By | August 26, 2011 45 Comments

LETTERS TO LOVEFRAUD: Leaving the abuser, then expected to co-parent

Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following email from a reader whom we’ll call “Gloria.”

I have been divorced from my abusive husband (mental, physical, sexual against me but he NEVER LEFT A MARK ON ME.) for 11 years and we have 3 teenagers together. I have known him 20 years. For most of this time, I have been puzzled about why I could not “move on” after the divorce.

Yes, I left him. During the marriage I did not know the name “abusive,” so I just kept trying to be a good wife and mother, fulfill my marriage commitment, etc., but then I woke up just enough to know that it was “abusive” and I left. We had gone to about 8 couples counselors during the marriage, and I always ended up feeling much worse, and he never took any of the responsibility, just smirked and was derisively contemptuous.

I kept trying to get along with him following the divorce, to “co-parent” (we have joint custody) as the courts seem to require. I have a lot of good will and keep forgiving and trying, but I’m not a pushover! I’m an assertive person and I do assert myself with him constantly, respectfully. Though he is not respectful in return. I tried for all these years to say to the kids, as I was advised by mental health professionals, “your dad is a good man. I’m sure he doesn’t mean it. We just don’t love each other anymore, the way married people should… but I loved him when I married him, and he is your father, and I will always support and respect him.” I am so angry at the mental health professionals for steering me wrong! Seriously, I did all of this in such GOOD WILL, but ignorance. I only, always, wanted what was going to help my children.

After everything I tried, nothing seems to work and now we are barely speaking. I mean ”¦ he has been trying to control and shape how I am “allowed” to communicate with him. Basically, instructing me, I could email him, but only once a week, only one topic per email ”¦ and so I would, and then it would be something else ”¦ I mean, just impossible demands and hoops to jump through. I finally realized, there is no compromise with this man, unless I do all of it. He does none of it.

Scares the children

There are some interesting, colorful problems that go along with my story. One daughter cut her wrists a couple years ago (one time), she was frightened of her dad and refused to see him, and he blamed me (instead of coming together with me to help our daughter in crisis) for her refusal to see him, and threatened me with legal action (he threatens repeatedly).

He attacked her physically in her room, locking the door, menacingly advancing, pushing her to the floor, yelling at her. He has rage attacks frequently. He scares the children.

I should mention that he is very wealthy, a lawyer. Not a con-artist profile! He never bilked me of any money ”¦ but I am struggling financially due to having been focused on raising the kids all these years, and the kids have difficult personalities. He could, for example, take me repeatedly to court, just for the pleasure of impoverishing me further. He did this during the divorce his family has a lot of money. He is an upstanding citizen, good employee, no criminal record except that one time I called 911 and he was arrested and charged with DV

Prized possessions

I have tried to lay low with him. I have tried to “appease” him just to get off his radar. We have joint custody and the kids go back and forth. We have tried a few times to go to counselors to help with “parent coordination,” but the counselors always fall for his lies OR they look at both of us puzzled and say stuff like, “with the two of you, it is hard to know where the credibility lies ”¦”

He is more interested in them as prized possessions than in them personally. This follows the pattern of how he treated me (as an object) during our marriage. It is a very cold thing.

Now not only do we have the one daughter refusing to see her dad, our son is also refusing to see him. He will not say why, “I just don’t feel like it.” This, I should say, is an adamant refusal there is nothing I can do to force it. My ex-husband blames me and has accused me of “parental alienation.” He does his own alienating he needs no help from me!

I have been advised by these counselors, “The conflict between you and your ex-husband is very bad for the children. You need to stop.” And I am so hopeless, hearing things like that. I am not the one doing it. I am not the one attacking, or ignoring, or being rude and disrespectful. Though I do sometimes assert myself to him (not defend, not counterattack, not withdraw). I say, “You are lying.” He smiles and says, “No I’m not, you do it too.” There is just no getting to integrity with this man. It is maddening.

My own parents have admonished me to try to give him the benefit of the doubt and get along with him for the sake of the children. 🙁

College money

My ex-husband is assigning “roles” to the daughters: the daughter who still sees him is the “good;” child and the one who refuses is the “bad” child (they are twins). He has offered $100,000 in college tuition to the “good” daughter, and he has told the other daughter that his $$ help for college is conditional upon her return to a “full relationship” with him. I assume he means that he comes back to live with her not that they have a real relationship based on love.

I should mention ”¦ he lies, lies, lies. He smiles like there is no problem, making me out to be the crazy one. He has been remarried for the past 5 years, and I think she is possibly more sociopathic/evil than he is. For a long time, I thought maybe he has BPD. Then I thought no, he lacks empathy, must be a narcissist. Then, now, I see the sociopathic connection. I see the fake display of emotions. I see the lack of remorse. Well ”¦ both he and his wife have the fakey-nice sing-songy way of talking to the kids, it sickens all of us, and I worry about my one daughter who still goes over there. I worry about my son who sometimes exhibits thoughtless behaviors.


Which brings us to today, where the story got very interesting all of a sudden. I recently got a full-time job, which requires my being gone from the house for the usual number of hours (instead of being home as flexibly as possible, which I tried to do all these years, working part-time or flexibly). The kids were having a rough adjustment to it, but I said, be patient, it’s a transition, we will get through it, but yes you have to help out more (teenagers). I have been a good mom. I have been there, I have done stuff with and for them. I am not perfect. I think I have been utterly normal and healthy. Despite the PTSD I’ve had to deal with.

So, the one daughter who refuses to see her dad, she reacted badly one day when I had a “lecture” to all three kids (it was a stern lecture about wanting them to help out more I have to be very careful and precise and honest in presenting this to you: My kids are not used to me being stern they are used to me being “nice” so this was new and different to them, but I assure you nothing abusive or out of the ordinary in what I think is pretty common and normal parenting especially with teenagers. I really am a very even keel person. So this daughter goes to her counselor the next day and rants about me, she is so upset, and the counselor reported me to CPS, which began an investigation, and I will cut to the chase:

Mandated therapy

We now have mandated family therapy: me, the 3 kids, the ex-husband and his wife! This is very interesting since I would really prefer “no contact,” and that would be much healthier and more appropriate for me. It is interesting and maybe useful for the kids now to see the way their dad really is during these sessions, which send chills down my back (especially the new wife and him together). The kids are getting very angry and fed up with him and his lies and his “impression management” at each session.

CPS “found” me “unsubstantiated neglect,” which is such a sad blow to me. Because I know it is unfounded. I know they did not do a fair and thorough investigation. And I know the investigator had her mind made up before she even came to see me. It was a hostile interrogation and she told me the allegation was that I “hate” my daughter and that I am “mentally unstable.” So this will be on my record (searchable database for prospective employers/volunteer agencies) for the next 5 years, until my youngest is 20 years old. I think this is insane. This is what the system is like ”¦ I think, why would the state expect a victim of domestic violence to be in weekly mandated counseling with her abuser? It makes no sense to me.

And this is where I am now ”¦ some things in the way society views sociopathy, domestic violence, etc. just do not make sense. My friends are even shaking their head and nervous ”¦ they say, “Gloria, if this can happen to you (CPS), this could happen to any of us. You are such a good mom!”

Why all the urging to women to leave our abusers, and THEN we are expected to co-parent with them? And the children are supposed to just be okay with all this?

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I only read to “prized possessions” but I’ve got to comment.

You know your own reality, you know how hard you have tried. You know it is impossible to get along with him, you know it is out of your control. That so often seems to be our problem in the first place, we go into these relationships with kind of a God complex, we can do the impossible, we can’t . If anything is our problem, that is. When I realized that I really was trying to do the impossible then I realized it didn’t matter what ANYONE said. I knew the reality I was living. Now if people try to tell me I should do this or do that I don’t hear them or think to myself, “You do it.” We know our reality. Lucky people who don’t understand. Lucky people who, for them, normal rules work.

Ox Drover

Dear Gloria,

“Prized possessions” is so right on but he will destroy them for sure….looks like he is already doing it.

The daughter who is doing the cutting is showing one of the signs of Borderline Personality disorder (it is only one of the signs) The one who turned you into CPS for “abuse” for wanting her to help around the house, sounds like she is showing some signs as well (or are they the same child?)

The mandated family counseling? LOL What a joke.

It frustrates me that some of the “professionals” don’t “get it” about manipulation and emotional abuse, or that it can be as bad or WORSE than a physical beating. At least broken bones can heal, an emotional beating destroys lives and the mending can’t be done with a cast and 6 weeks.

Gloria, I wish i had a “suggestion” for what you could do that would even “help” but I have NO IDEA what would help your situation, other than to just turn the three kids over to him and walk away and try to save yourself, and I doubt that is the answer either. It appears to me that your X husband won’t quit until he has “destroyed” you and your children, then stomped on the pieces. He has the malice, fake mask and resources to accomplish that. I am sorry that you are in such a terrible position. I will pray for your strength, the healing of your heart and your children. God bless you.

PS if you have not read the book “Legal Abuse Syndrome” please do so, and go to Dr. Leedom’s “parenting the at risk child” web site….also, you might actually contact a DV shelter near you and see what resources they might know of in your area, a support group or other resource that might help you.



Your story has a ring of familiarity to it. There are patterns here. Triangulation is one.

Spath met a billionaire whom he tried to milk by becoming good “friends” with him and his wife. Spath would come home and tell me about him. He said, “G has 2 twin daughters, who are grown now and they hate each other. G pitted them against each other while they were growing up. They hated each other so much that they demanded to go to different high schools. G, dislikes his daughters too, the only kid he loves is the mentally retarded youngest son”

The whole family has a strained relationshit. G is now about 80? or so.

That sounds like what your spath is trying to do to his daughters. He wants drama and he’s going to get it come hell or high water.

The only things I can recommend to you is the same as we do to everyone else here: EDUCATION and GREY ROCK.

You must learn as much as you can and get books for your kids to read, so they can understand what is happening too.

Get LOTS of books, make them read over and over and over again on the subject. it takes a long time to cement this kind of information into your brain, so that it becomes second nature to understand, rather than to be confused by the spath behavior.

Lastly, I hate to tell you this but you will need to be vigilent about gathering evidence. You will need to get nanny cams and surveillance and record what is actually happening.

You need to save emails.

You are involved in psychological warfare. War is war, no matter who is involved. So play by the rules of war: keep your cards close, trust no one, not even your kids because they can turn on you (as you’ve seen). Your goal is not to win, because you never will, but to survive until your kids are out of the house.

Lastly, never show the spaths what you value or what you want, redirect their attention to irrelevant issues to keep them busy. When you want something, never go straight toward it, use a round about way of getting it.

Good luck.


Thank you for this article. I feel you!
I am in a similar “No Win” situation with a spath. Trying to parent our six yr. old.

Last night in desperation, I called the abuse hotline for advice on getting a restraining order. After outlining the situation, the woman said to me, “In my opinion, what spath said to your child is *Child abuse*. I am a mandated reporter, and if you would just provide your personal information, I will report this to social services.” (??!!).

Ummmmm…sure… Got a pen? NOT!!! The LAST thing I need, is an ongoing WAR of, He said/She said, with CPS AND a SPATH!

I said, ” Look, I’m going for a restraining order. In my deposition, I will be including the info I gave you. Since court officials are also, “mandated reporters” one would think, they would have a duty, to report these events. How much would you like to BET me, that they DON”T?”

If I get the restraining order, spath would no longer be allowed to abuse, my daughter, or myself, (theoretically).

Hotline lady’s suggestion, just puts another weapon of abuse in spaths hands. Adds another layer of stress and terror to the situation FOR him, straining an already tenacious grip on what little reserves we are able to cling to.

Even with the abuse industry, they just don’t seem to *get* it about spaths. Why not EVALUATE for this potentiality deadly disorder whenever child custody/visitation is on the table?!!

Tired and frustrated today…. 🙁

the phoenix

Thank YOU! to both LF and Gloria for this. It comes at a time while I am still ‘stacking the deck’ and noting all things relevant for the day I leave. We too have children, which I adore and he tries to control…

I know this will be a long and tedious, steep uphill battle some days. Others? Well, I try not to think about them, yet I must still prepare for the worst.

Our In-justice system has so many flaws it is unreal. Spaths seem to be born knowing how to manipulate things in their favor. It’s only when you take the control away or jerk the rug out from under them, they regroup and refocus- usually on the children. And as much as CPS is supposed to help, yeah, thanks but no thanks. Hugs to you Gloria. It will get better for you some day. Just keep hanging in there until it does.



“It’s only when you take the control away or jerk the rug out from under them, they regroup and refocus- usually on the children.”


Monday I got a text from spath: “You win. I’ll say goodbye to Lil’bit this weekend.” (can we have some violins please?).

This was supposed to manipulate my emotions regarding, *my poor child being without a dad, and how hurt she will feel*.

Half hour later another text: “I’ll be moving south on Thursday.”

I have been wanting to move south for years. Spath knows that. SOooo…here I was, “supposed to respond, ” Wait! Take us with you!”

He got the same response he’ll get, from me, for the rest of his miserable life: NONE.

I can only imagine his level of frustration, now that he is realizing, he has lost control of my emotional responses.

By Tuesday morning, it was back to business as usual, with a barrage of threats. Spath it seems, has changed his mind. He’s not going anywhere without his daughter.

Oh, and I am “welcome” to come live with them”…otherwise he plans to destroy me…

Ox Drover

Dear Safeguard,

Yep, he will flip and flop from sweetie to angry and threats, please SAVE all of these messages, texts, or whatever they are as EVIDENCE, you are going to need them in the end.


There is a web site called MY FAMILY WIZARD “DOT” COM and it is useful and can be used by court order as the ONLY COMMUNICATION between parents…..and it keeps record and evidence of what is said that is useful to the court, so if you go to court for custody again maybe your lawyer can check this out and get it set as “the communication” avenue. It costs a bit but not much. There is an article here about this website.

When my family went for an entire year (and that included my egg donor) without any communication with my psychopathic son Patrick who is in prison for murder, he wrote to us, flipping and flopping trying to get us to communicate,, then he started to write others and say he was “worried” since he had not heard from my egg donor and would they call her and see if she was OK. She would hang up. He wrote letters to a minister friend of ours (a good man) telling him how UN-Christian we were because we would not give him “unconditional love” LOL After he tried to have me murdered! and almost DID get his brother C murdered by his ex cellmate. LOL

Eventually though, my egg donor started to feel sorry for him and sent him money, then letters, and now support, and lied to us (we caught her) about it all….and we went NC with her as well as with him. (I still have to communicate mostly by e mail on family business with HER but that is ALL I discuss with her).

She still tries to get information about me and my son C, but the last time she pulled that (and actually, I bit and gave her the opportunity to get information about son C) my son C wrote her an e mail and blasted her about trying to find out where he lived and told her in NO uncertain terms that it was NONE OF HER BUSINESS WHERE HE LIVED. I was actually somewhat surprised at HOW ANGRY he was that she was attempting to find out where he lived.

Keep on with your NO RESPONSE and keep as much of your information as secret as you can. Hopefully, he will find another victim and move on, but it may be a while, and he MAY never move on….but make it as difficult and as unrewarding for him as possible. The ONLY hook he has is the child and he WILL use it as much as possible. Good luck and keep on reading and learning, that is our best defense. God bless (Hugs))



I totally understand your son’s anger…I found myself becoming almost enraged, with certain people, who suggested that I might be being “too hard on spath”. They were falling for his “pity ploy” and trying to suck me in to it too! Oh my God, was I pissed!

Ya know, we FIGHT for our safety and our sanity. For our very LIVES and then people close to us, try to hand us over to spath on a silver platter?!! WTH! yeah I still get “mad” just thinking back on those times. I trust NO ONE totally.

If I have plans, no one knows what I am planning to do until they see me doing it.

I have a few people I trust to help me, but even they only know what they absolutely need to know. Spath will find the weakest link in your protective *Armor* “Like a Lion Spots a Limp”…

Sucks. But it is what it is…

the phoenix

Safeguard and Oxy- mine is but a psychopathetic control freak. He has no self-control so seeks to control others in every way possible.

My teen daughter lives with us. He harps on her every chance he gets- trying to make sure first, nobody else is around, within earshot or can see him. Like I don’t find out about it? Puhleeez! I jump his shit every time, but he still tries.

He tries to get the wee ones to do his bidding. Majority of the time, one of them has nothing to do with him. The other one limits their contact with him. I am greatful for this now, but don’t know how long it will continue.

He cannot be bothered to do anything for a mere few minutes, that may bring anyone else some happiness. Those few minutes or even seconds are improtant and it’s right back to all about him…

If anyone accomplishes anything- he tries to step forward and take credit. If someone goes outside to work on anything, he goes along. Not to help, but to watch, coach and otherwise tell them how it “should” be done.

Go to a store, ask about a product, service or DIY project, out of his mouth come the most insanely stupid questions. Things you wouldn’t even think to ask because you know how to put things in the freezer if you want to ‘freeze’ them? Really? He didn’t know… *gasp* How does that make me look, standing there with him, ring on my finger because I am married to a complete dolt!

the phoenix

Safeguard- I know what you mean. I have a small inner circle of friends who know everything that I have endured. Three maybe four people- tops. They know what to do, who to contact and how to find all of the info I have on the vortex, should anything happen to me.

Oxy- Why would eggy be trying to find out about C? Is she planning another attack? Wouldn’t surprise me if she were. Scary, creepy shit you got there.



I used to feel bad, cause deep down, I was ashamed to be considered his “partner” (*shudder*). He was an unethical and dishonest person, and I was a party to that by virtue of living with, and being emotionally supportive of, such a person.

Mine too, had the common sense of a Brillo Pad. He once tried to force the landlord to accept, in lou of rent, a tiny cubic zirconia, in a clear plastic box.

He came to me with an elaborate *contract* he had printed out for the landlord to sign, stipulating that this “Rare Gem” would be returned to us, immediately upon cash payment of back rent. ROTFL!

I just said,what in the world would the landlord want that for?”
Spath,”All I need is to get him to sign agreeing to accept it. I am going to play up the value, by stressing that I DEMAND this returned to me upon payment!”

Uh…yeah. Ok…Well good luck with that then. 🙂 🙂

Ox Drover

Dear Safeguard,

Absolutely, a liion can watch a herd of 1,000 antelope and he can pick out the ONE with a slight limp, or just a few more worms than the rest of them, and he hones in on that one weakness which gives him a slight advantage to take advantage of.

CPS? Yea, I have fought with them and also adult protective services for patients when I was working in public health clinics, and I was a MANDATED REPORTER…and fought with doctors who didn’t want to report abuse either. Who fought me for doing it.

I used to get really upset when dealing with my egg donor and the last time was a few months ago when she held out a CARROT to me that she knew I would bite on, and I did…I sent someone else to her house to pick up the carrot, and I had warned him NOT to give out any information about me, but she tricked him (he was young and nervous) and got information about my son C “Does C still live at Oxy’s house?” Just an “innocent” question, RIGHT! Yea. Innocent. But she got the information she wanted, that he does NOT live here any more. It was 18 months after he moved out, but still, made me REALLY angry at myself for FALLING for it, and more pithed at MYSELF than at her, because I EXPECT her to pull that kind of crap, and I let her get by with it. LOL Now, I don’t react so much, in fact, I actually spoke to her the other day for a few minutes on business and didn’t react. Although the “business” she called me on may have been a lie…I also expect that….I wouldn’t put it past her to pretend to have business and there not be any legitimate reason. She may just have been checking to see if I was living over here or if I was gone.

In any case, it is important that we KEEP OUR COOL when dealing with them in any way. When we are ANGRY or complacent we make mistakes and give them information. I have shot myself in the foot multiple times by mouthing off when I should have kept my mouth SHUT!

Ox Drover

Phoenix, she is just NOSEY….and I also suspect that she passes things on to my psychopathic son Patrick who is in prison….just in “casual” conversation.

I have letters from before the “summer of Chaos” when they were trying to drive me out of my home between my egg donor and my P son, discussing my financial state—as if that was any of their business. He had been trying to get me to send him some money and I had been pleading “poverty” that I could’nt afford to, and he was discussing it with egg donor. I remember in one letter, she said “well, she can’t be too broke she just bought a pair of jack asses and a wagon” (a purchase of several thousand dollars) and I was telling him I couldn’t afford to send him $500 for his commissary account in prison.

During this time too she kept offering me money “if you need it” but I kept saying, “No, I’m fine.” I would not have taken a “gift” from her if I had been starving….it would have only been a down payment on CONTROL. She looked at me, actually mad about it and said “You wouldn’t take it if you needed it would you?” and I said “Nope, I wouldn’t” and I would live in a tent and eat out of a dumpster before I would ask her or anyone else that I didn’t completely trust for money or “help” The abusers will sometimes use “helping” you as a hook to control you, “well, after all I have done for you and you won’t run your life like I want you to….” LOL

I also think it is embarrassing to egg donor that she does NOT KNOW what is going on with her daughter. Doesn’t know where I am or what I am doing though I live on the same farm only about a half mile away from her house, but my house is not visible from her back porch because of the trees, and I come and go via the back road so don’t have to pass by her house even. I am her only child and my 2 biological sons are her only grandchildren. She has devalued my adopted son because he is “not blood” but yet she embraced the Trojan Horse ex cell mate of my P son’s as “family” until he and my DIL stole money from her and tried to kill my DIL’s husband C. Funny, my adopted son D has set up nights with both my egg donor and my wonderful step father, mowed their yard, done all kinds of things for them, but he is “not blood” but my P son who is in prison for murder deserves her “love” and “pity” because he is blood? PUKE!

the phoenix

Safeguard- mine lied about an injury that never happened and it resulted in him getting fired. Then he was upset about no longer having a job. A job dealing with a bunch of narcissistic whiny crybaby adults who couldn’t manage themselves, which caused him a lot of strss, because he was no more than a pawn. In short- they controlled him when he wanted to be the one in control.

Oxy- I keep my cool to the point of being stoic with the vortex. No emotions, nothing. It’s almost fun watching him squirm trying to figure out how to get his ‘game’ back on and get me under his control again. As for taking or accepting anything from them- his parents and our house. Case in point. They have mentioned ownership being handed back and forth so much between them and him it’s enough to confuse anyone. One check of the county recorders office (free of course!) and the truth is known. They took it back, thinking I couldn’t get anything out of it should I leave. Funny part about it? I don’t want it. Staying would leave me under their thumb. FUCK THAT!

Ox Drover

Dear Phoenix,

Yea, it would tie you to them with a ball and chain. Believe me I know about that….being an only child, and having built my house here on the ancestoral acres, with the land in a trust to protect it from my P son and my other son’s (now) X wife, danged if I didn’t weld a ball and chain around my OWN FOOT….until my egg donor passes away I am tied to this place and can’t rent or sell it, will just have to move out and go some place else if P son gets out of prison or gets his hands on any significant money…but am prepared to do just that. Did it once and will do it again if necessary. I am not going to let being tied to this place financially be my downfall. Back in the summer of Chaos the entire family except my adopted son tried to drive me out of my home….I ended up leaving, but, I also found new strength in realizing that this is just a HOUSE, it is not my life. Better happiness and peace in a tent than misery and anxiety in a mansion.

Dear Gloria, my heart goes out to you. And I respect what you say about yourself. You sound like someone who has values, and works hard to live by them.

Doing that when dealing with a control freak or sadistic abuser can be not only a thankless task, but also makes you more vulnerable just because you’re so predictable. They criticize or complain, and they can pretty well anticipate that you’re going to do almost anything they want to keep the peace or you will try to have a reasonable discussion or you will take your story to someone who will regard you as the crazy person (because no one really acts like you claim your ex does).

I want to comment on a few things in your letter. First, you describe the way he projects himself in the community as though this were the truth about him. Wealthy, a lawyer, not a con artist profile, “an upstanding citizen, good employee, no criminal record except that one time I called 911 and he was arrested and charged with DV.”

That contrasts sharply with your own experience of him. That he is abusive in every way, gratuitously controlling, a continual liar, menacing toward the children, lacking in compassion, arrogant and manipulative, not just with your family but in situations where his control and ability to influence the lives of you and the children is threatened.

I don’t need to tell you that this is a sociopathic profile. You wouldn’t be writing on LoveFraud if you didn’t recognize that. But I hope you also realize that, whatever image he is projecting in the public arena, sociopaths are compulsively consistent in their intentions and behavior. And particularly in their need to win, no matter what the cost to others, in any situation.

As a lawyer, he’s in a profession where that characteristic is rewarded, particularly if he is a litigator, although it’s really true even for specialities as like tax and property law. There’s always an opponent, even if it’s the IRS or the neighbor who questions a property line. Based on what you’ve said already, I would assume your ex is more flamboyant than that, and likes the areas of law where he gets lots of public attention and big money. Which makes your attempts to get help based on your claims that he’s abusive and even pathologically dangerous toward you and your kids all that much more difficult.

At the same time, you can bet you’re not the only victim in his wake. And that some of them are a lot more comfortable than you, and have less to lose, in naming him for the monster he is.

So let’s get to your kids. What your kids are exhibiting are signs of abuse. Cutting is a well-known behavior for kids are abused and, though I hate to bring it up, especially sexual. A parent who is an emotionally manipulative bully can instill so many complicated fears in a child that it can be extremely hard for them to tell the truth about what they’ve endured. The fact that they’ve told you that they don’t want to go back is clear enough evidence that something bad is going on there. And the fact that he’s buying the affection of the one who is still willing to deal with him and withholding money from another is emotional abuse. Whatever is going on between him and them is not good for them. Even if you don’t know exactly what it is, you can refer to your own experience with him to intuit what it might be. He doesn’t recognize other people’s boundaries, especially those he considered his “property.”

So now onto you. I could see how carefully you wrote this letter, and I assume that indicates how hard you have tried to hold onto yourself in this mess. You sound pretty centered. But then again, it’s almost impossible that you could .be, because you’re dealing with ongoing attacks from him and a lack of personal support from authorities and therapists that continues to leave you and the children vulnerable. So I’m going to offer some advice that comes from the assumption that you’re not quite as together as you sound. Apologies if I’m stepping over the line.

I started this letter talking about his public persona and the way you talked about it. As though it were real. As though he had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dichotomy in his character, and the upstanding citizen is as “real” as the pathologically self-centered, immoral, uncivil, brutal, and criminally destructive person you know him to be. You, being a reasonable person, are clearly trying to balance these two realities. I am going to suggest that you give that up. Because what is the important reality about a priest who abuses young boys, or a wealthy philanthropist whose business leaves toxic waste dumps in unsuspecting communities, or an army general who wins his battles but at the cost of thousands of noncombatant lives?

All these types are, arguably contributors to society, but they break the rules of civilization the define us as human and safe among each other. And those breaches make them criminals.

So let’s get back to your ex, and how you think and talk about him. If you were truly convinced and confident in your judgment that he is a bad person, I believe it would change the way you view and analyze his actions. It would also change the way you approach the people who are supposed to help and protect you, whether we’re talking about the legal side or the therapeutic side.

Your ex takes advantage of people’s desires to believe that we’re all okay. And anyone who is inclined toward the wishful thinking that anyone who cries wolf is probably emotionally damaged or just whacko. I do understand that you’ve approached all these “helper” people with a rational presentation and you’ve attempted to present your facts logically and fairly.

But when you’re dealing with a sociopath, unfortunately the truth is that you have to be a bit of a sociopath yourself. Maybe more than a bit. You have to find it in yourself to be clever and remorseless, and to focus on what you want, rather than what might be fair to him or that would keep the helper completely informed. (In other words, you don’t have to admit that you’re upset or that you’ve ever made a mistake. These things are not relevant to your pursuit of what you want.)

So what am I talking about? First, as many people will tell you here, go armed with information. Not in your head. On paper. What happened and when. This includes what you hear from your children. You have a lot of information in your post, but it’s not organized in the way you would organized evidence.

1. He’s a liar — what events convinced you of that.
2. The children are afraid of him — what events
3. There is evidence of abuse — what events
4. He is taking advantage of his greater wealth and income to game the legal system and impoverish you — what events

Start with he’s a liar. Poison the well. He will deny it. Of course, he will. It’s not only that he’s a liar, but he also knows that destroying your credibility is his first job. That’s why you bring facts, well organized to support your statements about what you’re dealing with.

If anyone say that you are the problem, reply they are not looking at the facts. You can admit he is charismatic and a very smooth talker. You can understand why they might find him convincing. But the facts are on your side. Don’t back down. Don’t get emotional about it. Just stand your ground.

This is what you do with the helpers. But to do that, you have to do that in your own head. Believe this man is a continuing danger to your wellbeing and that of your children. If you don’t believe that, you’re not going to stand up for yourself and them. Don’t get confused by what anyone has told you about what an upstanding citizen he is. He’s not. And you are a witness to that.

Your kids are old enough to choose if they don’t want to see him. Support their choices to stay away from him. They know him as well as you do. You know they have good reason for their decisions, so stand behind them. Regard anything he says as gaslighting, and ignore it. The children are old enough to make their own choices. That is your only response. He may and probably will try to up the ante, threatening you with God knows what and trying to make this seem like a argument between you and him, or abuse of the children. (Typical sociopathic behavior to blame you for what he is doing.) The children are old enough to make their own choices.

As far as allegations of your abuse from the daughter who is still attached to him, you’ve probably already figured out that she is the one that is currently the most damaged. And the one who is bringing your husband’s influence into your home. If it wasn’t originally your ex’s idea to report you to child services, you can bet he encouraged her to do it.

So even though you may be a little shell-shocked by what happened the last time your tried to establish some behavioral expectations with the kids, I suggest you continue. And let her know that you didn’t appreciate having to go though all that drama because you told her it was her job to help with the house. You love her, and you want her to be happy. But she’s living under your roof and your rules. If she doesn’t get in line or she attempts to bully you by bringing in the CPS or anyone else, she’s not going to like the way it comes out.

You said that your ‘stern’ talk with the kids was the first time you ever did that. Obviously I’m suggesting that you stop worrying so much about being nice (for whatever reason you’ve been doing that), and toughen up. You need help and they’re old enough to take some responsibility. It sounds like you’ve neglected that aspect of their upbringing a bit, and it’s time to correct that. If your daughter wants to leave and live with her father, she’s also old enough to choose. And you can’t be having these dramas with the authorities because she thinks she can play these games. She’s learned how to do it from her father, and if you don’t defend yourself and create the kind of home you want, you’re going to be victimized by two of them.

Long letter and I apologize for that. Also for the tone of lecturing you, when you probably already know all this. The most important thing is to stop collaborating, not just with him, but with all these idiots who are misreading the situation. “He is a plausible liar and the facts on my side” is a very useful statement. Not the only statement you can develop to deal with him and these so-called helpers. But if you consistently demand respect for your facts and your experience, for your children’s opinions and experiences, and do it in a polite and respectful way that makes it clear that you are not bending or apologizing or explaining beyond what you have brought to the table, you will eventually find someone who will believe you. And until you do, don’t accept their judgments.

He plays games. And now you have a daughter who plays games too. Your only real defense in these situations is refusing to let them set the rules. The best way to do that is to know what you want and go after it relentlessly. I would think that includes a life and family free from fear and where your hard work and caring are respected and returned. If you think you deserve this, it will change the way your brain works and how you approach these challenges.

One last thought about sociopathic types. They’re addicted to winning, but if you make it harder for them, or don’t give them the pleasure of you acting like you think they’re big and bad, they eventually do shift their attention to easier prey. It’s not the he won’t test you with bigger threats or that he will never come back to see if he can rattle your cage. But if you can become emotionally impervious to the manipulation, commit yourself to making any encounter with your or your family very expensive for him in money, aggravation and damage to his personal reputation, and basically treat him like the unpleasant nuisance he is, you have a good chance of dissuading him from bothering you further.

You have to discipline your mind to look at it as a long game (rather than the short ugly little wrestling matches he likes). Sociopaths are notoriously slow to learn. But eventually he will get the message that he’s not dealing with the old Gloria and you’re just no fun anymore. (And yes, if he’s like the rest of them, he will call you a liar and crazy and whatever else he can come up with. Fortunately, you, being a nice person, can just smile when you hear that, and murmur something about how sad it is that poor thing hasn’t moved on.)

I hope at least some of this makes sense. And that our wonderful Erin B weighs in soon. She is our Wonder Woman in terms of dealing these characters in a legal setting.

Best wishes. You sound like a wonderful person and mother.



Hi Gloria,

My situation was very similiar to yours. I recently had to take my ex husband and his wife to court because they had leveled their targeting at me full force. (I am raising our 3 children). Because I told him he needed to comply with our divorce and pay for our childrens’ education, he and his wife began to stalk and harrass me. Their written emails were so vicious, that to save my peace of mind, and my job (I wanted to prevent them from sending this junk to my employers), I initiated a Defamation Per Se lawsuit. I do not have deep pockets. They do.

It was very risky, but they had also targeted my daughter, (and were trying to poison her against me). Defamation Per Se is very hard to prosecute. Several times along the way I felt like I was a rape victim who had decided to prosecute, with the odds stacked against me. But my potential case moved through the system, passing through several judges’ hands (including the state Supreme court) and did result in a civil trial. During the trial, the Defendants’ attorney did everything she could to harrass and embarrass me – (Similar to what I’ve heard and read about rape trials). Her antics were almost comical – she was so full of venom. (And she’s just their attorney!) My mantra was to keep the light shining on them – to move this junky trash from beneath the surface and make it visible where people could hear and see it.

I think Silence is the worse thing – And I was grateful to be able to ennumerate all the things they had done – to get it out into the open. I was very lucky that my case went this far. It gave me a voice, and it gave my 22 year old daughter a voice – as she chose to testify against her father. Yet, she just recounted the facts – she did not villify him. The judge complimented her on her poise. Her father and his wife were seethingly angry that my daughter had the courage to come forward. They were probably counting on she and I feeling too intimidated.

The case had more bizarre twists – and it would take me pages to write it all out, which I will not do here — But the short of it is, my credibility was on trial. (Even though my ex has had many brushes with tax evasion and other shady dealings, numerous affairs – and he abandoned me, and then our 3 children) When it came time to list my responsibilities as a single mom raising my children – the list was absurdly long.

Their defense attorney had twisted, it seemed, scrutiny onto me. And I was being judged as a mother! (or so it seemed).

I felt like I had spent 4 days in the Twilight Zone. I was not successful in getting a Defamation Per Se decision – however, the judge seemed to understand the necessity of protection for me and said he would issue a “no contact” injunction.

That was 5 months ago – and the judge has not made good on his promise. Yet.

The bigger picture now is, because I fought these people, and because I resisted their attempted control of me and my children – I sent a very strong message to my 22 year old daughter and that is – we don’t accept abuse and lies from even family members. My kids are free from contact with their father, and so am I – even without, so far, the judge’s order. My daughter is taking a trip that she’s always wanted to take!

The court system is flawed and moves as slowly as a glacier – And often decisions are not fair. But what we can do is re-frame our perception of events. Here’s how I do it: My daughter is free to live her own life now – not her father’s and step-mother’s. The court failed me that day, but I am still here, and I still laugh and love my kids more than ever and I am determined to NOT let the behavior of my ex and his wife (who have no joy in their life, even though they are rolling in money – I got to watch them for 4 days while they were in the court room and unable to scoot away)

We can become obsessed with people who are sociopaths – it’s a fear reaction, and very normal. However, I have lost too many years past in living in that fear and obsession. When we’re ready to move on, and sometimes that just means being WILLING to move on – we can – “Carry Water Chop wood….Enlightenment…” (Buddhist)

What’s discouraging right now may seem like the “Big Picture” – but don’t be fooled. It’s only a thread of a bigger tapestry. Don’t lose heart. Keep going! There are good things on the other end beyond your wildest dreams.

Ox Drover

Dear Firebird,

THANK YOU for that wonderful post above. You stated with such grace and clarity the mantra for us all.

QUOTE FIREBIRD:What’s discouraging right now may seem like the “Big Picture” ”“ but don’t be fooled. It’s only a thread of a bigger tapestry. Don’t lose heart. Keep going! There are good things on the other end beyond your wildest dreams.

The court of the land may have disappointed you….and not lived up to its promises…but you had your day in court and still you WON in the end. God bless you and thank you for your courage.


We have to remember that everyday we simply continue to LIVE is winning. If you’re hurting when you go to sleep and hurting when you wake up (trying so desperately not to awaken!), then taking another breath is HEROIC.
Courts, jobs, houses, kids…all can be lost, but we can LIVE nonetheless. If we choose.
itty itty bitty steps everyday, itty itty bitty by itty itty bitty and one day we step over the threshhold again to the luscious air of LIFE! We’re really so maddeningly close to it. …if we could but see it with unburdened eyes… And it can be rushing again into our souls if we keep on *Living*.



My heart goes out to you honey. Your story is so eerily familiar to mine. The only difference being my spath accused me of abusing our two youngest children (because I sent them to their room) and filed an emergent order to show cause to have their primary residence changed to his, which was granted. Our oldest daughter, now a senior in HS, is completely fed up with her father. He has completely estranged their relationship, yet it is my fault. I am in the middle of a nasty custody battle. He has so brainwashed our younger two, who testified against me during his emergent order, that I am seriously afraid he will be granted permanent primary residential custody. We have joint legal custody. However, this means SOLE custody in spaths eyes. We have been going through a forensic custody evaluation for over a year now, with still no report. My heart bleeds for you because I know how UNFAIR it all seems.

Thank you for sharing your story. Just knowing I’m not alone helps so much.

I try to hold on to the small good moments. “Enjoy the little things…you may look back and realize they were the big things”. How true this is. My biggest consolation….God’s justice is far greater than man’s. He WILL pay some day. Actually, we have already won, because the spath will NEVER know the true love of a child parent bond, yet we do! Biggest trump ever!

For now we remain true to ourselves and love and parent our children as we always have. I have to believe they will come back to us.

Thank you so much for your comment. So much of what I needed to hear 🙂

((Hugs)) Iamstrong


Folks – anderson cooper has a show (today) that should be online tomorrow, called ‘Custody Nightmares’. Suspect it will be good for practicing our spath spotting.

Ox Drover

Back when Donna first published the story of Dr. Amy Castillo whose X killed her kids after the judge refused to listen to her tell about him threatening to kill them to get back at her, and when he got a visit….he did just that. I thought at the time that this was an ISOLATED INCIDENT, but I have found since then it is NOT AN ISOLATED INCIDENT and there are news stories EVERY DAY about someone who has killed their kids to get back at the X or to keep the x from getting them. .No one but someone who was SERIOUSLY mentally ill would do such a thing, except a psychopath—in either case, serious mental illness or psychopathy, the kids are still just as DEAD.

The deaths are only the TIP of the iceberg I suspect in the custody nightmares…the ones where the kids are ONLY emotionally and mentally and spiritually abused I suspect are far more common than anyone could suspect, or prove for sure.

It breaks my heart every time I read about one of those cases.

I hope Cooper does a good show, I wish I could see it but won’t be able to. Let me know what it says!


trivia – Anderson Coopers mother is Gloria Vanderbilt. Onestep, I think Anderson is a friend of Dorothy’s ~!


i just watched the show he did as a tribute to his mom. didn’t know that until tonight.

friend? me thinks the ruby slippers are under his bed. 😉 he is a strangely rigid creature.


Hi Everyone — “Gloria” is me, 20years. I must have completely missed this post/letter, LOL! I guess I was so busy reading all around the site, didn’t even notice.

Thank you so much for your comments and advice and support. I know I’m just right in the thick of it, right now, even though it has been 20 years of knowing this man… I still have a few years left with kids at home.

Ox, yes, the daughter who cut her wrists two years ago is the same one who ranted to the counselor. And interestingly, that wrist cutting incident is what led me to re-open some of my thinking about my ex-husband… I had pretty much given up on EVER understanding him, and I was just trying to lay low until the kids grew up. So, I learned about BPD (I see some tendencies in my daughter but nothing definitive; she has a lot of emotional reactivity but is much better since 2 years ago) and immediately my thoughts went to HIM. That was the first moment of revelation — that something might actually be off in him — that maybe it wasn’t just two people who couldn’t get along (you know, “it takes two to tango.”) I know a lot of us have been through this — all of the soul searching, trying to “change ourselves because we can’t change the other person,” trying to see what our “part in it” might be, and take responsibility for that. I am getting that there is truth to that, but it is not what I had mistakenly thought, all this time. It is a spiritual truth. But I’m just partway through the journey.

I’ve read so many books in the past two years — maybe 100 books. Some are psychology books, some are spiritual books, some are books on logic (because he is so slippery and I thought I was going nuts — I wanted to understand the logical reasoning and fallacies, to be able to figure out why I felt so stupid with him!)

I haven’t yet gotten to Legal Abuse Syndrome or Just Like His Father, but those are on my list to get. My understanding has grown greatly during this time, and I still have a lot to learn. I’m learning that he will just keep doing what he does, so I’m working on detaching. Which is hard to do, while CPS is mandating this therapy.

Just last week, it became apparent to me that it is NOT safe for any of us to express any emotion (desire, fear, worry, sadness) in the “therapy” sessions because he uses this knowledge against us. I’m hoping that if we can just stop expressing emotions and keep a placid mask on (like my ex-husband does) that the therapist will give up and release us, and tell CPS that we are “done.”

I am not against therapy. I would welcome, for example, good family therapy for me and the 3 children (except for the cost). But many therapists do not understand our situation, and I can see why. Many therapists are against “no contact.” They want to reunite estranged family members. And I think they may just see me as a bitter, stubborn ex wife. I am anything but that, or see it through a different lens.

Skylar, you have very insightful comments. But I keep hearing “grey rock” and I don’t know what that means! 🙂 Please explain. Thanks.

I am reading everyone’s comments here, and I really appreciate them! I am sorry I didn’t see my post sooner.

20years, “grey rock” is what you just described doing: Show no emotions, no matter what you really feel. Be totally boring. Sociopaths like drama, so we say “go grey rock” when we mean it’s time to be really, really boring.


g’morning 20years,
it’s 4AM here, my insomnia is back.

grey rock is a label I use for what a total stranger in a sushi bar explained to me.

After I puked my story on this stranger, he said, “oh, that’s a malignant narcissist.” Then he told me that when you try to leave them, they stalk you and try to destroy you.

He is a lawyer and he told me about a relationshit he had with a high powered attorney, who was very well respected in her field. She would come home, drink and be abusive.

He knew that if he tried to break up with her, she would stalk him, slander him and compromise his ability to make a living. So he decided to bore her. He would be unresponsive, show no emotion either good or bad. When she wanted to go out, he would say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t care.” She slithered away. spaths can’t stand to be bored. They need constant stimulation. Often times, you can make them leave you by not participating in their drama.

I named it gray rock because people who are so average that they don’t attract attention, seem to blend into the landscape like a gray rock. Gray rocks are everywhere, but we never notice them. In order to avoid spaths, we must wear a cloak of gray rock. They won’t even see you. If they have already noticed you, they will go elsewhere when they realize you don’t provide any drama or excitement.

Gosh….golly…I’m SLOW today. I just figured out that 20years is the writer of the article. Duh.

Good Morning panther!! Haha.

20years, I read this post a little while back actually. Maybe that’s why it took me a moment to realize who is who.


Thanks for the explanation of grey rock! That is exactly what I tried to do at yesterday’s session. It makes me feel good that this is something other people have done, too, which has worked for them.

I think I really *was* very boring. 😉

When the therapist asked me questions, I said stuff like, “I really don’t have thoughts about that.” or “I don’t have much to say on that… but I would be interested to hear what X and his wife are thinking…” and I was extremely unemotional — but relaxed and just a bit monotone but not depressed. I kept my hands in my lap and slouched a little. I wore khaki. Kind of neutral energy. May need to fine tune a bit, but I think I did it!

The kids also did their parts. No one got angry or upset. None of them want to be there, and they all spoke up and said so. They are busy teenagers and would rather be doing their homework.

The one daughter who has gone “no contact” with her dad for the past two years calmly told him the “reasons why” she is choosing not seeing him (she was factual and not emotional). His response? “It sounds like you are blaming me.” At least the therapist did his part and said, “no, she is just expressing herself, which is a good thing.”


Excellent work 20years!!
I can only imagine how dreadful it is. It’s easy for me to talk but you are the one having to walk the walk.

If you can, try to find a false target for them. Express a value that you don’t really care about. It will make them focus on that. Keep the spaths busy with their machinations. They’ll never stop, so direct their energy away from you.



I really appreciate your very long and thoughtful response to my post. I have found your Healing from the Sociopath articles to be some of the most helpful things I’ve read on this site. So, I understand where you are coming from, even if I am not yet there myself (but on my way). You do such a good job of explaining different stage of healing, and having patience with ourselves and each other, at each stage of our journeys.

To clear up a few things you mention: I have twin girls. One of them keeps up with the visitation schedule and sees her dad every other weekend and one night during the week (we live very close to him; he moved to the neighborhood next to mine!). Up until 2 years ago, all 3 of the kids went back and forth, and I was trying to be a good co-parent and facilitate the kids’ relationship with their dad. Two years ago it all blew apart, when the OTHER daughter cut her wrists (I think it was just that one time, seriously — I know it can happen “underground” but I really think it was a one-time thing) and I was shocked, asked her what was going on, and she got this terrified look in her eyes and said, “Dad…” and mentioned 3 specific incidents which made sense to me (not sexual abuse) — basically, very controlling things, very punitive things, intrusive things (boundary violations), blaming her for being upset when he did these things, basically putting her in a real bind. You know what I’m talking about: he does upsetting things which cause you to be angry or hurt, and so you do the natural thing and tell him that his actions were hurtful, or you display angry or hurt emotions. Instead of his expressing empathy/remorse/listening/understanding, he turns the blame back on her and shames her for her feelings. It puts the victim in a terrible psychological bind.

So, I believe that is what happened. Not sexual abuse, and yes what I describe is bad enough! Emotional abuse.

So this is the daughter who refuses to see him, and she is also the one who got upset with me for being stern with her, and she ranted to her counselor. She didn’t “report” me or make false allegations, but the way she told her story to the counselor, I think the counselor jumped to conclusions. You know, my daughter said, “My mom and I had a terrible fight!” so they assumed child abuse. There were other things going on at the time that are interesting and helpful context, which would fill a book. But my point is that I do not believe my daughter ever intended to cause a CPS investigation or get me in trouble. I am her safe haven, and she simply had no idea how her rant to her counselor would play out. We have since talked about this and if nothing else… the CPS investigation has brought me and the 3 kids even closer, and has helped the two girls get closer, so that their dad cannot pit one against the other.

CPS interviewed my ex and his wife, and they took the opportunity to reinforce the investigator’s bias, and told CPS lies about my mothering. Rather than saying, “oh, you are mistaken about her — despite our differences, she is a great, safe, loving, non-neglectful mother,” they said really damning lies about me. I’m not saying I expected any differently. Just that, you can see how this went. It was a gift to them on a silver platter, for my daughter to go to her counselor and start this drama rolling.

This happened six months ago. The mandated therapy began 3 months ago. I found the Lovefraud site about 2 months ago. This whole experience is unfolding, very quickly. I’m learning a lot, very quickly. I only just started thinking of my ex as a sociopath about 2 months ago. Before that… I was thinking BPD or NPD but still it hadn’t really sunk in, and more importantly — I had no idea what to do about it! How I should “be,” and how I could help my children. Now, it has sunk in that this is who he is — a sociopath. But it is a shock, and I’m still reeling from it.

If I had known this stuff 6 months ago… I would have handled the entire CPS thing waaaaay differently from the get-go. But it took me completely by surprise. I was also trusting in the system, that OBVIOUSLY they were mistaken about me, and it would sort itself out quickly. Instead, it has been a severe emotional blow, and my trust and faith in the system has been shattered. I will recover from that, and I believe my trust NEEDED to be shattered. But it is still a painful shock.

It may be that I appear centered and together because I am a very tough cookie. I have been through a lot and I’m still standing. I love my kids fiercely and have always wanted them to grow up healthy and strong, so they could be independent adults who have healthy relationships. I’m determined to learn as much as I can in this lifetime, and get through each challenge wiser, stronger — and not maimed. But it IS very hard, and it really, really hurts sometimes. So yeah, sometimes I am sort of centered, and sometimes I struggle with my coping.

Back to the sexual abuse bit, because I don’t want to skip past that without this careful mention: about 2 months after my daughter cut her wrists, both girls came to me independently and told me that they felt “creeped out” by their dad’s behavior towards them. I listened carefully to them. 1) He came into their room at night, wearing only tight white briefs, to hug them goodnight, and they didn’t want him to be so unclothed around them (when they were 13). And they noticed he wore a robe into their brother’s room, but only his underwear in their room. 2) sometimes they would be standing at the kitchen counter, and he would come up “too” close behind them and his crotch would press against their butt. And they felt creeped out about it, but were afraid to say anything to him about it. 3) because they are twins, they were able to witness that their dad would admiringly ogle the other twin “from behind” as she would walk away (you know, look at their butts).

So, this concerned me and I took it seriously, and I told the girls they needed to address it with him if he ever does stuff that makes them uncomfortable, they need to demand that he stop. I also addressed it with him (you can imagine how he used this against me! How dare I criticize him in this way…), and I mentioned it to our son’s therapist asking for advice (the only therapist working with the family at the time), who reported it to CPS. My gut feeling at the time was that X had indeed crossed a line, but that he was not intending to take it further, that he was just oblivious and uncaring about how the girls felt and how he came across (remember, I didn’t identify him as a sociopath at the time), and that the girls were correct in feeling that their boundaries had been invaded. That doesn’t mean I felt they were safe! But since they go over there, without me there to intervene, since they have been 3 years old, I have taken the approach of trying to empower them to protect themselves, as much as possible. Now, unfortunately, the one girl is going over there all by herself!

I had to take the girls for a forensic interview (but I didn’t allow them to be examined physically because I felt that was unnecessary given the info I had, my gut feeling, and also that they were 13 and a physical exam would traumatize them), and based on the interview, the investigator came to the same conclusion I had — that no sexual abuse had occurred, and that he was probably just clueless about boundaries with girls entering puberty. The only difference is that they assumed he would stop, when they pointed out to him how the girls were perceiving him (they assumed he had the capacity to see another’s perspective). They didn’t realize that he doesn’t CARE about his daughters’ perspectives. They did nothing further, other than to admonish me, “this conflict between you and your ex-husband is bad for the children!”

My daughter who still goes over there is now 15, and she is getting very good at standing up to her dad. That does not mean I am not worried about her, though. But she and I have very good communication, and I am keeping fingers crossed and trusting that she will speak up if anything further like this should occur.

And… have I mentioned that CPS now views me as a neglectful mother, and possibly crazy and vindictive ex-wife? It’s not like I have any credibility with this agency. 🙁

Ox Drover

Dear 20 years/Gloria,

BPD (in reference to your daughter who cut herself) is like most of the personality disorders, there are DEGREES of it, and even if your daughter has some of the tendencies, she may be on the low end of that spectrum.

I wish I could give you some “killer advice” on how to behave in the therapy sessions…I am afraid if you are too “bland” and emotionless, you will be branded “uncooperative” with therapy which could be a “death sentence” for your custody.

I agree, the therapists don’t seem to get NC, but seem to have this mandate that EVERYONE should/must have a relationship with their DNA donors no matter what! It is like the PARENT has a right to this until a kid turns 18 no matter how they have treated the kid (short of homicide).The kids have NO rights to stay away from people they don’t like.

You might think about some set “emotion” and “phrase” to parrot during the therapy sessions, like maybe tearfully saying “Oh, I just want my kids to be happy” or some other stock phrase or two that you can EMOTE to (LOL) to appear to be “cooperating” with therapy. I think you will in the end have to play it by ear each session with the therapist. Get the kids to talk as much as possible or as little as possible depending on how the X is acting. It will be a BALANCING act on your part because of the kids. You don’t want to traumatize them or get the therapist thinking you are not cooperating so you have to walk this KNIFE EDGE barefooted.

Do YOU have a separate therapist? I suggest that you get some therapy separate and apart from this “group torture” and maybe your therapist can suggest some techniques for you to use. It might be worth the cost even for short term therapy if you can find the right therapist or psychiatrist.

Interestingly enough an idea just occured to me….how about if you go to a psychiatrist (MD) and tell the MD what you are going through and what you’ve been through and maybe get her to suggest that there be a “vacation” from this very stressful therapy for YOUR HEALTH NEEDS….Maybe if you could get a break in this torture for a while it would give you some time to recover. Tell the MD what is going on and ask him/her to interveen, be honest with them about why you want to get out of these sessions at least for a while. If your doctor doesn’t agree, you don’t have to tell the therapist anything about you even having gone to see the doctor.

EB would call this “backspathing them” using some of the spath techniques to fight back…I know this carp must be making your life a living hell which is the purpose I am sure. (((hugs))) and God bless.


Thanks, Ox, yes I have my own wonderful therapist! Couldn’t do this without her…

Ox Drover


I had not read your 8:55 p;ost when Ii wrote my post. Glad you explained some things…makes more sense to me now. Yea, Ii agree with you that he was pushing the line “looking” at your girls and STRUTTING around them inn his underware…knowing what he was doing was pushing the line, and enjoying every moment of making them uncomfortable. Makes ME want to punch him! LOL (I can’t even imagine how you feel!)

Actually sounds like you have made a lot of progress in a few months and have some 20/20 hindsight, but KNOWLEDGE IS POWER, SO HANG IN THERE! Keep on reading and learning.

I am so glad you have your own therapist to help you through this night mare! God bless.

Hi Gloria/20years,

I can definitely relate to what your daughters are going through, having been through group therapy with my dad, his new wife, my real mom, her new husband, and two step-sisters! It was a mess.

The part I really want to speak up about is your daughter who cut her wrists. I know you might be thinking she has a disorder, but I know first hand how TORTUROUS having a P or spath father can be. Emotional abuse is WORSE in some ways, because my sisters and I felt we couldn’t turn to anyone–no one would understand. We WISHED he would just hit us so that we could report him to social services with bruises as evidence! The reason I say maybe consider that your daughter is in fact perfectly healthy is because of what my therapist said to me when I was going through this as a teenager (ages 13-15). After my therapist first considered every disorder in the book for me, she finally said, “There is nothing wrong with you. Any healthy individual would respond to your father the way you have. HE has a problem and you are responding.” This very well could be the case. Think of all the “crazy” things you did while in a relationship with him (Hmmm, or am I the only one who looked like a nutjob while dealing with an spath at home?). As soon as he was out of my life, problem solved. I am back to normal (a crying and recovering version of normal) and the problem is resolved: him. I think sociopaths cause a temporary insanity in their victims, and your daughters are victims of him! You were able to divorce him at least. They are just STUCK with the crazy man until they are 18 and even then, it will probably be awhile before they realize they can just ignore his phone calls. Then again, there could be more to her situation, but I think any child who is suffering from a sociopath or psychopath parent will act out as a result. She’s a victim of torture, and she’s just a little girl who is still learning her way life.

By the way, that sexual stuff he did is disgusting! I cannot believe that a therapist would promote children being forced to stand in the same room as someone who has “sexual predator” vibes oozing out of him towards the girls. Can you enroll them in a martial arts class? That way, if it ever goes further, they can knock him out. I knew a girl who was in group therapy with her mom and dad, and her dad had actually molested her extensively as a child. In my book, that’s a deal breaker for parental rights! What the heck are they in THERAPY for? He should have been in JAIL!

Best of luck! I know what you are going through is so hard! My heart goes out to your daughters for what they’re dealing with at such a young age.


Thank you, Panther. I cannot tell you how much it helps me to be able to hear from someone like you, who went through something so similar to what I think my children must be enduring. I have searched, and searched for information/books on the problem of… “children (who are not yet “adult children”) of (sociopaths).”

There is so little info out there! Maybe even none, except from people like you on websites like this.

I have read about the “enabling mother” who did not protect her children from abuse! I have never been that mother — I have always done my BEST to protect my children, but the bind I have been in is so unacknowledged by the experts (darned ivory tower experts). See… I LEFT my abuser. And I could not/did not get full custody of my children. I have shared custody. So he sees them regularly. But I did everything I could when my kids were little to NOT get a fulltime job, so I worked and earned in other ways, to be with them as much as possible, a a counterinfluence. I found strong, healthy male “father figure” mentors for them. I requested male teachers in my son’s elementary school classrooms. I was very present for my kids for so many years, until I finally ran out of money recently and had to go back to work full time. But I did it until my son was 17 and my daughters 15! I stayed home as long as I could.

But can’t be there to protect them or be a buffer, during the times they go to his house.

And I’m “not allowed to diagnose” him (you all know what I mean) so while he is conning everyone else and smearing me, folks (CPS, school) don’t know which of us to believe. Yes, he does all of this abuse behind closed doors. Sneaky guy.

In therapy, he smiles like the cat who ate the cream. He is not being real. He and his wife are smiling, sanctimonious snakes. It is so obvious to us, maybe the therapist is catching on but I am not sure.

Sorry for the long lead-up: I don’t think there is anything wrong with my daughter, either, other than she is more emotionally reactive and anxious than the other two children. She attracts more of her dad’s behavior (especially now that she is doing her normal individuation, pushing back — spaths hate that). She feels her feelings more intensely. But I do not think she is abnormal or diagnosable with ANYTHING like BPD.

I definitely was pretty normal myself for the first 30 years of my life before I met and married him. And I remember one “crazy” thing I’ll share with you that I did while married to him. I never wanted to lose it in front of the kids because I didn’t want to scare them by displaying weeping in front of them, even as he threw bowls of oatmeal at me which crashed into the window behind me. “I wasn’t aiming for you (derisively), I was aiming for the window!” I can still see the curious looks on my kids’ faces, to try to figure out my reaction. I still don’t know if my reaction was the right one or not, but I definitely didn’t want to scare my kids, so I just said, “wow!” and tried to look sort of calm and started wiping up the mess and broken dish (and closed the blinds so the neighbors wouldn’t see). You see, this was a long time ago — before I knew that this was “abuse.”

I just thought it was some tough work of marriage, a problem we had to work out.

Anyhow, not losing it in front of the kids. After about 30 minutes, I made my way up to my bedroom to the back of the walk-in closet and got way behind the clothes and covered myself up with blankets and hid, in the dark, and hugged myself and wept and silently as I could, for as long as I thought I could get away with it, then said, “you know, the kids are out there with HIM, and you need to get back before they notice you are missing.” And I splashed water on my face and pasted a smile there and went back and played with the kids. My husband/spath also pretended nothing was wrong.

I guess that was crazy of me. I just didn’t know what else to do at the time. But within 6 months of that, I woke up and left him.

But you can’t totally leave, you see, when you have kids together and he wants contact with them.

Hi 20years,

I understand what you’re describing so well. My mother tried to protect me as too, but my father threatened to take me away from her too! In fact…it was for a similar accusation. He told her that she was a bad and neglectful mother because she “let me do whatever I wanted” which was not true at all. My mom had many rules, including bedtime and no rated R movies etc. I saw him scare my mom so much that she’d be shaking as he screamed at her on the phone, calling her a bad mother and telling her that she was being selfish. I was very young at this time. None of this made sense. For the kids in this scenario, I can only speak for myself, but it’s confusing. Children usually think, at first, that their parents can do no wrong. The danger, then, is that I didn’t understand HOW WRONG my father was until I was a teenager, and not even fully until very recently, now that I am in my late 20s. By my teenage years, I’d become used to a lot of his abuse. Later in life, I went through 4 relationships with sociopath men and many other useless chaps before I realized that he’d worn down my sense of how a man had the right to treat me. Since my father had been the first man to abuse me the way a sociopath/psychopath does, that kind of behavior flew mostly under my dating radar. Luckily, I am still young-ish and can still find a healthy relationship. (I only managed to identify the real problem about 1 month ago).

Don’t be too hard on yourself. I know it’s tougher when you have kids. I watched my mom go through it. Would you believe that after he divorced his crazy wife (he is now on wife #6), long after I’d grown up and moved out of the house, he called my mom drunk and tried to convince her to run away to Mexico with him!!!! They really DO NOT GET IT when it comes to the damage they do. After all the crap he’d pulled, he thought she’d actually leave her current husband of 20 years and my little brother to go with him to Mexico!

The only thing I wish my mother would have done differently is maybe stand up to him better (which you are doing) and I REALLY wish she had told me that I didn’t deserve the crap he was putting me through. He broke her into pieces. Just his voice made her shaky, which is something I now recognize as a response to an abuser, as I’ve been there too. He just had to throw threats, and she’d cave in. I didn’t have a good example of a strong woman showing me how to deal with an abusive man. Also, I mentioned she didn’t tell me until much later that I didn’t deserve what he had done when I was young. For years, even after I was 18, she told me that I should have a relationship with my father. One day, I told her that I would be very happy in life if he died. She was appalled and scolded me for having such “dark” thoughts about my “own father!” A few months later, she came to me after hearing a radio program in which a speaker had explained that she was teaching her daughter that she should just “take it” when a man abuses her. She had wanted to raise a daughter with a motto similar to “treat others how you want to be treated” and “always try to be the bigger person.” I know she had the best of intentions, but she was dealing with a psychopath and needed a bit stronger advice for her impressionable daughter, I think. After being through this myself, I really do not blame her. This is HARD.

I can tell you are doing your best for your kids. It’s important for them to know that they are not crazy, just like you needed that validation. And you sound strong, so you’re setting a great example for them.

When the kids are 18, oh yes, you can “totally leave” if they are on the same page as you. I haven’t spoken to my father in years, neither has my mom. It’s like a mutual agreement that his time has FINALLY run out. This might not happen with your kids, but maybe he’ll fully piss them off in the next few years until they all write him off completely. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could all just delete the guy?

I’m sending you the best wishes in your struggle.


Hi Panther,

Some of what you describe your mother saying/doing, describes the way I was operating… the being raised to “treat others how you would be treated” and wanting to pass that kind and good way of being on to my children… and encouraging them to work things out with their father (even though I couldn’t! But I kept trying, so I thought they should too). Jeez, it took a long time for me to see how this programming to always have good will and believe that others are similarly motivated by good intentions was harmful to me and the children. But something shifted in me, as it obviously eventually did in your mother.

It is so encouraging to hear that you do not blame your mother, and that you can understand how she was trying her best under very difficult circumstances, but just was not receiving the right advice because she was dealing with a psychopath, didn’t realize it, and no one else did either (or didn’t tell her). This information is not widely available. Getting more so, though. And I know it is the reason for this website, thank you Donna.

Now that things have shifted for me, in some ways it is MORE difficult for me, because I am bucking what the “experts” are telling me to do. I am validating my children, rather than telling them to have a relationship with their father, because he is “their father.” My extended family thinks I am misguided and I’m judging my ex too harshly. They want me to keep trying to be nice, to “make nice,” to keep the peace, “for the sake of the kids.” And that is just so misguided.

And I’m glad you mentioned, do I want to raise any of my children to just “take it” and be abuse victims? (or abuse others?) NO!!!!!

I do hope very much that things can change in the family court/child welfare system, so that more people in positions of power (who are misguided or misuse that power) will stop destroying families.

Honestly, the way it feels to me is that I am a victim of a home invasion by teenage thugs who have no regard for the careful tending, careful building, piece by piece, I have done over the years, my mothering, my nurturing and safe home, my loving, creative joy in providing this safe haven for my children to grow in (my home for the past 12 years, me and the kids) — invaded by this CPS investigator, two police officers and a student “intern” who threatened, intimidated me with a violent tirade of hurtful, false, preposterous allegation against me… yelling at me, berating me for the awful things I allegedly did (all false). it is a though they took a baseball bat and ran around my home, smashing things, and then left me sitting in the heap of detritus that used to be my peaceful, happy home, and did not even acknowledge the trauma they caused me and the children, through the threats of taking them away from me and telling me that with this “on my record” I will “never be allowed — never — to work with children ever again, in any capacity, employed or volunteer.”

At least they didn’t take my children away from me. I should be “happy” and “grateful” that they didn’t. I am. But I am also stunned at how the State can just barge into people’s homes and do this stuff to them.

Yes — I know it was “abuse.” I know not every CPS investigator is a bully. And I know the CPS two-fold mission is to “protect children” and “strengthen families” and they did anything but, in my case. and they get away with it, no acknowledgement, no apology, standing by their “finding.”

You do not have to believe me… but every one of the eight supporting statements they put behind their “finding” was absolutely false. It is such a helpless feeling, to be able to do nothing.

You guys do realize that they make their finding in secret, they collect evidence and do not show it to the accused “neglector” until after the finding is done and the case is closed… so the way it works is that you do not know the evidence against you until after their decision is made. you cannot challenge the record until after the fact. They do not “work with” you at all. And, for the falsely accused, you have no idea whom they’ve talked to and what has been said against you, until it is too late.

I know I’m not alone. Others have had this experience. I’ll get through it and past it.


Thanks for reading and responding to my post. I just wrote you a really long letter about getting clear about who you are — your values and your preferences — and using that to shape the situations in which you find yourself.

But at the end of it, I realized that I’m not talking about what’s urgent and important in your life. And I apologize in advance for being so blunt with you. But I think it’s that important.

You children are being sexually abused. It’s just beginning. This is how it begins. They’ve come to you with information, and within that information is in implicit request. Partially for guidance, which they will gather from the way you react. And partially for support. Not moral support, as much as real and material support.

I’m a child of an incestuous father, and it started pretty much like this for myself and my sister. He was, like your ex husband, a bully and an emotional abuser — both through tearing us down and emotionally blackmailing us to feel sorry for him and to try to protect the other children. He was always triangulating us between him and my mother. It was a complicated situation for a child to handle, because he was our father and we were attached to him and hungry for the normal things that children (even teenaged children) looks to their parents for.

You are fortunate that they bring their concerns to you. This is an opportunity for you to teach them, by modeling the behavior of someone who does not accept victimization or collaborate with it.

In reading your posts, I think your ability to learn and to distance yourself enough from painful and even scary situations so that you can observe rationally and apply what you are learning is admirable. But I am concerned about one thing. I think your pain tolerance is too high. Probably because of that difficult background you mention. Andl because of this high pain tolerance, you are too inclined to cope rather than fight.

And please forgive me if that sounds like a criticism. It’s not meant to be anything but a personal observation, and one that may be entirely wrong. I don’t live in your shoes, and I don’t know all the pressures and complications that you live with.

But I am suggesting to you that there are lines, boundaries of toleration that, once crossed, become a reason to go to war. And that doesn’t mean getting hysterical or acting in any way without thinking and strategizing. Rather, I am suggesting that you recognize that this situation has now gone over the line, and you are at war.

The impact of any sort of parental abuse is significant, because the child is not just being wounded or violated, but also taught the way the world works in ways that cause the child to develop beliefs and rules for living that incorporate these assumptions of how the world works. Emotional abuse is bad because it’s so difficult for a child to defend herself against the parent’s apparent “truth” about her, the child. Physical abuse is terrible, because it communicates the parent’s lack of concern about whether the child lives or dies (and that is exactly how a child interprets this incomprehensible behavior from the person that she turns to for physical shelter and support). But sexual abuse incorporates both of those things and adds a particularly nasty twist, because it teaches the child the necessity to give up the most personal level of integrity and privacy in order to be accepted and survive.

No matter how emotionally healthy your children may be, the challenge presented by this situation is unmanageable. And to the extent that they are left to their own devices to manage it — that is, sent back into that environment and told to try to handle it, or told to manage their feelings because it’s probably not really that bad, or encouraged to rationalize or “understand” the perpetrator’s behavior — they are being abandoned.

Your first challenge in all of this is to be clear that this is not all right. First within yourself, and then to communicate it to your girls. This is what you believe, you tell them. This is not all right. It is unacceptable behavior. Whatever his intentions, whatever is wrong with him, it would not be acceptable from anyone else, and it is not acceptable from him. The fact that he is their father and so has a closer relationship with them and more ability to go get physically close to them makes it worse. He is taking advantage of his position in their lives. And doing things that go beyond making them feel uncomfortable. This is not good for them. This is how you view it. And you hope this how they view it too. Unwanted, uninvited intimacy is always bad. No exceptions.

You don’t have to force them to agree with you. Just tell them how you feel about it. And stay consistent. If they try to waffle about it, to give him the benefit of the doubt. Say you understand, and that you know this is a difficult situation. And you’ve always tried to help them maintain their relationship with their father. And you are sorry you have to be ademate in a way that they may feel puts them on the spot. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is wrong. And if they don’t think so, ask how they would feel if their friends knew about it, or if he behaved that way with their friends. They already know it’s wrong. But you understand that implications of facing it may be hard for them, because they are big implications. It means that they are no longer safe in that house.

And again forgive me if it sounds like I’m lecturing you, or if I’m telling you what you already know. If you do, and this is what you’re already doing, I hope you take it as confirmation that you’re doing the right thing.

The work you do with the girls will underpin everything else that you have to do about this. It is crucial that they understand you are their champion and you intend to keep them safe. And that you know, even if they don’t recognize it yet, that abuse of any kind is progressive. And if this is not stopped now, it’s going to move into areas will make it increasingly more difficult for them to talk about it and to maintain their sense of themselves. This is not to scare them, but to reinforce the importance of taking it seriously.

Then you need to discuss with them the options of what you can do, not just you alone but you and them. Ask them what they feel comfortable doing about it. Tell them that you can take strong measures to protect them, but you don’t want to do anything that they don’t support. So have a discussion, or a few discussions that leave them time to talk together and think about what they want to do.

They may want to try to work things out with him by themselves at first. If so, encourage them to talk with him about how uncomfortable this makes them feel, until they get a response from him that convinces them that he understands and will honor their need for personal boundaries. It’s important they are honest about their feelings and needs with him. Also encourage them to do it together, so they can serve as each other’s witness in what happens. Confirm over and over that your only objective is their safety and their freedom to grow up without having to deal with things that harm them or are beyond their ability to manage. If either of them suggests that you are “against” their father, ask if they think you should just back away and let this happen to them. If they say they can deal with it, just let them know that you’re there for them when they feel like they can’t. But you too have issues with this, and you are very concerned for them.

Eventually, you should be able to get them on board for your next step, which is action to keep them away from him. Getting them on board is obviously essential, because if they don’t support your allegations of abuse, then you’re not going to get anywhere.

You have a number of options in approaching this. One is to simply stop sending them there (with their support). Another is to bring in child services. Another is to use the police. Another is to reopen the custody case. If he fights, it’s probably going to get legal anyway. But the more prepared you are, and the more clear the girls are about not going back and commited to protecting their own safety, the more easily and quickly this is going to go. They are old enough to influence the judicial proceedings about custody arrangements.

I realize that one of the greatest challenges you face right night is taking this seriously. First you, then them, then the system. And it might have to get worse before that happens. But if there’s anything you get from this post, I hope it’s that one person in the world (me) is taking it very seriously right now. And if you want to be another one, you’re not alone. My email address is under the contributors link, and you’re welcome to get in touch.

So that’s it. I hope I haven’t offended or upset you, and that at least some of this makes sense.



Hi Kathy,

First, no I am not at all offended, and I appreciate ALL of what you have written. As you have noted, I do have this quality of detaching a bit to hover above and observe the situation. I see it both as a coping mechanism (useful in some ways, counterproductive in other ways) and also as a way of discerning facts from emotionally-laden fiction. Yet, I also use my gut (emotions). None of it is foolproof!

So, I never assume that I have finally figured everything out, and I’m always open to new information that might prove my assumptions wrong. Particularly where the safety and wellbeing of my kids is concerned.

From that place, then, I’d like to ask you what it is about what I’ve written so far, which leads you to be so sure that my girls are being sexually abused. I was NOT (so grateful for this) sexually abused as a child, so I may not have the radar. My ex-husband DID sexually abuse me while we were married (this is still hard for me to think and talk about, but mostly involved his own gratification and humiliation of me and simply not caring that I was distressed that he forced himself on me in that dehumanizing way, repeatedly throughout our marriage).

But back to the kids. I, too, saw what the girls told me (2 years ago they told me) about his behavior, as possible “grooming” behavior. I cannot know for sure if this behavior is continuing, though I am pretty sure it is NOT since I called him out on it when I became aware of it (2 years ago), but I believe my one daughter who goes over there would tell me. I guess there is a chance that she would not. Do you have advice for me on how to talk to her about this? (or are there books with advice?)

I need to be careful. I am NOT afraid to get my mind around this, but it is a tricky problem. Absolutely, I would fight for my kids and get over any guilt I feel that would hamper such a fight. I’m a fiercely protective mother!

But what if I’m wrong… how can I be certain, one way or another? Certain that she is safe (safe enough — because I do not feel it is safe for the kids to be around their sociopathic father even if he is NOT sexually abusing them — but absent any PROOF the courts would not deny him visitation based on my assertions that he is a sociopath — you know this).

How can I be certain, alternatively, that he IS sexually abusing them? I would believe my daughter if she told me specific details (as I believed them, what they told me 2 years ago). But what if she says “no Mom, everything is fine. Dad is a dick, but he is not doing sexual abuse on me.” Should I believe her then, or keep digging and not believing her? (because of the frog boiled in water analogy, where she has been so effectively groomed that she does not recognize the abuse, or does not see the danger).

Then there is the CPS finding on me of “neglect.” This occurred within the last 6 months (investigation began 6 months ago; finding of “neglect” was just this month). My credibility has been so eroded by this. I can see how this would go in court! My ex would be believed, and I would be portrayed as a crazy, vindictive ex-wife making false sexual abuse accusations! (perhaps in revenge for the CPS finding, right?).

When I raised this with social services 2 years ago, they agreed that while he was inappropriate with the boundaries, it had gone no further and hadn’t crossed any lines which required that they investigate further (the irony is not lot on me, how he is clearly unsafe and sociopathic and they declined to investigate, yet I am completely safe and all 3 kids would swear to it, but weren’t asked, and they threw everything they had at me — short of removing my kids from my home).

I was also dumbfounded at the time(2 years ago) to realize that they were investigating ME, as well! To see if I was one of those false sexual abuse accusers. (Jeez… I thought those bad women who falsely accuse their ex-husbands do it DURING THE DIVORCE as part of the custody battle — not wait 10 years of reasonably cooperative-seeming co-parenting and then suddenly let loose with the accusations).

I don’t want to divert from the point of your message. It may sound like I’m making excuses. I’m not intending to. Rather, I’m pointing out my caution in proceeding, and wondering what it was in my postings which alarmed you so much, that you think there is sexual abuse (maybe define it for me) occurring right now. So that I need to take some sort of immediate action, and to what degree, and what am I looking for?

I mean, I also think it is entirely possible that he is “just” sociopathic who is doing awful stuff that is indeed sexually abusive but never puts a toe over the line of anything that can be prosecuted or used as evidence to remove the children. He might sidle up to that line and stay just on that side of it, making the children very uncomfortable, keep my daughter on edge (I’m not saying I have evidence of this — just that this is what he would LIKELY do — he has enough impulse control that he would deliberately “tease” that he is sexually abusing, to use as bait to get me to accuse him, then turn that around on me and blame me and use as evidence of my parental alienation . I am not kidding — THAT is EXACTLY how he operates.). He has effectively conned many therapists into thinking I am the crazy one. Ugh.

I absolutely do not want to miss this, though, if it is going on, and I have been looking the other way. I am open to hearing whatever you have to say. But I will be very discerning and measured in my sorting through all of it. And fight hard if necessary.

I will send you my email address. But I wanted to respond here, in case others have valuable insights to offer me. My kids’ safety and wellbeing come FIRST.



I did not realize this happened two years ago. (Maybe you wrote it and I missed it.) And that there there hasn’t been anything reported to you since.

And no, I wouldn’t press your daughter for information on it. You seem to have a good relationship. I’d assume that you’d hear or notice if something like this was wrong.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between symptoms of abuse and the normal “hormone poisoning” of adolescence. It’s normal for kids to be sulky, rebellious or secretive. But sexual abuse tends to have a certain constellation of symptoms that include several of these: Acting out. Depressed or withdrawn, self-identification as a loser or outsider. Self-destructive behavior, especially cutting. Loss or change of friends. Plummeting grades. Weight gain or other attempts to become unattractive. Precocious sexual awareness or promiscuity.

If you’re not seeing that, it sounds like your confrontation worked.

And I apologize for popping off. I am admittedly really sensitive about this.



Thanks, Kathy,

For now, my gut is telling me that things are as OK as they can be, with everything else considered (sociopathic dad/stepmom, the crazymaking gaslighting stuff)… I think my daughter who goes over there is pretty aware and also is a lot tougher and more able to stand up to her dad than the other two children. I also think she would tell me, if anything crosses a line or even just makes her uncomfortable, especially if she is unable to handle it herself (if she speaks up, for example, and he denies or minimizes or shifts blame).

The other things which could be symptoms… I’m not seeing these (but would be on the lookout!). She seems pretty normal, has good friends, is on an athletic team, keeps up with studies, is attractive but not going in either direction (not too much makeup/promiscuous, nor wearing baggy clothing/weight gain).

I think it is always good to be vigilant, and I do not mind at all your pointing out any red flags you see, that I may be missing. Kids’ wellbeing and safety is at stake!


wow, the things you wrote to 20years are going to be helpful to other readers who might be going through that. The step-by-step instructions are invaluable.

I think your tough daughter is feeling out her power to manipulate. She has set the goal of getting her college paid for and she is working toward that goal by playing the game with her dad. Unfortunately, she doesn’t understand how much she is risking. Like all teens, she thinks she is smart enough to take care of herself. But even if her dad doesn’t molest her, playing emotional games with a spath is going to have emotional repercussions. She will lose some of her grounding in reality, some of her sense of self – even if she ultimately wins the carrot he is dangling.

I don’t believe there is anyway you will be able to talk her out of this game because she thinks she can win, she thinks she has him figured out. The best thing you can do is arm her with knowledge: books on psychopaths. And make sure she understands how important it is for her to stay grounded in reality because spaths play mind games. Teach her gray rock and how to change the typewriter keys around. She has decided to become supply so she should know how to do it without getting sucked dry.

I think that if she understands the purpose of this knowledge is to help her reach her goal, then she will absorb it avidly. But there will be a side-effect. As she absorbs it for the purpose of winning her goal, she will begin to understand the error in her thinking. She’ll “get” that there is no winning when you allow a vampire to feed on you. And hopefully she will find a way to detach it from her neck safely. Use tweezers and pull slowly straight back.


Dear 20 years,

I grew up in a family where my stepfather was allowed to do many of the things that your children’s father do. He walked around in his underwear, walked into our room when we were undressing, made sexual innuendos, and seemed to always be trying to push his boundaries with us. At the same time, he was beating us brutally with a thick belt till we had welts all over our bodies – for silly things, like leaving a light switch turned on when we left the room. I don’t have to tell you that a parent like this is also emotionally abusive. My mother was aware of this – it happened for 9 years until I left home at 15 or 16. My sister got the abuse for 11 years because she was younger. I begged my mother to leave him. Even though she had the means, she stayed with him till the day he died 20 years later.

I cannot express to you the abandonment and betrayal I felt and how it has affected me my entire life. Even when I was able to forgive my stepfather, I could never forgive my mother and now have no relationship with her (I am now 50).

I do not have the gift of words like Kathy Hawk has; she really described my life experiences so eloquently – especially the part about feeling like your parents don’t care if you live or die. I tried to commit suicide when I was 14 and was very disappointed when I didn’t succeed. My parents never knew. They knew I was very ill and vomiting, and I lived in abject FEAR that they would find out I took a bunch of my mom’s pills. I feared that my stepfather would kill me for making them spend their time and money to take me to the hospital if he knew.

So from personal experience, a suicide attempt in a child is something to be taken very seriously. Please, please, please do everything you can to protect them and let them know it is your intention to protect them from harm. It will make such a big difference in their lives – you have no idea.



It just dawned on me that my posts about this have triggered some of you with these experiences of boundary (and other) violations which occurred when you were young. I’m sorry about that! I have my own triggers — thankfully, child abuse/sexual abuse is not one of them, but I do know the feeling, and so I want to apologize.

And also express great appreciation to you for writing, sharing what you’ve been through, and offering any thoughts you have about what is is like for a child to grow up in an abusive household where you are not safe… I do feel that there are no set formulas on how to handle this, very little support for the kids, very little understanding of the bind that many protective parents are in, pressure from all sides to “repair broken family relationships” regardless of the capacity of some of the individuals, and I also want to acknowledge that while I feel some very real barriers to 100% protecting my children, I realize some of those barriers may be psychological, of my own making, or not so insurmountable as they may seem.

This is a topic I think needs a lot more research and educating folks — how to identify sociopaths and truly protect all family members (spouse, children, parents) from them. What interventions WILL work, for the entire family? Which relationships can and should be strengthened, and which relationships are best cut off, with no contact for the sake of the mentally healthy (and vulnerable) family members?

I feel so stuck, sometimes. I would love nothing more than to just run away with my 3 children, but I know he would follow, he would take me to court, and he would win. He has a bottomless pit of money and enough family members like him (also with endless supply of money) that it would break me, which would hardly help the kids.

So instead, I’m in this kind of hypervigilant position, warily watching the kids for red flags, trying not to appear too crazy, since he effectively cons the experts and court system. And just trying to wait him out and be the best mom I can. Our son will be 18 in less than a year, and our daughters have about 3 years to go until he can no longer hold legal threats over me regarding the children (and removing them from my home through filing more reports to CPS).

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