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On My Little Girl’s Birthday


Alice C. Bateman

Born in the middle of the twentieth century.  Raised on a farm, sheltered and protected from the real world.  Happily ever after was not a fairy tale but a truth to the fanciful and romantic little girl self.   Believed a girl grew up, met the handsome prince who would marry her.  That would be it for the rest of their lives. Never-ending years of love and happiness.

Nobody talked about a boy seducing your innocent body at seventeen, resulting in pregnancy and an entire shift in your personal life plans.  Or ending up marrying that boy because of the baby. Either marry the father or give the child away.

Only married him so the child would still be yours and have a father.  Being a divorced mom in 1973 more acceptable than being a single one.  Divorced him because you never liked him in the first place.  After five years and another child, the insults and degradations more than you could bear.

Nobody talked about how the frogs could sound exactly like princes. Until they got the wedding band on your finger and turned into mean and spiteful trolls.  Who, incidentally, only liked their mama troll’s cooking.

Nobody mentioned you could get tricked a second time, blinded by a new potential prince’s lies and pretences.  Or that a worse troll, with a wedding ring around your neck, could drive your older children away and hold your younger children hostage. Threaten to kill you over and over if you attempt to take your own children to live with you.

Certainly, in the sheltered childhood and early marriage, not one single soul thought to tell me about places like women’s shelters. 

I’ve decided to write about this because every woman should know there are places of safety to go to. When you, or you and your children, need to be protected from an abusive troll.

I did not know about these places until after my second husband had three of my children {his and mine} in his custody for a few years.  The knowledge of these places was forced upon me when the ex finally threatened to kill me in front of witnesses.  So ‘protected’ throughout life I didn’t even know that threats are enforceable by law.

I learned a whole lot of things when I was escorted to and deposited at a women’s shelter.  Imagine suddenly sitting in front of the intake worker, explaining your life to them.  Your husband {not divorced yet, wouldn’t do that and give him formal custody}, who had physical custody of your children for the past few years, was busted for crack cocaine.  Your children were in the custody of children’s aid.

He’d raped you when you made an effort to pretend a reconciliation to get the children out of the hands of the authorities, and had now threatened to kill you yet again, because you’d told him you were leaving again.  But this time, he threatened you in front of official witnesses.

Imagine your emotions and your self-esteem at that moment.  The kindly woman seated at the desk saying how emotional abuse can be so much worse than beatings.  Those scars and bruises don’t show, and take far longer to heal.  If they ever do heal.  How they’ll do everything possible to move mountains and help you get your kids back.

How they’ll put you on the social services system while you’re ‘protected’ in the house, and help get a place for you and the children.  Incarcerated, for your own protection.  Allowed to go out, but with video surveillance at the entrance.  Doors always locked.

Not being able to go for a walk of a short block and a half for a coffee at Tim Horton’s until you’d cut off your long hair into a style like your mother’s.  Changed boots for runners, found clothes your mother would wear.   Trying to protect yourself from the ‘friends’ you’d met at the ex’s place over the past weeks, mostly people newly released from jail.

On the memorable last evening there, a genuine, large ‘bull dyke’ sat down beside me on his couch, told me she’d just gotten out of jail for killing her husband, and needed to get high.  Told me how much she liked ‘pretty young things.’

One particular ‘gentleman’ always carried a hammer.  You learned not to be curious about these people.  One day he asked me if I knew why he always carried a hammer.  I said no.  He said because he was so used to carrying a gun, his hand felt naked without it.

These were the people frequenting the home of my ex and my children.  It took everything I had to remain calm.  But I did.  Until the morning I got up and found two prostitutes in the living room, one sitting in ‘my’ chair and drinking from ‘my’ teacup.  I told him I'd had enough, was leaving.  Until later that day, when life extricated me from the situation and deposited me in the women’s shelter.

A high fence around the premises; no men allowed on the grounds.

They broke that rule one year, and let a man come in to play Santa at the Christmas party.  The man who’d volunteered pulled a gun out of his sack and shot his wife and children, who were sheltered in the home at the time.  Protected…

My ex lied to all the officials when he was busted, said I’d taken off and they hadn’t seen or heard from me in years. Didn’t know where I was. In reality, I was visiting every weekend or every other one. Buying groceries, doing his laundry and dishes, cleaning up, making sure the kids were OK, going to the childrens’ church with them, giving him money, and living in the house of old friends he’d introduced me to years before.

My daughter screamed, “He’s lying, he knows where our Mom is, make him phone her!” Officials and police hauled my children away to a foster home because of his lies.  Nobody phoned me.

The night before my youngest daughter’s birthday, I travelled from Toronto to Hamilton to see the kids. So she would be in no doubt about me being there for her birthday.

Imagine my shock when I approached the apartment.  The door kicked in, off it’s hinges, a big hole where the door handle used to be.  Dead, cold silence as I entered the apartment, completely dark at dusk.

The ex was not there, but an old acquaintance was.  I knew immediately my children were not there.  Had not been for a while.

I demanded to know where my children were.  He didn’t want to tell me.  Said the ex would kill him if he did.

I told him it wasn’t the ex he should be afraid of at that particular moment.  It was me.  A mother, not knowing where her children were.  He read the look on my face, quickly told me what happened.

No idea how deeply the ex was already a slave to crack cocaine. Should have known the signs, but didn’t.  ‘Sheltered’ and ‘protected.’ Made an agreement with him; pretend to reconcile for the sake of the children. Present a united front to the officials who held them captive.

Even while discussing it with him, my entire being and soul revolted at the thought of remaining in close proximity to him.  The only way I could see of getting the kids freed and back with me in the shortest possible time.  This discussion took place the next day.  On my little girl’s birthday.  I’d retreated to Toronto overnight.

That night when I grew tired, I told the ex I’d sleep in the girls’ room, as usual.  He said, “No way!  You’re going to say you’re my wife, you are going to act like a wife and sleep in my room.  How would it look to my friends?”

Said with the maniacal look in his eyes that convinced me years before he would kill me if I took the kids.  Just as he’d threatened to so many times.  The look that made a woman without much fear of anything afraid her children would be left motherless if any further buttons were pushed.

I said I was very tired, and knew he couldn’t possibly mean he wanted sex; not part of the deal.  He said, “I know, but if we are saying we’re back together, we’d better look like we are.”

He did have friends over {customers for crack, I later learned}, so I agreed.  He gave me two sleeping pills because I was so distraught over the children.  Said he’d probably be up all night anyway; not to worry.

I believed him and slept deeply. Then, uncharacteristically, began to dream about sex – only to wake up and discover I was being raped by the ex.  On my little girl’s birthday…

Know what helped keep me {and many other women} alive and relatively sane through the women’s shelter and on several other occasions?  A joke my grown daughter told me on the phone, when I called her to tell her where I was.

“Why do trolls float?”

“Because they’re scum.”

Thank God women have their children to live for.

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