Last night, I started feeling a bit anxious. No one likes courtrooms, well… I know I don’t. Beyond that, I knew that my abuser would be in court. I woke up this morning around 6:30 a.m. I laid in my bed for a good 15 minutes talking to God. Praying for the strength that I would need, especially for today.
As most of you know, I’m slowly but surely learning how to get my self-confidence back. Over the course of seven years of being belittled, battered, and abused, I had lost my confidence, self-worth, even my own identity at one point. I would constantly second guess myself, I was indecisive, and I was unable to cope. I did not trust myself, even though I ended up being right about almost everything my gut would try and tell me- over, and over again.
I decided to put on my new maroon dress and brown boots. I left my hair down, and dressed for success. I wore my sea green dangled earrings and my dad arrived to pick me up at 7:50 a.m.
We drove for what seemed like an eternity and I was let out in front of my attorney’s office. We arrived around 8:50 a.m. At 9:00 a.m., I waked up the narrow stairs to the office.
My attorney was already there, sitting in her chair, organizing our paperwork. She is wonderful. I can tell that she is really passionate about helping survivors of abuse, and she really has my best interest at heart.
We talked briefly as we walked down the street. I felt safe, but I couldn’t help but to keep looking all around me. Hypervigilance- is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect activity. Hypervigilance may bring about a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. This can be brought on by Complex PTSD, which I have been diagnosed with.
I’m constantly looking for danger. Sometimes, I don’t know if I’m being paranoid, or what. But as my lawyer told me earlier this week- “You’re not crazy, and you’re not being overly paranoid. There are circumstances in your case that cause great concern. We have a lot of cases. We wouldn’t waste our time if we didn’t believe your in danger.”
We made our way into the building and stopped at the Sheriff’s Office located inside the courthouse. We asked if my abuser had been served a copy of our hearing for this morning. He hadn’t, but I knew he would be there anyway.
As we walked up the stairs, my attorney was preparing me for the possibility that he may already be there, sitting in the hallway. I hit the last step and BAM. There he was. At first, I glanced and kept walking. We walked straight into the courtroom and sat down. The baliff asked us if we could sit on the other side of the benches because of the incarcerated individuals that were nearby. My attorney explained that my abuser had several convictions and was more dangerous to me, than the criminals in jumpsuits. She pleaded for him to allow me to sit on the other side. He agreed.
The door to the courtroom remained open, and I couldn’t help but to keep looking over. My lawyer asked, who is that girl he’s with? I had no idea. Not at first.
From what I could tell, she had blonde hair, probably around my age. She wore a dress which revealed her tattooed covered legs, arms, and chest.
I kept looking out there. I know her from somewhere. Where?
Then, it hit me.
She was the same girl who had threatened me over the summer. What was she doing here? And why? She barely knew me, much less our children. She was never around…
I became antsy and my lawyer asked if I would feel more comfortable going upstairs until it was time for court to the District Attorney’s Office. We made our way out, and went up to the 5th floor.
We sat and talked and I showed her the messages she had sent. My lawyer took notes. We waited for the Victim Advocate, but she was in a meeting. At about 9:29 a.m., one minute before court was to be in session, we jumped up and headed back down. I was met by the Children’s Advocate from Project Safe. I love her! She has worked with my children and I for so long now, and she too, is very passionate about working with survivors of domestic violence.
I briefly caught her up to date with everything. She told me that she would help me with a few things I inquired about after court. As I walked in, I sat on the end of the bench, next to the Children’s Advocate, and then my lawyer was next to her. We sat on the front row.
Not too much longer after that, the Victim Advocate from the D.A.’s office made her way down with a big smile on her face! I waved and smiled, and gave her a hug! I was so happy to see her. She really is, amazing. She told me that everyone at the District Attorney’s Office, knew me and told her about my hearing- including the Assistant District Attorney, himself. She said, really, you have so much support.
My abuser and the girl he was with sat on the opposite side in the back. I noticed DFCS workers coming in- my caseworker, the investigator, and the attorney who represents DFCS.
There was a motion to “Quash” the subpoenas that we had served them with, but I was told that is standard practice. The judge denied that motion.
At first, we were one of the first cases called. But my abuser told the court that he had special witnesses that were on their way. I don’t believe that for a minute.
The judge denied his motion for a continuance and told him that we would wait a few minutes longer. The judge went ahead and let the other cases go before ours, which is good considering I was in court from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. just on a PPO Hearing.
It kind of makes me wonder what my divorce proceeding will look like.
Of course there were no more witnesses, so we went ahead. My abuser represented himself. I knew this would be interesting, because talking is his forte.
He does a lot of it.
I sat and listened to opening statements by both my abuser and my attorney. My abuser tried to immediately enter in evidence, which was shot down immediately. (This is probably why he should have been represented). You can’t enter in evidence during the opening statement.
The piece of evidence he ended up admitting later on in court was a signed and notarized letter from his grandmother, who in his own words “dislikes children”. She stated what a good father my abuser was, and how at the least he should deserve visitation.
The thing is, that’s really not what this court hearing was about. I have a TPO (Temporary Protective Order) that is set to expire October of this year. I know I still have time, but I decided to file the motion when I knew he could be served in the Athens-Clarke County Jail last month- and he would be in the Clarke County Jurisdiction. We were asking the courts to rule in favor of a PPO (Permanent Protective Order).
My abuser stated that he acknowledged that our marriage was irrevocably broken, and was not contesting a PPO between me and him. He did, however, say that he would only ask that the PPO be able to be modified in the future because we did share children together.
In other words, he still doesn’t want to let me go. He was contesting the PPO in terms of our children. In fact, he filed a motion at 9:05 that morning to “Modify the Protective Order”. It’s really confusing, but basically, we were in court today to argue for a PPO for both the children and me. My abuser was there to ask for visitation, a modification of our TPO.
But DFCS was there. My caseworker was the first witness called to the stand. He testified that through experts, the boys HAD been exposed to EMOTIONAL ABUSE at the hands of their father.
He testified that he had met with my abuser twice and that he seemed genuine in trying to work towards the goals on his case plan. He also testified that my abuser had not completed court-ordered Family Violence Intervention Classes, and only registered after a hearing had been scheduled for Non-Compliance.
This was back in February of 2017.
My case manager testified that he had met with me on numerous occasions and that I had actually been working on my goals.
My abuser just doesn’t get it. He thinks that if he throws stones at me, it will make him look better. He should be focused on himself. But he isn’t. His focus is all on me and how everyone else had done him wrong. There is NO remorse for what he did to his family.
He told the court that I was “ill”, and that he “prayed for me daily”. I really wish he wouldn’t, just being honest.
I was called to testify on the stand and I answered questions about our children. I told the court that for the first time in their lives, they were happy, healthy, and flourishing. I couldn’t help but to smile, because I really am SO proud of my boys. They are doing wonderful. That was my intent- for getting myself help- I knew this is what would need to happen. And after visiting with my children, I knew I had made the right choice.
My abuser babbled on about how he was a good father and yada yada yada. Words don’t mean a thing- ACTIONS, do.
I’m not contesting that he doesn’t “love” our boys, or care about them. But he is in denial about abusing them. He is in denial about his relationship with them. It was toxic.
I am proud of myself, because I had no idea that today- I would for the first time be placed under oath having to be CROSSED EXAMINED by my abuser- not his lawyer, MY ABUSER HIMSELF.
At times, it was hard for me to understand his thought process on his lines of questioning, but I did the best that I could.
He tried to convey to the courts that within the seven years of marriage, we had been in fact- stable. Wrong. I told him there were “times” that we lived in a nice home, or “seemed stable”, but we never really were. We had lived in 9 counties in Georgia, including out of state in Almond, North Carolina in a tent in the wilderness.
Boy- he took that and ran with it. “Mrs. Sheerer, did I force you to come up to the mountains?” “No.”, I responded. “In fact, wasn’t I already established up there, before you decided to come at your own free will?” “Yes”, I responded.
He asked, “And what was the reason for having to leave North Carolina and de-stabilize?” (He was trying to get me to say it was because Athens-Clarke County took out a fugitive warrant, where he was extradited back to Georgia.
I said, “Our life in North Carolina collapsed because I got a phone call the day before our oldest son, Anthony, started Pre-K last year, saying that you were being placed under arrest from a drug deal.” “Oh, so are you saying that I caught a drug charge there?” “No, but they wanted to. You ended up only being arrested for the felony fugitive warrant.”
“But that’s how you got caught, drugs.”, I stated. My abuser looked coldly into my eyes. I didn’t flinch. I stared straight back at him.
“And can you recall where I was when arrested, I wasn’t working at the hotel doing carpet cleaning?”
“No, I responded.” “You were actually across the street with the guy who you bought drugs from.”
He stared at me.
He went on and on, I felt like I had been up there forever. I had to ask him to repeat his questions several times.
I had to force myself NOT to dissociate. That was common for me, especially when placed under severe stressed. I’m proud of myself for staying in the moment, and facing everything I needed to- comfortable or not.
I did it.
I did it successfully.
But that’s not the best part. The girl who had threatened me was called as his next witness. She told all kinds of lies. She originally said that we went to high school together.
That was a lie.
We did not.
She knew my twin sister, but rarely knew anything about me. She claimed that she had seen his interaction as a father to the children- another lie.
She claimed, “It’s just not fair, you know. She’s over here with all these people and stuff, and he doesn’t have anything.”
Well, sweetheart- did you ever wonder why that might be?
My attorney was able to cross examine her. By the time she was done with that witness- she was READY to get off the stand. My attorney told me to get my phone “fire up that message she sent you.” My attorney asked if she had sent me a Facebook message saying, “Jen, I better not see you in the street.” She smiled. She said she was just having a bad day. My attorney said, “so to make this clear, she has a lot of support and so that justifies threatening her?”
The judge looked up, bewildered. I thought to myself, “girl, you just need to stop.” She admitted to sending me those messages and actually asked if they were threatening. My attorney said, “Yes, I would say they are.” She stared at me and said, “Oh, well- sorry, Jenn.”
I stared straight at her, smiling. I remember hearing my abuser use her as a tool. She was a woman to be feared. She has a pretty extensive criminal history herself.
She’s threatened my twin sister in the past, now me.
She used to use methamphetamine and heroin. That’s the kind of person my abuser drug in to testify about his parenting skills. I’m baffled.
When all was said and done, the judge took our proposed order of the PPO, and said that he wanted to read through it and take some notes. This was at about 11:30 a.m. I did not get a clear answer in court today, but it seems as though my motion will be accepted and the judge may add, take-out, or modify our proposed plan how he sees fit.
Either way, DFCS has testified that my abuser is not allowed visitation until a series of evaluations and other items have been completed. My abuser thought that if he could go into Superior Court (which overrides all courts) that he could talk his way into modifying the order.
I am deeply concerned for my safety and my children’s. I’m not so much concerned with the children, because I know they are safe and I know the foster family will KEEP my babies safe.
However, it was established today in court that the address provided was not accurate- in fact, my abuser was unable to tell the court what his address was. He was “moving on Monday or Tuesday”, he would be staying in some woman’s basement that he barely knew. He didn’t even know her last name.
But, he’s stable, yall. I mean just as much as my hair is the color purple- he is stable.
Shame on me. That wasn’t very nice. But you know what? The past seven years weren’t very nice for me. At all. Low and behold- he was exactly where I thought he would be. He had stayed overnight in Gwinnett County, Georgia at the girl who testified on his behalf for him.
My gut never fails me.
Now, we are provided a Loganville, Georgia address. So who knows?
I’m going to keep doing me. That’s all I can do.
He kept on and on about my “previous statements”. Well, yes. I loved that man. I really did, whole-heartedly. I would have and did- everything I could to show and give him that love. But you know, there were times- a lot of times, where I would say what I had to in order to survive.
I told him things because I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to be slapped across the face, punched in the head to the point of seeing stars. I didn’t want to be kicked, spit on. I didn’t want anymore black eyes. So yeah, I said a lot of things. But I was in survival mode. For me- it was life or death.
At this juncture in my life, I am focused on myself and my children- their needs. I am beyond ecstatic to see them on our next visit this weekend.
If it weren’t for them, I’m not sure that I would have had the strength to leave my violent marriage. I really don’t. As a teacher, I saw how much they were being affected. Especially- the older they got. I knew. I knew things were bad, I knew they were abnormal. And I knew I had to get us help.
Honestly, I’m not worried. I’m really not. My children are happy, healthy, and safe. I’m working hard and feel like the for the first time ever, and I mean- EVER- the boys and myself are flourishing.
I may have missed a few things, but overall it was an excellent day. I’m worn out. I will sleep good tonight.
I deserve it. And once I am refreshed, you can continue reading my posts that I will do my best to frequently update. For now- I’m taking some much needed “me” time, tonight.
After court, I was able to meet my parents and students- we are going to have a phenomenal school year!
I want to thank everyone for your continued thoughts and prayers! Thank you for those who reach out to me and continue to support me on my incredible journey.
I’m moving forward. Baby steps are getting me there.
I think my abuser finally met his match. The good Lord knows of all people, even I wouldn’t have expected to stand so brave and advocate for myself the way that I do now. Abuse is not okay. I started out on my journey acknowledging that if not for me, I would do this for the children.
I am doing this for the children.
But I’m also doing this for me.
I am enough.