OOP Survivor Blog

Four women and five children die every day in the U.S. due to domestic violence. Read President Barack Obama's Presidential Proclamation announcing his commitment to reducing the prevalence of domestic violence in our country.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Still Dealing With the Memories

I think the hardest thing to deal with at this point is coping with the memories that resurface. I still go back to that night in February when the last straw broke. I'll never understand why my then-husband Neil Zucconi and I got to the point where he wouldn't leave my house when I asked him to....why he even insisted on coming inside when I made it clear that he wasn't welcome. To get to the point where you have to call the police to have your husband removed from your home is an awful place to be. Especially when he's in law enforcement himself and regularly carries a firearm. That only adds to your overwhelming fear.

Until that night, it hadn't occurred to me to get an Order of Protection. I didn't even know what one was -- all I knew was that I wanted things to end between my husband and myself. I wanted us to divorce and to go our separate ways in peace. That's it. But, of course, that didn't exactly happen.

I've written some over the past few weeks about what happened during the course of my Order of Protection case. There's still a lot more I plan to write. It wasn't just a matter of filing the order and then going about my life. There was a lot to deal with, both emotionally and legally. One thing that I wasn't prepared for was the fact that I ended up having to hire an attorney. I had thought that I could simply lean on my local police department's Victim Services program. It's a wonderful resource, and I'm indebted to the program staff who helped me tremendously. However, when the defendant in an Order of Protection case requests a court hearing, you never know what to expect. I learned that the hard way.

Unfortunately, in our case, we ended up with a judge who was apparently inexperienced with Order of Protection cases. I think that the advice I'd give anyone who is dealing with going to court to have their Order of Protection upheld is to get the very best representation in place beforehand, even if you have to pay through the teeth for an expensive attorney, because you never know what kind of judge will preside over your case. Don't just assume it will be an easy win and that you can do it without an attorney, even if you have solid testimony and evidence. I did have an amazing Victim Services advocate with me from my local police department, however she wasn't allowed to accompany me when the judge abruptly stopped the hearing and pulled us into her chambers. If I'd had an attorney who was experienced with Orders of Protection in that room with me to help educate the judge, things may have ended differently that day.

Fortunately in my case, although I eventually had to resort to hiring an attorney who specializes in Orders of Protection, I was able to have my ex-husband pay for the fees through our settlement agreement. So I didn't have to pay a dime.

More of my story to come....

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Arizona's Immigration Law and its Impact on Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence

There has obviously been a lot of talk around the country about Arizona's immigration law, SB 1070. One issue with it that is just now entering the conversation is with regards to immigrant women who are dealing with domestic violence. Montini wrote an excellent article that appears in today's Arizona Republic on this topic. He brings attention to the fact that immigrant women are likely to avoid seeking help or reporting the abuse they're experiencing because of fears that they will be deported.

The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence is among organizations that are joining together to support a lawsuit against SB 1070.

Sadly, immigrant women who are experiencing abuse and are too scared to report it are giving their abusers even more power than they already have over them. It's really tragic. And I imagine that most are unaware that they can apply for a special visa that protects victims of domestic violence.

I just thought I'd help spread awareness to this issue because once SB 1070 goes into effect, unreported incidences of domestic violence will only increase among this population.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Early Warning Signs of an Emotional and Verbal Abuser

I just stumbled upon a site called Effective Self Defense for Women where Dr. Steven Stosny lists the main warning signs of an emotional/verbal abuser. I was fascinated to read through his list, and only wish I'd had this list handy back in 2008 when I was dating. It would have saved me from much hell. Anyway, I'm borrowing from his list here (and adding a few of my own comments), and I've only included those warning signs that I found extremely insightful, but you can find his list in its entirety at the link listed at the end of this post.

Very Early Warning Signs of an Emotional/Verbal Abuser:

1) Superiority - a person with a superiority complex and a heightened sense of self-righteousness will often have predatory self-esteem where they need to make other people feel bad about themselves. Like someone who is standing in a checkout line at the grocery store and has no problem talking loudly and deprecatingly about those around him.

2) Pettiness - watch out for a person who makes a big deal out of nothing, or focuses constantly on one negative aspect of an issue. I guarantee this will drive you insane. For example, he blows up at you for forgetting to text or call him the dozen times per day that he insisted on, even though it was because you got busy at work. Or, he yells at you non-stop for two hours and repeatedly calls you a f--king b-tch because you didn't eat ice cream with him after dinner.

6) Sarcasm - this can be hostile and demeaning, and the purpose is always about shaking down someone else's confidence. Like when he is laughing at you in a vicious way even while you are crying.

7) Deceit - it's true that when people are dating, they want to put on the best face possible, and there is often unintentional exaggeration of their better qualities. But watch out for blatant and downright evil deception, such as, "Yes, I got a criminal law degree from such-and-such university many years ago," when in fact the guy only has a GED.

8) Minor Jealousy - jealousy will only build up over time, so watch out for even minor jealousy. It's definitely a red flag when a guy tells you how to wear your clothes, or tells you how far up to button your blouse so that you end up walking out of the house looking like you're Amish.

9) The Rusher - a person who moves too fast into a relationship does not respect boundaries. One definition of abuse is "that which violates personal boundaries." Watch out for someone who professes their love for you way too early, or worse yet, starts proposing marriage only three or four months into the relationship. Repeatedly. And won't give up until you say "yes." Believe me, this is bad. Bad. (Just say nooo!!)

For the expanded version of the above list (minus my commentary) provided by Dr. Steven Stosny, please click here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

'Reminiscing' Over a Honeymoon That Went Way Wrong

My horoscope today said "expect some sentimental reminiscing." I rarely check out my horoscope, but that section in the paper happened to be next to a Dear Abby column where a woman was complaining about her verbally abusive husband. That kind of caught my eye.

So I wasn't really in a "sentimental reminiscing" sort of mood today, but I ended up watching a Tivo'd re-run of "Modern Family," my absolute favorite show....and it was the first of the two-part episode where the entire family goes to Hawaii. I love that episode. And they just happen to go to Maui and stay at the Four Seasons resort, which is right next door to the gorgeous Grand Wailea resort where my ex-husband and I stayed on our honeymoon. As I watched the episode, I couldn't help noticing the backdrop -- the very beach where Neil and I spent a lot of time while we were there. And I couldn't help reminiscing. But, it ended up not being the kind of reminiscing you'd expect from a honeymoon in tropical paradise.

Because no matter how hard I try to remember the beauty of Maui, I end up thinking about how I actually left two days early, returning home alone, completely broken-hearted. What kind of a man yells at his wife and repeatedly calls her a f--king b-tch while on their honeymoon?? Even now, in this "reminiscing" kind of mood, I still don't understand it. It seems incomprehensible to me. I've never even heard of a person leaving their honeymoon early, returning alone to an empty house and wondering who the hell they married.

When I told my friends, after I got over the embarrassment and shame I felt for having had to deal with such a horrendous situation, they were stunned. One of my close friends even cried. She couldn't believe the way I was treated and said she thought it was tragic that I felt compelled to leave my beloved Hawaii early. I was born there, and it's one of two places in the world where I feel most at home.

But, I've decided that I'm not going to let that devastating experience taint Hawaii in any way. Someday I'll go back to Maui and create completely new memories there that will wipe away the old. Then, I'll have something that is truly worth reminiscing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Signs You're Dating a Sociopath, Courtesy of Lovefraud.com

Lovefraud.com offers a wealth of information on sociopaths, con artists, psychopaths, anti-socials, master-manipulators and the like. It also has a fantastic blog filled with stories from women and experts, and offers great support for women who are recovering from being with a sociopath. Apparently, over 50,000 people visit the site each month, searching for information and help. For any woman who has to file an Order of Protection to remove a sociopath from her life, this site can be a tremendous resource.

One of the site's articles that I think every woman who's dating should have is the following....

10 Signs that you’re dating a sociopath

If your new romantic interest exhibits all or most of the following behaviors, be careful.
He or she might be a sociopath.

1. Charisma and charm. They’re smooth talkers, always have an answer, never miss a beat. They seem to be very exciting.

2. Enormous ego. They act like the smartest, richest or most successful people around. They may actually come out and tell you that.

3. Overly attentive. They call, text and e-mail constantly. They want to be with you
every moment. They resent time you spend with your family and friends.

4. Jekyll and Hyde personality. One minute they love you; the next minute they hate
you. Their personality changes like flipping a switch.

5. Blame others. Nothing is ever their fault. They always have an excuse. Someone else causes their problems.

6. Lies and gaps in the story. You ask questions, and the answers are vague. They tell stupid lies. They tell outrageous lies. They lie when they’d make out better telling the truth.

7. Intense eye contact. Call it the predatory stare. If you get a chill down your spine when they look at you, pay attention.

8. Move fast. They quickly proclaim that you’re their true love and soul mate. They want to move in together or get married quickly.

9. Pity play. They appeal to your sympathy. They want you to feel sorry for their abusive childhood, psychotic ex, incurable disease or financial setbacks.

10. Sexual magnetism. If you feel intense attraction, if your physical relationship is
unbelievable, it may be their excess testosterone.

For more information, visit Lovefraud.com. The site was created by freelance writer and book author Donna Andersen, after her own experience being married to a sociopath.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

An Order of Protection Court Hearing Gone Awry

My Victim Services Advocate from my local police department had prepared me for the fact that it was likely that my ex-husband, Neil, would request a court hearing after he was served with the Order of Protection. He is an air marshal and air marshals are required to carry a firearm while on the job, but with the Order of Protection in place, he was unable to possess a gun. So I was somewhat prepared to have to go to court to make sure the order was upheld. And at least I had my testimony and evidence ready, thanks to the tremendous help from my advocate.

What I wasn't prepared for was how hard it was emotionally to have to see Neil again. That was the last thing I wanted to do, and was basically the main reason I got the Order of Protection in the first place -- so that I'd never have to see him or talk to him again. Just being in the same room with him, to see him there with an attorney representing him, was so incredibly difficult. I honestly couldn't believe I'd married a man who would bring us to this point. This horrible place where we had to face each other and testify against each other in court. It's so brutal. And unbelievable to think that I ever loved him. Now, looking back, I can't even remember loving him. It's like those memories just died and disintegrated.

Somehow I got through my part of the court hearing. As my advocate had told me ahead of time, I was asked by the judge to give my testimony and evidence in the very beginning. I was so glad to get it over with, as it was excruciating to go through. As every word came out of my mouth, I felt like I was reliving the nightmare that I'd experienced. It was so hard to keep my composure.

Oddly enough, the judge stopped our hearing immediately after my testimony. She called us back to her chambers, and let us know that she didn't want our conversation to be recorded in court. I asked if I could bring my advocate to her chambers with me, but the judge's assistant told me no, that we "didn't have enough time." So there I was alone without my advocate, in a small cramped office with the judge, Neil and his attorney. The situation seemed very underhanded on the part of the judge, and I was frustrated when, in the beginning, she only talked directly to Neil and not to me. She said that she was concerned about his job being impacted by the hearing since he's in law enforcement. I was stunned by this. Legally, the defendant's job has nothing to do with whether or not the Order of Protection should be upheld. The more the judge talked, the more it became obvious that she was inexperienced in Orders of Protection hearings. I found out later that she was brand new in her position and had previously been a defense attorney.

After the impromptu, behind-closed-doors meeting, and we went back into the courtroom, the judge granted Neil a continuance, and she scheduled another hearing for 35 days later. Again, I was stunned. I turned to my advocate, confused, and she whispered, "You've just been screwed by this judge."

Normally, a judge or commissioner will make a decision at the hearing, without granting a continuance. What happened was unbelievable. So I left the court knowing that I'd given up all of my testimony and evidence, and that Neil and his attorney could play around with it for the next 35 days until the next hearing. And at the next hearing, I wouldn't be given an opportunity to speak at all. I really couldn't believe this was happening. I counted on the fact that I'd have a decision from the judge that day, and that I'd be able to move on with my life, whatever the decision. And I would never have to see Neil again. But, the judge completely pulled the rug from under me. Now I would have to face him yet again.....and this time I'd have to hire an attorney since the judge displayed such an appalling lack of knowledge and experience.

More on this later....

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What do sociopaths want? According to Lovefraud, it's all about power, control and sex!

"How could a man say all those wonderful things and not mean them? How could a man who talked so eloquently about love be lying?"

So asks women on Lovefraud who were relentlessly pursued by sociopaths. The worst thing about dealing with having a sociopath in your life, well, besides the horrific abuse, is the fact that you're left with the question...why??

Why does a sociopath do what he does? What is his motivation? As an excellent article on Lovefraud asserts, it is truly impossible to completely understand the "core" of a sociopath and how completely, scarily, different they are from the majority of us. The author, Donna Andersen, states that the 4% of society who are sociopaths "might as well be aliens. These people feel no empathy at all towards other human beings, have no conscience, and are interested only in power, control and sex ... it means sociopaths feel entitled to take what they want, regardless of how their actions may damage others. It means they get no satisfaction from connectedness with others, they only get satisfaction from winning. It means sociopaths view the world as predators and prey - they are the predators and everyone else is prey."

Unbelievable, huh. Donna Andersen has most obviously been there. Of course, she's the founder of Lovefraud. And thanks to her persistence in speaking out about the horrors of sociopaths, we can all become better educated and hopefully more and more women will avoid them in the first place.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Having My Husband Served with an Order of Protection

As I mentioned in a previous post dated June 1, after that awful night on February 5th when I had to call 911 to have my then-husband Neil Zucconi removed from my home, I decided to file an Order of Protection against him at the advice of the two police officers who had witnessed his behavior. I went to court and quickly obtained the order after going before a judge and discussing the reasons behind my need for police enforceable protection. The order was easily granted. And I thought that simply obtaining the order would be the end of it. That I'd never see him again and I could pick up the pieces and go on with my life.

But of course I knew I'd have to have Neil served with the Order of Protection before it would be valid and enforceable. That part literally made me sick to my stomach. And it turned out to be tricky and more time consuming than I'd anticipated. I first hired a private process server, which typically costs around $100. The process server made two attempts to serve him, but unfortunately Neil had caught wind of the fact that I'd filed the Order of Protection and dodged the service attempts by leaving the state.

At that point, I looked into having the county sheriff's department closest to where Neil lives handle the service process, but since I live in a different state, it would have cost about three times what I'd paid the private process server. That didn't seem fair. So instead I turned to my local police department's victim services program. They assured me that they could easily handle having him served and it wouldn't cost me a dime.

The police victim services staff are amazingly dedicated, and my advocate in particular worked incredibly hard in conjunction with all kinds of authorities over in California throughout the process, from the National Guard and Homeland Security to the police, the sheriff in two different counties and even the airport police. It took about a month, but they finally tracked him down and had him served.

There was absolutely nothing fun about any of this. I don't remember really sleeping much at all throughout that month. The fact that I had to do this to protect myself and my children was so depressing and stressful. I imagine that every hour countless people are filing Orders of Protection against other people all over the country. As if it's no big deal.

But it is a big deal. It's horrifying to think that you'd have to go to this extreme measure to keep yourself safe. Especially when you're trying to keep yourself safe from someone who you thought had only your best interests at heart. Someone you trusted and opened your entire life to. Someone who you thought truly loved you. Someone you believed in. To have to cope with the fact that the person never really loved you at the exact same time when you're also dealing with having to file a restraining order against him is beyond devastating. It's also an extremely lonely place to be.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Important Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

When you're in an abusive relationship, it is very easy to get caught up in the cycle of abuse unknowingly, and before you know it, the abuse has spiraled out of control.

The following are some red flags that you may be in an abusive relationship, courtesy of Helpguide.org's domestic violence resources, as well as The Red Flag Campaign, a project of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance which is funded by the Verizon Foundation.

Your partner:
- tells you how to dress or act
- accuses you of flirting or "coming on" to others
- makes vulgar or disparaging comments about others in your presence
- blames arguments and problems on you
- lies to you
- yells at or humiliates you
- threatens to hurt you if you break up with him/her
- calls you names
- constantly checks up on you
- experiences extreme mood swings; says you're the best one minute and rips you apart the next
- doesn't listen to you; things always have to be done his/her way
- blames you for how he/she treats you

(Gee, does this list bring back memories....)

And you, in turn, feel the following:
- afraid to break up with him/her
- tied down, like you have to check in all the time with that person
- afraid to make decisions
- afraid your partner will cut you down
- overwhelming sadness and often depression
- worried and obsessed over how to make your partner happy
- that the abuse is getting worse over time
- helpless
- overly emotional
- exhausted
- that if you only loved him/her more then the abuse will stop
- worthless
- embarrassed and ashamed
- trapped and desperate
- confused; one minute you desperately want to break free, and the next minute you think he/she will change enough for the relationship to hang on

A person emotionally abuses their partner in order to strip away their independence and feelings of self-esteem and self-worth. It's an insidious form of abuse, causing deep, long-lasting internal scars. Unless you've been on the receiving end, it's really hard to understand how debilitating emotional and verbal abuse is.

It is important to remember than an abuser CAN control his/her behavior. They choose very carefully when and where to abuse their partner, which often makes the abuse victim feel like they're going crazy. If you're being abused, it is absolutely NOT your fault for being mistreated. Remember that the only thing that you should focus on is being safe. You may not necessarily be safe if you decide to get a restraining order, but it is an option to consider. To learn more about restraining orders in your area, call 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

Monday, June 7, 2010

Going to court to file an Order of Protection

When I went to the Superior Court in Phoenix to file an Order of Protection against Neil, it was an overwhelming process. I first had to go to the Family Violence Prevention Center located in the Superior Court building. It was such a sad place. There were other women there who were doing the same thing that I was - filing an Order of Protection in order to feel safe. And we all had to fill out the same paperwork. And relive the chaos that we'd been living.

It was quite sobering to be in that place, both physically and figuratively. Me, in a Family Violence Prevention Center?? Are you kidding me??? That was someplace I never thought I'd be -- ever. One thing that my divorce attorney had advised me was to be sure to write about what had happened over the course of the ten months that we'd been married. She said that if I didn't include mention of what had happened during those ten months, then I'd be limited in what I'd be able to provide in my testimony if I were to have to go to court.

Looking back, I wish I'd been more specific with dates. I only included the mention of one date in particular -- that evening of February 5th when I had to call the police to my home. Later, that ended up biting me in court because the judge only let me talk about that one date that I'd included in my Order of Protection petition. But that's another story for another post....

So there I was, in the Family Violence Prevention Center wondering how the heck I could possibly be there, spending an hour filling out the Order of Protection petition forms, and crying inside, wishing that none of this had ever happened. That I'd never married him. That I'd never met him. This was all such a nightmare.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How do you decide to file an order of protection?

To get to the point where you have to call 911 to have the police remove your husband from your home is an awful place to be. I never saw it coming, that terrifying night in February when I found myself curled up in a ball, trembling and sobbing on my front patio, looking up into the faces of two police officers peering over me. When one officer suggested that I go straight to the county superior court the next morning to file an Order of Protection against my husband, I didn't even know what that was.

How could this be me? I wasn't one of "those" women who ends up a victim of abuse. I'm an Ivy League-educated, 40-something mom of three, busy executive of a health care organization, and supposedly fairly intelligent. Domestic Violence wasn't supposed to be part of my life in any way, shape or form, other than the remote articles I occasionally glanced at in the newspaper of some silly woman getting beat up by her boyfriend.

But this is me. I'm right alongside the silly women getting beat up. I'm here, in this realm -- one that I know aboslutely nothing of. There's no instruction manual for this kind of situation. I'd never ever called 911 before in my life, and yet here I was, my teeth chattering and hands shaking with fear, staring at my wide open front door that completely exposed my home while police officers carefully walked inside to approach my angry husband. The inside of my house would never look the same after this. The warm oriental rugs and cozy furniture would now only remind me of this night of overwhelming fear and panic. And violation and humiliation. Things would never be the same.

Days later, after peeling myself off the floor and spending hours and hours talking with my newly found friend and advocate at the local police department's victim services program, I made it all the way to court and sat before a judge to file an Order of Protection against my husband. I had thought that act would mark an end. I had already filed for divorce, ending our brief 10-month marriage as quickly as I could, and I figured that the Order of Protection would add an additional seal to the closure -- ensuring that I'd never have to live through another terrifying night again.

But, it turned out that simply filing the Order of Protection was merely the beginning of yet another ordeal, continuing with the actual serving of the order and a subsequent very stressful court hearing. You see it's not so easy filing an Order of Protection against a federal agent.

But that's another story yet to be shared.