing to take it down.  You can also listen to today’s edition of Going Mental, which is a show hosted by Paul Elam of A Voice For Men and Dr. Tara Palmatier.

A discussion about this tragic case of domestic violence allegedly perpetrated against a man.

I have to say, I’m not nearly as jaded about women or marriage as Elam and Dr. T. are.  However, I do agree with a lot of their advice and if I had a son, I would advise him in much the same way they advise men who are listening.  Unfortunately, a lot of the men who are listening are nice guys who have already been burned by extremely vindictive women who make it their mission to screw over their exes.  I think it’s a very sad state of affairs… even as I also understand that women get screwed by their ex husbands, too.  I can understand why they offer advice against marriage or even having kids.

I feel lucky that Bill trusted me after his experience with his ex wife.  If I were him, I’d have probably stayed single.

The author of the book I reviewed about left a comment on the original post, alerting me to his work. See the next post for my reposted review.

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Duggars, Ex, narcissists, psychology, Trump

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear…”

This morning, I’m reminded of the popular saying that serves as today’s post title. It’s a lesson we’ve learned again and again. The universe will give you opportunities to learn lessons. In our case, we have apparently needed to learn more about narcissists and narcissism. And we have had several teachers who have appeared. It’s only been recently that we’ve been learning the lessons and changing our approaches to dealing with these types of people.

Yesterday’s post turned out to be more popular than I was expecting it to be. I’m sure part of the reason it was so compelling is that it included a somewhat “sordid” true story. Even three years on from our last move, it still made me nervous to share that post. It occurs to me that some people might read my posts and think I’m just whining. Maybe I do “whine” more than I should. It would be nice to have more of a “get on with it” attitude about more things.

I have what Dr. Phil would call a “psychological sunburn” about certain issues. That means I’m unusually sensitive about some things. In my case, it’s dealing with abusive people. I’ve mentioned before that I feel “saturated”, especially when it comes to verbal abuse. I just can’t abide it anymore. I don’t willingly engage with people who are like that, and writing helps me process it. I realize it probably comes off as a little “off-kilter” to some people, although I also know that some people can relate and appreciate these posts. So I keep writing them.

Narcissism is a hot topic these days. Spend a few minutes on YouTube and you’ll find so many videos about narcissism and narcissistic people. Some people are as tired of hearing and reading about narcissism, as I am of hearing about the pandemic. I don’t know why others are so interested in narcissism, but I know I am, because I’ve spent a lifetime being subjected to the general fuckery that can come from being around abusive and exploitative people. It’s a lot to unpack.

The first time I ever heard the term “narcissism” was when I was a senior in high school. I was taking a psychology class, and my teacher was the kind who loved to show “made for TV” movies to demonstrate certain psychological disorders. We watched the 1989 film Small Sacrifices, which starred Farrah Fawcett and was based on true crime writer Ann Rule’s excellent book. Fawcett portrayed Diane Downs, a woman who shot her own children and then claimed that she was carjacked. I remember my teacher saying that Downs had narcissistic personality disorder.

At the time, I thought nothing of it. I was seventeen years old and really didn’t know a lot about the world. Hell, at that time, I didn’t even realize that my father was an alcoholic, even though it was pretty obvious. I was used to seeing him drink excessively, and was accustomed to the erratic and sometimes scary behavior that resulted from his drinking, PTSD, and depression.

It never occurred to me that, years later, I would marry a man whose ex wife was extremely narcissistic, or even that her shockingly abusive behavior, as egregiously selfish and damaging as it was, would be something that a couple of my friends would also experience with people in their lives. I started to look around and realized that I was seeing narcissism all over the place.

When I started to realize how common and pervasive narcissistic behavior seemed to be, I wondered if maybe I was imagining it. Like, maybe I was akin to a physician in training with a little knowledge, suddenly seeing the signs and symptoms of a disease I’d just learned about in a class. I do have degrees in social work and public health, but narcissism isn’t something we necessarily learned about in school, except when I took an undergraduate course in abnormal psychology. I did very well in that class, but I am certainly no expert.

I started learning a lot more about NPD years ago, when I watched my husband’s ex wife treat my husband like literal shit. I was absolutely dumbfounded by the disrespect she showed toward him and his family, and ultimately, her children. I couldn’t believe her nerve. I was very surprised that so many people let her get away with the things they let her get away with, like denying Bill access to his children and telling outrageous lies about him to everyone, including his own parents and the children. Then I learned more about the physical and sexual abuse that occurred, and saw the proof of it.

I knew there had to be something very wrong with Ex, because her “reasons” for her actions didn’t make any sense to me. They did not fit the man that I knew, and have now known, for over twenty years. She made claims that he hates women and was abusive to her. And yet he has never as much as raised his voice to me, let alone a hand. He’s literally one of the kindest, most gentle, and agreeable people I’ve ever met, in spite of his long career as a soldier.

At first, I thought maybe Ex had borderline personality disorder. I read a lot about it and realized that her behavior ticked a lot of the boxes. But people with BPD are usually somewhat treatable, if they realize they have a problem and want to get help, and they aren’t as cruel as Ex is. Ex has been hospitalized on a few occasions, and I’ve seen her spouting off about dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which is a treatment used for people with BPD. However, her behavior doesn’t seem to change, and there are still many signs that she’s got other issues– namely with narcissism. I have studied narcissism for years, and I am convinced that’s her main problem, at least at this point in her life.

Of course, it’s also certainly possible that she has both disorders. Sometimes cluster B personality disorders do overlap. Or maybe she’s got another problem entirely. I can only guess, based on what I’ve witnessed, heard about, and experienced in my years with Bill, and my own educational pursuits.

All I know is that when I started to read about narcissistic personality disorder, Ex’s behavior started to make a lot more sense, and was much less shocking. In fact, once I learned about personality disorders in general, Ex started to become more predictable. While it was still terrible to observe, and awful for my husband, who was denied contact with his daughters, there was something almost comforting in knowing that it wasn’t just our imagination that she was so incredibly controlling, and shamelessly self-centered and hurtful. Indeed, later when Bill started talking to his daughter, she confirmed that she was treated as badly as he was. Younger daughter recently announced that she’s expecting another baby. She wrote that she was much more nervous about telling her mother than telling Bill. Bill always reacts with kindness. Ex doesn’t.

Some might wonder why I write so much about Ex. To that question, I can only answer that it helps me process and unpack. People often assume she’s a normal person and I’m the problem. I would like to ask people who automatically assume that I’m the problem, to stop and think about what they would think, and how they would feel, if they were married to someone who was DENIED access to their own children by the other parent. I would expect a loving parent to want the other parent to be involved, if only for the sake of the children, who deserve to have access to their parents and should not be saddled with an unnecessary stigma of being the child of an abuser.

If there was a legitimate reason for the other parent to be denied access, there should have been documentation as to why that was necessary. But in Ex’s case, she was apparently married to two men who were not fit to be fathers to their children. She denied her first husband access to their son, and only helped them reunite when it suited her toxic agenda. She did it solely to be cruel and punitive to Bill, who was asserting himself because his former stepson was quite obviously using him for money. When Bill busted the young man for hiding the fact that he was changing his name and didn’t bother to tell Bill, but kept accepting child support from him (at age 21, no less), Ex suddenly decided that the young man should be in contact with the man she claimed was “crazy” and “abusive”. And now we know she said the same things about Bill, although as his second wife, I can attest that he’s not the one who is “crazy” and “abusive”.

Once I learned more about narcissism, I found out that a lot of people are dealing with narcissists in their lives. I wonder how that is possible, since it’s supposedly a “personality disorder”. But then I realized that one doesn’t have to have NPD to exhibit those behaviors on occasion. Narcissism seems to be an epidemic in western society. In fact, it seems to be somewhat celebrated and even normalized in American culture. Obviously narcissistic people are the ones who often end up being “stars”. They often have powerful jobs and lots of prestige, or they have a lot of money. But then you look at their personal lives, and examine things they’ve done to get ahead, and you realize they aren’t people you’d necessarily want to know.

Donald Trump, to my mind, is a VERY obvious grandiose and malignant narcissist. He’s had a string of unfaithful marriages and business failures. So many people who have been associated with him have ended up in trouble with the law, ranging from his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to people who invaded the Capitol building last January. There are many stories of him abusing women and being racist. He doesn’t seem to care beyond the superficial for anyone, except maybe his daughter, Ivanka, whom he’s said he would like to date. He’s been friends with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, as well as Steve Bannon. And yet, we made him President of the United States, and many people– some of whom I consider decent and basically intelligent– are still fooled by his icky, superficial and totally fake charm. They see his selfishness and crazy behavior as strengths.

It was my husband’s ex wife who made me realize how dangerous Trump is. Once I started studying narcissists and saw how these people put on public faces, but are toxic nightmares behind closed doors, I realized how terrible Trump as a leader is. And then I saw the proof of it in the aftermath of the 2020 election, which thank GOD he lost. I only hope that he can’t run again, because I’m not altogether sure he wouldn’t win. And if he wins, God help us all, because he would have no reason whatsoever to curb his behavior. He wouldn’t be able to run for another term and would be even closer to the end of his life, anyway.

But Trump is an extreme example of a narcissist. The truth is, they’re everywhere, and that’s why so many people are obsessively reading about them and watching videos about their behavior. Most of them don’t reach the terrible extremes of Trump. Most are probably not even as extreme as Ex is. I would say most narcissists are mainly just what we’d call inconsiderate assholes. They aren’t necessarily dangerous, but they are very unpleasant and toxic to be around. Some go to more extreme lengths and are incredibly dangerous and harmful, particularly to innocent people.

I look at Josh Duggar, whose trial is set to begin tomorrow. This is a man who was lecturing the masses about family values several years ago, as he was meeting and brutalizing a sex worker, cheating on his wife, and apparently, viewing illegal pornographic images. I have never met Josh Duggar, but he definitely has a lot of the signs of NPD, and he’s been raised in a culture where his selfish, destructive, abusive behavior is tolerated and even celebrated.

Meanwhile, since he’s been caught with illegal images that were described as the “worst of the worst” that experienced investigators have ever seen, Josh and his equally narcissistic father, Jim Bob, have been doing everything they can to get out of being held accountable for this behavior. Hell, Jim Bob is even running for public office again, even though his son is probably about to go to prison. Go figure that decision, except that Jim Bob is also extremely controlling and self-centered. Why should we care about these people? By all rights, we shouldn’t, but their story is compelling, because they have that yucky charisma and charm that a lot of narcissists have. I only hope that this time, they finally get held accountable for the things they do.

I come by my fascination with narcissism honestly, because it has affected me personally. I know that I’m not alone. I really think our culture has a lot to do with why this issue is so prevalent. Sadly, narcissists really hurt people, and they cause damage that is not easy to overcome. Whether it’s dealing with an abusive ex spouse who uses children and other people to maintain control, or it’s just a boss or a landlord who lives to make someone’s life hell, or it’s a person who is running the country and refusing to play fair, narcissists do a lot of harm to decent people. And I think the high number of books, videos, and blog posts about this subject only show that many students are ready, so the teachers have appeared.

Now… I’m going to dive back into my latest book by Les Carter, and I hope tomorrow, there will be a fresh book review. I’ve got several new books that I’m dying to start reading, but I can’t tackle them the way I used to. I hope everyone has a great Monday.

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book reviews, mental health, narcissists

A review of Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, And It’s Time to Get Real About It by Ann Silvers, MA

I have just finished reading Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, And It’s Time to Get Real About It, a book for male victims of abuse written by Ann Silvers, MA, a counselor who practices in Washington State. Silvers is herself a former abuse victim, but she is also formally educated in counseling and has a speciality in helping both men and women survive and escape abusive relationships. She’s been practicing for over 30 years.

This first edition book was released in September 2018 and appears to be a product of self-publishing, as it was published by an outfit called Silvers Publishing. In spite of the fact that it’s apparently self-published, Abuse OF Men BY Women is an excellent book. It’s surprisingly comprehensive, well-organized, and readable.

Why did I read this book for male abuse victims if I’m a woman?

There are a couple of reasons. First off, I have master’s degrees in both social work and public health, and if I weren’t “The Overeducated Housewife”, this might be considered professional reading for me. As it stands today, I just find it interesting subject matter. Secondly, my husband’s first wife abused him. Bill and I have been married for 18 years, and I’m still learning about everything that happened during their marriage, which lasted almost ten years. Although he’s come a long way since we first met, the healing process has been long… and a lot of people have little empathy or regard for men who have survived abuse.

Since I have both an educational and real life background in the subject matter Ms. Silvers covers in her book, I thought it would be interesting to read her thoughts on male abuse victims. More people need to realize that women are not the only ones who get abused in relationships. Unfortunately, it’s much harder for men to get help when they are in toxic relationships with women. A lot of people don’t take them or the issue seriously, or they assume the man is lying. I have seen firsthand the psychological and physical scars my husband bears after his first marriage. I take this issue seriously, and I want others to know more about it.

This book’s strengths

One of the things I noticed about this book that may be a plus for some readers is that the concepts are broken down into easy to digest pieces. Silvers has an easy to read writing style that takes little effort to navigate. I think that is especially important in books such as this one, since the people reading it are likely to be in trouble and upset. The book is very comprehensive and realistically covers a broad array of topics that male abuse victims may face. For instance, Silvers confronts the reality that not a lot of shelters will accept male clients, even if they need somewhere to go after they escape. She even admits that if a man calls the police for help, it could backfire, and he could wind up the one in trouble with the law. But she also reminds readers that if they don’t ever ask for help, there is a 0% chance that they’ll get it.

I liked that Silvers covered the many ways men can be abused. A lot of people wrongly assume that men, who are often bigger and stronger than women are, can always fight back when a woman gets physical. That’s not always true. Aside from that, some women use weapons… and there are also times when the woman uses other means of getting her way. She may, for example, use her femininity to get sympathy from others. She may alienate children or family members, or engage in financial or legal abuse. As I read Silvers’ descriptions of the scenarios that can arise in female to male abuse situations, I found myself nodding my head. Almost all of them have happened to Bill.

Silvers explains that men may have to accept that some people won’t believe that he’s a victim, but they may end up pleasantly surprised that the public attitude is changing. Bill’s ex wife turned the children against him and even tried to convince his parents that he’s an abusive, woman hating pervert. However, Bill’s younger daughter, who was estranged for years, eventually recognized that her mother abused him. And her parents were not swayed by the Ex’s lies, either. His stepmother took a little more time to be convinced.

This book’s weaknesses

Overall, I don’t think Abuse OF Men BY Women has that many weaknesses. It’s a well-written and useful book. It’s practical, engaging, and easy to read. I guess if I had to offer a complaint, it might be that, to me, the book has a somewhat academic feel, not so much in the writing style, but in the way it’s laid out. There aren’t any graphics or charts, per se. The chapters are arranged as if they were done for a university thesis, rather than a book to be read by laypeople. The lone one star review on Amazon mentioned that the reader had been expecting journalism, rather than a self-help book. I knew this was a self-help book, so I don’t have that complaint.

Overall

I think Abuse OF Men BY Women is a useful tool for men who are in abusive relationships. I don’t know how many men in this situation would take the time to read a book like this one. I think it’s more likely their caring female companions, who get involved during or after the abuse, probably will. For instance, I noticed that some reviewers on Amazon were not men in abusive relationships; they were women who were involved in some way with men who had been abused (family members or new significant others). I have learned a lot about this issue myself, having been married to Bill. This kind of extra reading makes it easy for me to talk to him, even though ideally, he should talk to someone who is licensed to counsel him and isn’t directly involved, as I am. But this kind of book does make the problem easier to understand for me, and I suspect it would have been helpful for Bill when he was still in an abusive relationship.

Silvers writes like someone who understands the problem very well and has done her best to cover every angle. I like that she does so in a way that isn’t derogatory, either. Other books I’ve read on this subject have a tone that is unflattering toward women. I remember one book I read years ago was published in Ireland, and the title (which was later changed) was, That Bitch: Protect Yourself Against Women With Malicious Intent. While most abusive women are, in fact, legitimate bitches much of the time, I don’t think that title was appropriate. It’s hard to take a book seriously when the very title is a misogynistic insult. I suspect the publishers determined that the good information in that book was not being read, since the title was so antagonistic and, in and of itself, somewhat abusive. On the other hand, I remember reading another book, over 20 years ago, that was entitled Let’s Face It: Men are @$$#%\¢$: What Women Can Do About It. I remember not being very impressed with that book, although I’m sure the title attracted plenty of attention and helped make sales.

Anyway… Ann Silvers is much more professional in her approach, and that’s what makes her book more useful, in my view. Abuse OF Men BY Women is not just a book about offering sympathy and bashing males or females. Silvers offers practical and realistic advice, and even warns that sometimes doing the right thing can lead to unpleasant consequences. For men, sorry to say, calling for help can be legitimately risky. On the other hand, if more abused men would stand up to be counted, they would more likely be taken more seriously and have more access to the help they need. We’ve got to break the stigma against male domestic violence abuse victims. I think this book helps do that, so I highly recommend it.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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domestic violence, Ex

The lightbulb moment…

This morning, I woke up to shocking news. First of all, several friends tagged me in a news report about The Trellis restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. That restaurant, where I spent among the toughest 17 months of my life, has permanently closed. It opened in 1980, when my eldest sister was attending the College of William & Mary. She worked at The Trellis when it first opened– at least until she graduated from college. Then, a few years later, she joined the Peace Corps and launched a successful career that pays benefits and includes a lot of exciting travel for work.

I, by contrast, joined the Peace Corps and went away for two years, only to land at The Trellis after my return home. It was a significant time in my life, for a lot of reasons. It was also a tough time in my life that was hell to get through, but ultimately propelled me to bigger and better things.

In 2009, the original owner, Marcel Desaulniers, and his partner, John Curtis, sold the restaurant to Chef David Everett. On Tuesday, Chef Everett decided to close The Trellis. I heard the restaurant had become a very different and reportedly inferior restaurant than it was when Marcel was running it, so it’s probably for the best that he finally closed it. Plans are to turn it into an Italian eatery, which will open next month. I read in an article that the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which owns the building the restaurant is in (before it was a restaurant, it was a drug store, for all you trivia buffs), had wanted an Italian restaurant for some time. The emphasis will be on less expensive, high quality food, and more of a family atmosphere. I also read that the restaurant will now have fewer seats and one side of it will be turned into retail space.

A lot of my friends knew I’d worked at The Trellis, so several of them tagged me in news articles they posted on Facebook, but I had already been discussing the restaurant with other former workers a couple of days before the news broke publicly. I’m actually surprised it took so long to close The Trellis and turn it into something else. Marcel had turned that place into an institution (some would say a “mental institution”). He’s a famous chef who’s written a lot of books and hosted cooking shows for years. Why Chef Everett thought he could fill Marcel’s shoes, I’ll never know. Not to say Chef Everett isn’t a good chef, but he’s not Marcel. The Trellis was Marcel’s baby. I think Chef Everett should have changed the restaurant from the beginning.

Then, I read about how the United States is going to shut down travel from Schengen Zone countries in Europe starting tomorrow. Trump, in all his dumbassery, is making his usual stupid decisions and comments, as usual. Coronavirus isn’t a joke, of course. I don’t necessarily believe that it’s wrong to shut down travel to prevent its spread, although I don’t understand why it’s okay for Brits to come to the USA (Coronavirus is in Britain), yet not other Europeans. I did read that it was because Britain is an island and supposedly stricter about its borders. But I still think Trump is a bumbling idiot, and I’m kind of hoping his fuckery regarding handling the virus will be his downfall… much like our investments have downfallen lately. I’d like to drop kick the orange turd out of my life, once and for all.

And finally, there was a revelation this morning. Bill got an email from his daughter, responding to a note that Bill had sent, thanking her for seeing him and letting her know he’d made it back to Germany (thank God his conference ended last week instead of this week). Younger daughter, once again proving that she’s Bill’s daughter, sent him a link to an article she thought would help him. It was an article on domestic violence, specifically about when an abuser leaves the victim, rather than the other way around. Sometimes, in domestic violence situations, the abuser chooses to split from the victim, and that’s ultimately what happened in Bill’s case, although I don’t think it was Ex’s intention. Younger daughter had somehow figured out on her own that Bill is a victim of domestic violence perpetrated by her mother.

Bill told his daughter about what happened when he and his ex wife had decided to divorce. They were visiting Bill’s dad’s house for Easter. They had the kids with them. Bill’s dad and stepmom took the kids out for ice cream, while Bill and Ex stayed behind to “talk”. Ex accused Bill of being a violent pervert who hates women. She demanded that he go into “counseling” with his LDS bishop in Kansas– that was where Bill was living at the time, since he’d rejoined the Army. Ex was living in Arkansas with the kids and her boyfriend, now husband, who was shacked up in Bill’s house. Ex said that if Bill refused to acquiesce to her demands, they would get divorced.

Bill asked, “Don’t you think I’m a good husband and father?”

And Ex said coldly, “Maybe you would be to another family.”

In a moment of clarity, Bill realized that Ex’s demands and accusations were preposterous. He isn’t an abusive person, nor is he a pervert. And he also knew that even if he complied with Ex’s demands, there would later be other demands that he may not be able to meet, nor should he have to. He’s a good person, and shouldn’t have been expected to change who he is and admit to things he didn’t do simply because his ex wife demanded it.

Bill hadn’t wanted to get a divorce, mainly because he worried about the children. His own parents had divorced, and he went through a lot of pain because of it. No, he didn’t love Ex, but he did love the children, and it devastated him to think that he’d have to be separated from them. But he also knew that for his own sanity, he needed to agree to the split. So he started crying, then said “Okay. What do we have to do?”

Ex was not prepared for that. She’d only meant to threaten Bill, not actually start divorce proceedings. This was intended to be an act of taking control and humiliating Bill. But, because she’s stubborn, shortsighted, and stupid, she simply went into the guest room and cried for hours. Then, on Easter morning, she came out of the room. Bill took her hand and held it as they drove to the notary that Ex had found. There they stood, on a major religious holiday, signing paperwork in front of an older couple who consoled them on the death of their marriage. They set the wheels in motion for the divorce on Easter. I’ve always thought of that action as a very powerful symbol… it was like Bill resurrected his life, even though in the short term, he went through a lot of agony.

The children were somehow oblivious to this drama that was going on at the time. Younger daughter was surprised when Bill told her the story last weekend. She said, “Wow, that must have been humiliating.” When Bill told me that, I realized that she really does get it.

A few years later after the divorce showdown at his father’s house, Bill and I were newlyweds. One day in 2003, we were driving back to Virginia from Tennessee, having visited Bill’s dad and stepmom. Bill was talking about other yucky stuff that had happened in his first marriage.

Suddenly, a lightbulb went on in my head as I listened to Bill’s words. I said, “Bill, I think you’re a victim of domestic violence.”

I remember the look of shock on Bill’s face when he said, “Was I abused?”

Relying on my recently acquired master’s degree in social work and a bit of common sense, I said, “Yes, you were. If you were a woman, there would be no question that you’re a victim of domestic violence.”

He started crying. But ultimately, he realized I was right. He hadn’t realized that he’d lived through domestic violence because, like a lot of people, he’d falsely believed that men can’t be victims of abuse perpetrated by women. But, in fact, he had all of the symptoms, and he went through the same type of stuff many abused women go through, including sexual abuse.

For years, I’ve encouraged Bill to see a third party– a qualified counselor– to discuss these issues. I am not a substitute for a therapist, and even if I were qualified, it wouldn’t be ethical for me to counsel him because I’m his wife, and not objective. When Bill was in the Army, it was dangerous to his career for him to seek counseling, mainly because the military is dangerously shortsighted about mental health issues among the troops. Although things are better than they once were– like, servicemembers are no longer assumed to be dangerous if they need psychological help– it’s still very risky to get counseling if one has a security clearance. It may be the case for civilians, too. But even younger daughter suggested therapy for Bill… and for herself, as well.

I am, yet again, dumbfounded by how insightful and kind younger daughter is. She’s as concerned about Bill’s healing as she is about her own. It’s too bad that they lost fifteen years to Ex’s poison, but I feel pretty confident that their relationship is going to heal. I never thought things would turn out this way, but it really is gratifying to see it. It’s like a miracle.

Here’s a link to an article about domestic violence against men, though it’s not the one younger daughter sent (I couldn’t find it). In the spirit of Bill’s daughter’s actions, I’m sharing it in case someone out there reads this and also needs a resource that will help them heal.

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