By Dr. Karin Huffer, Marriage and Family Therapist
Jan and I sat in our first of what was to be many sessions dealing with her victimization from love fraud, followed by a twisted legal path in her pursuit of justice. She sobbed, holding crumpled papers in her hands revealing stabbing deceit. Her husband had blown the money she provided to pay bills and now her credit was damaged, bills were not paid, and the money was gone. She now suffers in isolation. Her friends are weary of the story, and she is tired of “I told you so” and “I thought something was wrong with him.” Shame digs deep into her heart and soul. How could she have been such a fool and now be so hurt and helpless?
So familiar to me as a therapist is the undeserved shame internalized by mostly women, but some men, when they have been led into the beautiful world of romantic love. It is intimacy with a most charming, intelligent, person, connecting in that special way. The birds sing, the bells ring, and the future brightens. The hunger in all of us that songs sing about, poems are written about, is finally promised to be fulfilled.
Jan tried to deny her internal alarms, but could not placate her fear when signs of deceit began to underpin destruction of every shred of financial security, faith, a loving relationship, and hope. She was dumbstruck. Unwelcome truth rolled in on her revealing serious crimes committed, but they all were clouded in the legal quagmire of marriage or romance. Somehow romance blunts law enforcement and society’s response to criminal acts.
Once theft, fraud, lies, and a string of abuses were revealed, Jan was confident that the next step was to turn to the judicial system for relief. Having been an independent career woman, she was wounded, but strong with moral clarity at hand. She got a lawyer, reported the crimes, and began divorce proceedings. She firmly believed that criminal and civil courts exist to restore victims of crime and help to fairly disengage marriages that have gone wrong and punish the criminal. That was her frame of mind as she paid a retainer to a lawyer from meager funds. It would seem like the story would end soon after initiating legal action, with the con artist being held accountable and the traumatized victim feeling some sense of justice. My experience and intuition guides me toward a more skeptical view. I always hope for justice but learned long ago to shore up the clients with counseling to head off disappointments.
I immediately know that, regardless of her legal success or failure, Jan will be grieving losses while working on layers of healing from traumatic stress. My fears are realized as Jan embarks on her journey toward justice. Over time, Jan is devastated in every way imaginable. The sociopath lies and dominates the very institution, the judicial system, that exists to help victims like her. She is being twisted into an emotional pretzel with all sense of right, wrong, and civility thrown to the wind. She went from anger, to indignance to outrage to appealing to Congressmen and regulatory agencies. All advised they could not help her and to pursue her case. If she got a small win, the sociopath would beg for her forgiveness and to resume the relationship sometimes softening and weakening her resolve to win. Then she would be more angry at herself.
Finally, she reached a point beyond rage. It is a state of implosion, usually Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from protracted, consumptive, and cruel legal action. This type of PTSD is called Legal Abuse Syndrome (LAS), and is not a mental illness but an injury. This wound resulting from the lies, losses, and physiological injuries that are part of one human purposefully devastating another, followed by failure of the judicial system to timely, efficiently, and correctly administer justice. The court wound up being one more expensive burden that Jan supports financially, while the sociopath charms and pays a prestigious legal team with money stolen from her. He actually gains sympathy in the court sociopaths are masters at doing just that.
Before she suffers further, I know I have to suggest using protection from the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/Legal Abuse Syndrome may be the only disability, or it may exacerbate other conditions. They all qualify for protection under this new law.
Under the ADAAA, Jan never has to be alone in court and is not to be demeaned in any way. Even though the injury is psychic and not visible, it is an injury covered by this law, just as if she needed a wheelchair.
The ADAAA’s intent is to ensure equal and fair access to legal proceedings in the face of the cruel treatment under the guise of “zealous representation” by the opposition and their legal teams. Jan’s dignity, respect, fair and equal treatment becomes my main goal as I help intervene in her court case. This is an outrage that needs to be exposed to the court in the perpetrator/victim context. It allows the victim to have special alterations to usual proceedings, ensuring equal footing with the sociopath.
If you need assistance contact these Legal Abuse Advocates in the Lovefraud Professional Resources Guide:
Dr. Karin Huffer will offer a Certified Forensic Disability Specialist webinar beginning February 5, 2013. For information visit www.equalaccessadvocates.com.