Editor’s note: Dr. Amber Ault is a Lovefraud contributor and author of “The Five Step Exit: Skills You Need to Leave a Psychopath, Narcissist, or Other Toxic Partner and Recover Your Happiness Now.”
It’s been a year this month since the brutal murder of my second cousin, Linnea Satterfield, by her ex-partner.
Sensitive to the possible impact on your readers of sharing the horrific details, I won’t recount them here. I will say, however, that the circumstances are familiar: the toxic ex had a history of violence against women before he and my cousin became involved; theirs was a relationship reported to be contentious; and she had recently ended it. She was killed after she had moved out, bought her own home, and begun to move on. We know that the people ending toxic relationships face the gravest dangers when they finalize an ending and begin to signal that they aren’t going back. My cousin seems to have been vigilant (she had security cameras in her bedroom and people checking in with her regularly), but, in the end, underestimated the risks of continuing to live within the perpetrator’s reach by remaining in the neighborhood. This miscalculation of her ex’s psychopathy made her vulnerable to the attack that ended her life.
The take-away message isn’t that people involved with abusive partners shouldn’t leave. Quite the opposite: nobody deserves to abused emotionally, physically, sexually, or financially, and we’re better off in the long run to be free of relationships that include these elements. Still, ending relationships with an anti-social, narcissistic, or borderline partner differs from ending relationships with functional people. Extracting ourselves while minimizing the risks – of drama, damage, and even death –needs to be done mindfully, with deep awareness of the risks involved and preparation for addressing them before they unfold.
I’d written my book, The Five Step Exit: Skills You Need to Leave a Psychopath, Narcissist, or Other Toxic Partner and Recover Your Happiness Now in 2015. I didn’t know about my cousin’s situation then, but I wish I had, because it is written for people along the continuum of toxic relationships — for men and women, straight and queer people, in toxic relationships that don’t involve physical violence and those that do. The book was designed to offer people practical steps, from contemplating leaving to recovering, that could be easily understood and carefully applied. I believe that knowledge is power and that preparation allows us to deal with difficult situations with greater clarity, speed, and effectiveness. Readers have told me that The Five Step Exit has helped them or someone they love liberate themselves from toxic relationships and cultivate the kind of better life that was so violently stolen from Linnea.
In the wake of her murder, I wanted to do more, so I asked your readers and mine to donate copies of the book in the places where it could have even greater impact. And they responded. They generously gave copies of the book to their local libraries, to their psychotherapists, to the give-away shelves in their neighborhoods, and many kindly reported in: “Hey, I dropped the book in the Free Little Library box on the corner yesterday, and today it was gone.” It was generous on their part to take these steps — ordering the book, thinking about where a person in need might find it, and delivering it. I was deeply touched by their generosity, and it helped me continue to be hopeful, even in the wake of Linnea’s shocking murder, that we can prevent others from dying at the hands of partners and Exes and other family members with anti-social patterns.
This year, I’m going to ask your readers to help me again, in the same way. I’ve set the price of the book on Amazon.com to the cost of paper and shipping for the month of July, so that folks can once again buy the book at cost. If folks can give away five books, or three, or even one, they participate in a productive, living memorial to Linnea and everyone else who has suffered from a toxic relationship, and contribute to our collective process of making the world a safer, freer, happier place.
A link to book is here:
Thanks very much for the work you do and for putting the word out about this collective book give-away. Together, we heal the world.
Amber Ault, Ph.D., MSW