I’ve written quite a few posts about the struggles of leaving an abusive relationship. Those posts were mainly focused on the large barriers, things directly related to the abuse and fear. Today (4 years, 2.5 months) after leaving, I’m still facing minute and incredibly frustrating barriers. This is a rant about jumping through fucking ridiculous hoops. Hoops that would be frustrating after any separation, but downright impossible and dangerous after leaving an abusive situation.
Four years ago, when I physically separated from my ex-husband, my cell phone was registered on a bill that was in his name. We had all our cable/tv/phone services under one bill which was in his name. Thus, even though I was living in my own home, the bill and all the information about my cell usage was sent to him. I wanted as much distance as possible from him. I didn’t want him to know if I called my doctor or a crisis line, or which of my friends I was in regular contact with. I called the cell phone company and, even though my name was an authorized contact on the file, they would not consent to transferring my cell phone to my own bill without his consent. He was the account holder. They required him to call in. I asked him to make the call. He ignored me. I asked him again, he refused. I called the company multiple times, I begged, I cried, I explained that I needed to keep my cell number because I’d sent out job application and resumes. I told them about the divorce, the abuse, and I cried again. They absolutely WOULD NOT release the phone number and contract to me without his consent.
I contacted him and told him that if he didn’t release the phone to me by X date, I would return the phone to him and he would be responsible for paying it to the end of the contract. That date came, he still had not cooperated. I wiped the SIM card, dropped the phone off at his place and got myself a new phone.
I lost my address, my home phone number and my cell phone number. I’m certain he would not have passed on any mail, or messages to me. I have no idea what I might have missed in those months following the separation. My home phone had recorded voice messages from Marian, which I had saved. When she died, I knew they were gone and I wouldn’t hear her voice again. I had to re-do my resume, contact doctors, schools etc. and give them not only my new address but my new cell phone number too.
It was frustrating. It didn’t seem logical. I felt the power of his control over my life. He knew I wanted to keep my phone number, so he refused to give it to me. He would have had to pay out the end of the contract, but he was willing to take a financial hit just to punish me.
I need to renew my kids passports. I already delayed doing this for over a year, waiting to get custody, so I could put my address on the forms. Ideally, they want both parents to sign the forms. Do you think he would sign them? No. Of course not! He said that he forgot. Then he started ignoring my emails. So now I will have to bring the court order and divorce papers to the passport office and plead my case. Maybe they will issue the passports, maybe they won’t. But I will have to stand there and dredge up this embarrassing awful story about how we are separated, how he moved out of the city and I can’t contact him. I will have to take my chances on whether or not the person working that day will process the forms with only one signature, or not. And if they won’t? Either we won’t be able to travel, or my lawyer will have to try to get him to sign. But if he won’t sign? Then what? Go back to court, just to get a passport renewed. Sigh.
About 18 months ago, I received extended health benefits through my place of employment. I was so pleased and felt so good about being independent and self sufficient. I was proud of my ability to work, after many years of being disabled by the violence and ensuring mental illness.
But my good feelings quickly diminished when I learned that I could not put my children’s health claims through my own insurance without claiming through his insurance first. The rules are that the person whose birthday falls first in the year is the primary insurance, which made mine the secondary. Since we were divorced, I was not an authorized contact on his insurance. This meant that in order to submit extended health claims (psychologist, dentist etc) through my plan, I had to submit the claims through his plan first. Which meant I needed his signature.
In 18 months, he was never once willing to coordinate the benefits. All I needed was for him to submit the claims through his plan, then provide me with documentation about which portion was not covered. I could then submit it through my plan. With the plans combined, most of the kids expenses would have been fully covered.
But he wouldn’t do it. Absolutely just refused, ignored and at the same time, told the kids consistently that they didn’t need counseling. He told them not to trust the counselor and that it was a waste of money, too expensive and it wouldn’t help because I was the crazy one.
So I wasn’t able to use the extended benefits. I paid for my kids expenses on my own. Legally we were supposed to be splitting the costs in proportion to our salaries, but that would require even more communication and the more he knew I wanted it, the less he would cooperate.
I’m extremely lucky, I’m in a position where I can pay for my kids extended health care. But imagine how deep of an impact this would have on someone without a full time job.
The abuse, power and control can continue, financially and administratively for as long as the abuser wants. There should be protections, that in cases of abuse, rules can be bent or made more flexible. There should be recognition that continued contact with the abuser is mentally damaging to the survivor at best, and physically dangerous at worst.
Fast forward again, to today, years after leaving. My children’s father quit his job and moved to another part of the country. Thus his insurance is no longer active.
But I STILL haven’t been able to use my own insurance. I went to the pharmacy yesterday and his insurance was still on file.
Today, I spent probably 30 minutes on the phone with the provincial drug benefit. They said they can’t reactive the coverage for my kids, unless they have a letter from Dad’s insurance company saying the insurance was terminated.
There is no way in hell I could get that letter. I’m not an authorized person on the file for his drug plan. They won’t talk to me. If I email him, to ask him, he will ignore me. He’s in another part of the country.
The frustration is immense. I wanted to burst into tears and hang up the phone.
Luckily, there is another option, the pharmacy can write a letter to the drug benefit company explaining that the coverage through Dad was terminated. So I spent another 10 minutes on the phone with them. I’m hoping it will be sorted out within 1-2 weeks.
These are “minor’ frustrations. Administrative hoops. But for a survivor of violence, these hoops are a continuation of the power and control wielded by the abuser. These phone calls and details can trigger me, make me feel powerless, angry or hopeless. And they are still continuing 4 years after separation.
No, survivors can’t JUST LEAVE!
I’m writing this, partially to vent, but partially to share details about WHY leaving is so hard. WHY people stay in abusive relationship. WHY the impact lasts for so long. It’s not just the major stuff. It’s the giant toppling pile of minute barriers which unite to form a wall of frustration.
It takes a lot of strength to keep climbing the wall.
If you are a survivor, I believe you. I’m sorry you have to go through this.
If you know a survivor. Believe them. Give them a hug and tell them you are sorry for what they are going through. Offer a helping hand. Let them vent, even if it was “a long time ago.”
The impact of intimate partner violence is long lasting. Today, November 15th, SHINE the light on violence against women. We all need to be a part of the solution. We all need to work to end domestic violence.