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Wings for Justice
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Wings for Justice's mission is to protect children in the family court system by creating awareness, providing education, and advocating to bring change.
Wings for Justice's mission is to protect children in the family court system by creating awareness, providing education, and advocating to bring change.

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Don’t Waste Time Looking for One

“Verbal abuse can be ever-so-subtle, as many stories illustrate. Yet it leaves the victim in a lot of pain and confusion. Believing in a different reality where people reason and communicate in rational ways with each other, the victim tries to make sense of his or her abuser’s treatment, not understanding that sometimes other people’s mean behavior makes no sense, has no rational explanation, and has nothing to do with him or her.

But the victim so badly wants to make sense of the behavior that he or she doesn’t put an end to it, instead continuing to search for explanations of what could have caused the abuser to treat him or her that way. The victim thinks that perhaps something about his or her behavior made it the case that they deserved to be treated badly.

Because the victim does not yet fully grasp the idea of verbal abuse—abuse at a purely verbal or mental level—he or she thinks that the abuser’s maltreatment must have a rational explanation.

So, the victim confronts the behavior, not the way he or she ought to confront this behavior, but the way he or she ought to confront rational behavior. The victim asks for an explanation, asks for examples of the generalizations made by the abuser, and asks the abuser to make sense of the abuse.

Few people truly understand verbal abuse. People who are exposed to it typically don’t realize that they are so exposed. And they desperately want others to behave in rational ways. They understand anger and irritation when there are good reasons for it. They understand that we don’t all get along all the time. But they fail to see that when someone is verbally abusive, their actions are not grounded in reason at all.

Responding effectively to verbal abuse requires recognizing it when it occurs and realizing that it makes no sense whatsoever to try to reason with the abuser.

A verbal abuser will define your reality, decide what you can or cannot do, and treat you as an (in-their-eyes) ugly part of themselves, a part that they have to undermine in order to keep up their own sense of self.

There is only one way to end verbal abuse: Call it to the abuser’s attention.

If that doesn’t work, the only way out is to leave, as fast as you can.”

Berit Brogaard, “Psychology Today,” April 2015
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Ottawa County, Michigan

Early in our marriage, things with my husband seemed very normal. After our two sons were born, I began to notice a disconnect with my husband. He began to show bitterness and anger toward me. My husband told me things would be better if I lost weight, spent less money, or had dinner ready for him. He began to drink heavily, and would frequently come home drunk.

One day, my husband dragged me into our bedroom in a choke hold. I managed to get away and ran into the hallway, where I saw our four and seven year-old boys. I took our sons into another room, locked the door, and called the police. Despite the situation and my bruises, the police didn't allow me to press charges against my husband. Shortly after that incident, my husband decided to leave us and the marriage.

After our divorce was finalized, Judge Engle refused to enforce the judgement of divorce. Although I struggled to make ends meet and care for our sons, Judge Engle ordered even lower child support payments. In addition, Judge Engle did not require my ex-husband to pay his court-ordered half of documented $12,000 in child care expenses.

On numerous occasions when I brought our children to see my ex-husband, he refused to even open his door. Then, he took me to court claiming I denied him parenting time. My ex-husband also drank frequently during parenting time against our court order. All along, Judge Engle did nothing to enforce our court order or protect my children. Instead, Judge Engle threatened me with jail time if I withheld parenting time when my husband was drinking.

Friend of the Court (FOC) attempted to force me into mediation with Dan Qualls, who was our former counselor. The court pressured me to have a psychological evaluation. This proposed evaluation was to be done by their court-employee, Ben Burgess, who is only a master’s-level, limited-license psychologist. The court pushed these actions in order to discredit me, and cover up my ex-husband's behavior.

For years after our divorce, my ex-husband was allowed to harass me through the very legal system designed to ensure justice. It is my hope steps will be taken to bring accountability into the family court system for the protection of children.
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