I want you to know that I’m deeply appreciative of the role you’ve played in my liberation. I could not have navigated the convoluted process of divorce without your assistance.
I want you to know that I understand your training as a lawyer did not furnish you with a deep knowledge of personality disorders, especially the very insidious workings of covert narcissism, or the mechanisms of trauma.
I know that you care about my children and me. I know that you are a compassionate man. And so, I know that you will care about what I have to say now.
I need you to understand that I am the victim of real abuse. My children are victims of real abuse. We are victims.
We are not complicit in our victimization.
I am not a contributing factor in the conflict surrounding my divorce. I did not provoke the drama you had to wade through. It was very obvious that you went into my case with the assumption that it takes two to tango. I want you to know that every interaction where you implied that I’d done something to provoke or encourage his insane behavior was like asking a woman with two black eyes what she’d done to make her husband so angry that he had to hit her.
I want you to know that I have experienced a hidden trauma. Even though I couldn’t show you pictures of the physical damage he did to my body, it was and is there. In the blog post “Psychological Harm is Physical Harm 2: why survivors lose their voice,” Nora Samaran, PhD, wrote “the brain and nervous system damage caused by psychological violence is every bit as debilitating as more visible harm.” The type of prolonged abuse I suffered actually impaired the function of my brain and made expressing the abuse a physical struggle against my own body.
I can vividly remember, in the days when you still thought I was complicit in my abuse, trying to tell you about the ongoing gaslighting and manipulation and fear. I was frustrated and in tears trying to get it out. I was so mad at myself because all that you took away from the conversation was that my ex-husband was saying mean things and calling me names, like we were two little children squabbling over the swings. I needed you, in that moment, to understand that I needed protection. You didn’t.
I want you to know that every time you advocated for a decision in my divorce that maintained the status quo of 50/50, you reinforced the idea that the psychological abuse and financial abuse is okay. You minimized the long term, lasting damage he did to me by pretending the playing field was level. You actually facilitated his abuse. It didn’t matter to you, or the law, that I’d supported him out of duress. He got half of everything. I learned that divorce had nothing to do with justice or true equality.
You could have avoided much of the revictimization that occurred by believing me when I told you that our marriage counselor, who holds a doctorate in psychology, felt that my ex-husband had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Victims of narcissistic abuse fight an uphill battle to be believed because narcissists are the kings of lies. They even fool themselves. But you were my lawyer, not his. You shouldn’t have taken my money and then denied my truth. You shouldn’t have needed to witness the abuse first hand to believe me.
By believing that my husband had a personality disorder and was a perpetrator of abuse, you would have been able to approach my case differently and more realistically. If you were lacking an understanding of the workings of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), narcissistic abuse, and how NPD impacts divorce, you could have educated yourself.
The chances that you will represent another person like myself is likely. In a 2009 study, “Prevalence, Correlates, Disability, and Comorbidity of DSM-IV Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Results from the Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions,” by Frederick S. Stinson, Ph.D. et. al., published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, it was found that “The rates of NPD were generally greater among individuals who were separated, divorced, or widowed, results that did not vary by sex. These findings are consistent with prior studies that have shown that NPD relative to other PDs was uniquely related to causing significant others pain an duress and that the NPD is largely associated with costs experienced by others.” If this letter moves you to do nothing else, I hope you will educate yourself for the sake of the future victims who will walk through your door.
I hope too that you will work to bring a sense of justice and equity to abuse victims who are divorcing their abuser. As a well educated, cis white woman with the financial resources to hire a well respected white male lawyer, I sat in family court and had a female judge give my unrepresented abuser a pass over and over and over. What justice is their for more marginalized people when there was none for me?
An Abuse Survivor
**I would love for this post to actually reach lawyers and judges. If you agree with the words in this blog, I would appreciate it if you shared it and helped it reach the eyes of those who can most help abuse victims.**