Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fallout, Part III: Suddenly a Jobless Single Mother

One of the consequences of blowing the whistle on a bad situation is that the whistle-blower is frequently the object of shunning.  Many women have told me that when they took their children and left their abusive spouses, they and their children had to find support from people other than their families and friends.  This was my experience, also, as you will see when you read Part III.  Therapists have told me the same thing, that the victims are frequently shunned and must make new friends and rely on agencies for help.  This is hard!  I can speak from experience.  But the new friends are there, waiting to connect with you when you need them.  Over time, life gets better, and sometimes the old friends and the family members and relatives who did the shunning come around, ask for forgiveness, and life goes on.  In the meantime, if you are in the process of leaving a bad situation, just know that there are people you don't even know who are praying for you and waiting to be your friends.  So keep on truckin'!  Life WILL get better! 
The Thursday and Friday following our trip to the police station were fairly normal—my daughter went to school, and I went to my part time job as an insurance clerk.  I was happy to be back in a routine.  My daughter was not so happy because she had missed several days of school and had to make up her work.  Neither of us felt like telling her teacher or principal about the abuse, so I wrote a note telling her teacher that my daughter had been sick and left the matter at that.  We both wanted our lives to get back to normal as quickly as possible, but we also knew that whatever “normal” was would be different from what it had been in the past. 

Easter Sunday came and went.  There was no evidence of an Easter bunny, for I had not had any time to shop.  I took my daughter out for a decent Easter meal after church, and then we went to a movie before finally going home to our empty house.  I felt like slitting my throat, anything to blot out the horrible events of the past week, especially the session at the police station, but I didn’t have the energy to do anything but set my alarm and crawl into bed.   

Monday morning, my daughter went to school, and I went to work.  I had not thought that life could get much worse than it was, but I was wrong.  By the time my boss came to work that morning, I had already opened the office and was processing insurance applications.  He announced that he needed to have a serious talk with me, and during our talk he let me know that he was retiring and closing his office.   He was sorry that I would be left without employment, but since he had been paying into the unemployment fund, he knew I would qualify for unemployment benefits.  He also told me he would give me two months’ pay as severance pay.  To give him credit, he was generous and he truly was sorry I would be out of work.  However, he wanted to be able to hunt birds in the Okanogan area without worrying about how his business was going in his absence, and to have that freedom, he had to close his agency. 

As I left the office that day, I felt as if somebody had pulled the plug in a giant bathtub and I was being swept down the drain and into the sewer.  Could life get any worse?  At least I had two more weeks of employment.  Maybe in that time I could find another job.  And then I remembered the state of Lewis County’s economy and realized that finding work would be an uphill struggle.  If I were lucky, I might get a job ringing the Salvation Army bell at Christmas.  Black was too bright a color to describe my mood at that moment.   

The days of that week ground slowly by, and my daughter and I waited for the police to come by with the statement for her to sign.  She became increasingly nervous and irritable because she was scared of the police.  I called the police station each day to tell them that my daughter was suffering and that she needed to sign the paper and finish that part of the process.  I told the social worker, too, but she didn’t seem to care.  She told me that the police knew what they were doing.  She was correct.  I discovered later that the police were watching our house at night to see if I was letting my husband into the bedroom through the window.  In other words, they had not brought the paper to my daughter because they wanted to make sure I was not in collusion with my husband.  This did not make sense to me.  If I had been in collusion with my husband, then why would I have turned him in?  I could simply have called my daughter a liar and lived with a pedophile.   

Finally, on the Friday after Easter a police car drove up to our house, and an officer brought us the papers.  My daughter and I read them, and she signed them.  Now, surely, our lives could take an upward swing, and we could get back to our old routines.   

The second week after Easter came and went, and my daughter and I settled into a routine dictated by her school schedule and my now temporary work schedule.  A new issue had arisen, though.  For some reason, my husband was urging me to file for divorce.  His lawyer called me several times that week to relay my husband’s wishes.  I wasn’t sure why my former spouse was so pushy about this, but I decided to comply, and so on that third week after Easter, I set about finding a lawyer.  The first lawyer I contacted told me he would take the case but that he first had to determine I was not in collusion in the sex abuse.  I had no problem slamming the door to his office on my way out.  The second lawyer, a woman, took my case immediately without mentioning the possibility of collusion.  As I left her office, I pondered my situation and decided that perhaps at this point life would begin looking up.  Now that I had a lawyer, I felt I had at least a little support. 

At this point, you, my reader, may be wondering about the matter of support—where was my family at this time?  Where was my husband’s family?  Was there any family member who helped us at this time when my daughter and I so obviously needed emotional support and possibly financial support?  First of all, my father had died in 1962, before my son was born, and my only sibling, my brother, was living on the other side of the continent and simply was not available to me.  If my brother had been there, he would have been supportive, but he was not there.  Thus, two of the three members of my family of origin were out of the picture. 

What about my mother?  She was alive and well and living only fifty miles away.  Didn’t she help me?  My mother and I were estranged, but she enjoyed visiting with my husband, so several times a year we spent a Saturday or Sunday afternoon with her, and we visited her on the holidays.  When I told her about the sexual abuse and let her know that I had turned my husband over to the police, she was angry at my daughter and at me.  Her words to me were, “Well, she must have seduced him.”  Upon hearing those words, I decided that whatever needed to be done to clean up my husband’s mess would be done without any help from my mother.  

The one person on my husband’s side of the family who helped my daughter and me in any significant way was my husband’s father.  For several weeks, he made sure I had enough money for groceries, and he took me to Olympia twice when I met with my husband and his therapist.  After that, he stopped helping us, probably at his wife’s urging.  I knew she would be no help because on the morning my husband moved out, his mother called and ranted at me over the phone for “forcing” him to leave.  When I told her why he had left, she told me I was a liar, that her son would not do anything so horrible.  Thus, I did not resent my father-in-law’s reluctance to help us because I knew he felt he had to keep the peace at home.   

Later, I discovered that my mother-in-law had also turned my brother-in-law and his wife and children and my sister-in-law and her family against me.  This discovery saddened me because I had liked my husband’s brother and sister and had good memories of the vacations our families had spent together at the family cabin in Montana.  When they told me they wanted no more contact with me, I realized that the wagons of my husband’s family had formed themselves into an impenetrable circle, and I was on the outside unable to catch even a fleeting glimpse of life inside the circle, a life that previously had been open to me and welcoming.  Losing that contact hurt!  I spent a few days grieving this loss, but then I decided that grief took energy from more important matters, so I returned to my work of dealing with my immediate situation, the job of helping my daughter deal with the aftermath of abuse and the work of getting my own life on some sort of track.  
Fallout, Conclusion:  Reclaiming Our Lives--Coming Soon 


  1. OMG, Jean. It's really terrible what you and your daughter had to go through... People can be so incredibly cruel, some even without being aware of it... There are some glitches in God's work, I find.

    1. Now, some thirty years later, the pain from being shut out by my family remains, but all I can do is acknowledge the pain and enjoy my present friends and my son and daughter. So many women who have blown the whistle on their abuser have told me the same thing, that family members have shunned them after they have blown the whistle. I don't understand that, but it's the way it is. A good reason for not living in the past!