|Painting by Leticia Isabel Banegas Gomez|
People like to pretend that if terrible things happen to you, it's because you've done something wrong and/or you're stupid. I guess maybe that's easier than facing the enormity of just how many depraved men are currently inhabiting our planet.
Sexual abuse and financial abuse are often intertwined. They've both been happening to me for over four decades and if anyone believes that a five year-old has done anything to deserve being molested, well they're insane.
My friend's grandfather molested me while my baby sister was being born at the hospital. I was a kindergartner. It was the beginning of nearly a lifetime of being repeatedly raped and also repeatedly ripped-off. These men stole my childhood and a large portion of my adult life too.
Besides my father, who is a master at the money-manipulation game, my ex-husband Joe really takes the cake for long-term financial abuse. We split for good in 2007 while I was in the middle of finishing a Paralegal Law degree. I did all of my schooling online because my son was still a baby. By that point, there were already quite a few years of abuse for my kids and I to try and heal from.
In fact, that's why it took so long to get Joe out of the house for good—MONEY. Whenever I'd pack up and leave him or kick him out, he'd find a way to get back in. It was my fear of being homeless that made me want to believe that things would actually be different 'this time.'
I've been a single mother for most of the last 26 years and am keenly aware of how difficult it is to make it on your own with children. I'm an educated woman but have never truly desired to be out working while someone else raised my kids. When they've needed me to stay home for periods of time, I have. Taking a couple of years off to do in-home childcare here and there doesn't much propel your career path, even with an education.
There were several brutal incidents in 2007 that culminated in Joe's final departure from my home. For once, he landed in legal trouble over his mistreatment of me. There was a two year no-contact order imposed by the state that he eventually complied with.
I finished school in 2008 and owed about $30,000 in loans at that point. Joe quit paying child support later that year and continued to pay absolutely nothing for five long years. There's no way to count how much we've gone without since he refused to follow what he was court-ordered to do. And the state refused to take appropriate action to enforce the order.
It's not just the missing money, it's what the money was needed for. I have multiple judgments against me for not being able to repay the loans. Even though I've made a good effort at repayment, I will never be able to purchase a home or even a decent car—even with a decent-paying job—due to my horrible credit rating.
There are so many times when I didn't eat or ate very little because I barely had enough for my kids. Even with food bank visits and other help, there were dozens of critical food shortages at home. I've gone without access to medical and dental care for months and years at a time. My girls have been repeatedly bullied at school for being low-income. All of this has had a lasting effect on all three of my children, to put it mildly.
Once the no-contact order was over, Joe began stalking my oldest daughter at her high school. We had to move away in order to stop the unwanted contact. And just on and on like that is how it went. As of today, he hasn't attempted to contact us for a long while—several years. Yet, he's still being allowed to perpetrate financial abuse. Nothing can ever make up for the $25,000 deficit and the collateral consequences of it.
Now I understand that there are millions of women and children going through the same things and much worse. My heart bleeds and breaks for all of them, daily. And as for all of these abusive men—plus the institutions and social arrangements that give them permission to do these inhumane things—I want to scratch all of their eyes out. Just rip them to shreds.
An excerpt from The Abuse After the Abuse: How Men use Money to Destroy Women.