Honestly, I never thought I’d be writing part three. I thought it was done—but it wasn’t.
(The first two posts in this series about restraining orders can be found here.)
So let’s talk about what happens after the restraining order is filed. Many women have reached out sharing similar stories and confirmed that what I experienced AFTER the protective order was filed and delivered is NOT the least bit uncommon. In fact, it just seems to be something to expect.
It got me thinking. I can help the women who have reached out to me (and others who happen upon my blog) by sharing online research techniques I've learned over the years. Working on cold cases with law enforcement has upped my investigative game, big time. Below, I share what I’ve learned from cops, others who are being harassed, and women just like me.
IT WON’T STOP
When I first spoke with the Flagstaff PD, the officer I spoke with said, “You know that when you file a restraining order, it doesn’t guarantee your safety, and you can pretty much bet he will try to get around the order by sending messages somehow.”
And she was right.
A few months ago, I received a message request in Facebook from a man I didn’t know. I accepted it not really knowing what to expect I would read, but at that moment, not expecting it to be something scathing and shaming. Turns out, it was just that. “Scott” told me how horrible I was for talking openly about the abuse I endured and lots of other lovely digs. It didn’t even occur to me at the time that this message could be my ex.
I wrote back that I thought it was so strange that he was writing me about something he had no experience with, and that maybe he should support women who report abuse versus shame them. I still, naively, didn’t think it was a fake profile. After I wrote back, I blocked him.
About an hour later, I received another message request from a woman named “Karen” claiming to be “Scott’s wife.” My jaw was on the floor. Who were these people who were so invested in shaming me for sharing my journey? Did they know my ex? Maybe I was a bit slow that day, or maybe I just generally believe people and what they are presenting, but I still thought it was real. Hours went by with me believing this was legit then suddenly...3…2…1…..it hit me. They aren’t real people at all. They are one person disguised to get the last word and circumvent the law.
Here’s where the tips come in. If something like this happens to you and you want to dive deeper into the fake profiles— proving they are indeed fake and tracing them to the harasser/subject of your protective order—give this a try:
Step 1: Download the profile photo of the profile. In my case, this is the photo attached to “Scott", who sent me the scathing message. (Click the "read more" button on the right to continue.)
There’s a beautiful song written by Ben Abraham called "This Is On Me" that resonates with me, deeply. One of the lines is:
And some phoenix may rise from these ashes but the fire comes first
But the fire came first, indeed—2014 felt like a massive bonfire. The issues we buried deep in our marriage became a huge pile of dried wood, ready to burn.
Scott and I married young in 1997—I was 23 and he was 25. I had moved to Charlotte, North Carolina by myself to start my career as a computer trainer. I knew one person in the charming, Southern city, but other than that, it was whole new world.
We met in a bar through friends, and four months later, we were engaged. A year later, we married. Scott was in between work right before we got hitched. He landed a new job in sales with HBO in Birmingham which meant, shortly after our wedding, we moved to Alabama. After the move, I found a job at a prominent healthcare company. Noah was born that year, and little did we know, we’d be on the move again one year later. Scott was moving up the ladder—Playboy TV Networks snapped him up. Off to Atlanta, GA, we went. I found a job that wasn’t ideal but was related to what I had been doing and it was somewhat good for a new mom—no travel. We were there for a year before Scott was promoted and off we went to Chicago, IL. We spent four years there and he continued to do really well in the industry, working for several other national TV networks with offices in Chicago. I carved out my career in a new town. I worked for a temp agency at first, and then interviewed for a job that was initially outside of my wheelhouse, with A&E and the History Channel. I put my all into it and learned “media math,” won the President's Award (overachiever), and was promoted to Integrated Marketing Manager during my three-year tenure.
Four years after moving to Chicago, we were talking about next steps. By then, we had two beautiful kiddos and a cool life in Chicago, but hours were long and schools weren’t great in our Lincoln Square neighborhood. Scott was offered a great position in a related industry with a company in Cincinnati, Ohio. I loved the idea of slowing down and being closer to family, but I’ll admit, I was scared to a.) leave my career that I had grown to love and was doing really well in, and b.) to put my career on hold and forfeit making my own salary. Not because I thought Scott and I were in trouble, but because I have always been independent and career-minded.
We set off for the job in Cincinnati without some critical knowledge. The company wasn’t doing well financially and they were looking at Scott like the Hail Mary pass that would save them. He couldn’t save them—no one could save them. And we couldn’t save ourselves. Less than a year after moving to Cincinnati, we sold the house we’d built, sold most of our stuff, and made the decision to go back into TV. After all, we both did really well in that industry. We both started reaching out to contacts with resumes. We knew we’d have to move back to Chicago, or to LA or NYC. We’d already done Chicago. NYC looked like it was going to be too hard with the cost of living and commuting.
LA, it was! Being an acting major, Scott had always wanted to do something on the creative side of the industry so this looked like a good move that could potentially provide both outlets. The only problem was one of us needed a job. He was starting to interview with other TV networks in LA, so naturally that helped us make the decision to move across the country. We cashed out our 401Ks, packed everything in a POD that was to be transported to “Hollywood” by truck, and moved to Sherman Oaks, CA, a suburb of LA.
I was freaking out for three months. I knew we only had a finite reserve of funds, despite choosing the tiniest rental house we could find that wasn't a shack, to cut back on expenses. If he wasn’t going to get hired soon, we were in trouble. We had a baby and a four-year-old, and I was struggling with having been out of the industry for a year, at that point. Much to my surprise, it put me behind the eight ball, job-wise. Scott was already making more money because our moves were based on his career and I was facing some resistance for having been out, so naturally, he needed to be the main breadwinner. I had to figure out how to make ends meet, though, because when he did get hired, it was not enough to go around. I did some contract work but it wasn’t steady enough so I made the decision to become a nanny. While I love kids, I’d never babysat more than a handful of times and was scared to death. Would I even be good at this? I missed my marketing career and the fast-paced life of ad sales but also knew the value of having a parent home with the kids and they had already been through a big move. With all of that on my mind, I placed an ad in Craigslist and taught myself to build a website to share who I was and why someone would want to hire me as a caregiver.
I took care of two babies, in addition to my own kids, for two years. At the end of the two-year stint, I had a very "mod" idea. I started building furniture without any carpentry skill or design know-how. It gave me a creative outlet and I knew if I sold one toy box in LA, I could make as much money doing that as I was making as a nanny for a week at $8 per hour. Scott was moving up the ladder at a prominent TV network, until he nobly volunteered to back up a woman in his company who he witnessed being sexually harassed by an upper management exec from a different office. The perfect performance appraisal he received two weeks prior meant nothing when he was called into his bosses’ office and told he wasn’t being very “VP-like.” It didn’t take long for them to let him go. We had no recourse and a small severance package.
Every morning, I would wake up panicked. Like when we first moved to LA, I was counting the days until the money ran out. He ended up reinventing himself by going into the tech side of the industry. I was building Mod Mom at the time and bringing in what we needed to make ends meet by building furniture all day and some nights, and caring for the kiddos during the day when they weren’t in school or preschool. I was happy I was able to be creative and still work from home. At first, everyone including Scott, thought I was nuts. But it was working and Mod Mom was gaining momentum. And it was helping us stay afloat. I eventually built roughly 400 toy boxes in our garage over a four-year time span.
This is where it gets fuzzy for me. Once Scott made the move over to the tech side, I don’t remember how many corporate restructurings /layoffs/or just plain goings-under happened between then and when we moved to Flagstaff. It had to be at least two. We ended up having to declare bankruptcy. I think I blocked it from my mind, honestly. He was smart to transition into more of the tech side because the TV network industry’s affiliate sales teams were all being cut. That was the good part, except the tech side was equally as vulnerable because most of the gigs were with start-ups.
While we were living in LA and going through financial ups and downs, I was starting to awaken spiritually, which was scary and stressful in itself. I was confused, overwhelmed, and invigorated all while taking care of the family and growing Mod Mom. Cut to the last company Scott worked for in Burbank. The parent company was based overseas and while they did shut down the Burbank office, they wanted to keep Scott on. A testament to who he is. We saw this as an opportunity to get out of pricey, overly congested LA. Something we both felt intuitively we needed to do for our kids. As a reluctant medium who was being pulled into cold cases, I was also receiving messages about moving. Getting out of LA for a number of reasons but mainly, there was a push for us to high-tail it. Thankfully, Scott has always been my biggest supporter when it came to my intuitive work. He believed in me because he saw the “proof” with his own eyes. He didn’t really question it. He’s quite intuitive himself and he said, “Well, here’s our opening. I still have a job and we can move anywhere. If you're being told Flagstaff, then let’s go check it out.”
In 2012, we moved to Flagstaff, Arizona. He had a nice salary because he was still working for the overseas company. In fact, it was a far bigger salary than what most get in Flagstaff, which is appropriately called “poverty with a view.” Let’s just say that the salaries are not commensurate with the cost of living, but it was still significantly cheaper than LA. I had already braved Shark Tank with Mod Mom and won, and I had inked a deal with an angel investor. I was plugging along with Mod Mom and asked Scott to play more of a role. I respect his ideas and creativity and frankly, I was so tired of handling it all myself. This became the first of my “only I should run Mod Mom” lessons. While he had great ideas and I went along with them, nothing was working to really grow the brand.
At the same time, the company he was working for decided to pull out of the US which meant they were about to sever his employment contract. Now, we’re living in a really cool town because we were guided here intuitively, but we were nowhere near big industry. Scott started scrambling and took a radio station job but it paid less than a quarter of what he was earning before. I kept hearing, intuitively, licensing was the way to grow Mod Mom so I started to pursue those opportunities while still managing all of the manufacturing and shipping. With Mod Mom and his job, we were making it but barely. We did end up having to sell our wedding rings and most of the jewelry I inherited from my Grandmother when she passed. After eight months of talks, I inked a deal with multi-million-dollar giant, Stanley Furniture, as their salaried spokesperson and they would be producing my line in a licensing deal. They projected five million in sales the first year. I had finally done it! The payout was supposed to be really big, plus I had a steady salary doing what I loved. I was ensuring we wouldn’t struggle financially anymore, after so many years of ups and downs.
This brings us up to April of 2014, which was shortly after I was starting to come to grips with what happened to me as a child. I flew to Market in High Point to sign my licensing deal and perform my spokesperson duties only to lose it all because they shut down North American production and their kids line all together. They announced it on April Fools Day, the day I was flying in to North Carolina. I had no idea until I got off the plane. I’ve written about what happened when I got to Market in this blog post called Free Falling.
Looking at it from 30,000 feet, the constant financial ups and downs from 2004-2014 took a toll on us but neither of us really talked about it. We would always band together to make things happen but damage was done. I pushed down my feelings at every turn, but the reality was I was losing faith in his ability to provide, even though it wasn’t his fault. Being a natural fixer, I would work day and night fixing life for everyone. Building a furniture company without any experience. Doing it all. I started to resent the fact that we made Scott’s career the focus and I just followed along, reinventing myself in every city along the way. As a married couple, you know there is give and take, but as a life-long accommodator, I was the queen of over-giving and it hurt me physically and emotionally. When I announced in 2014 I was leaving Scott, some close said “we’re not surprised.” Others said, “I thought this would have happened a long time ago.” I was shocked by their responses.
I resented--as he’s said in his blog post about what he learned—that the pendulum had swung too far. I felt like I was holding up the world on many fronts—kids, work, guidance for him, strength for him, strength for all of us—and I was about to collapse from the weight of it all. He admits he “lost his mojo,” and ultimately found it again during our separation. He took jobs he had never had to consider before that would be the equivalent of what I did when I nannied and did manual labor-type work. In his words, he needed to grow up and take charge of his career.
It’s interesting when I think about the juxtaposition of what we were both going through. It’s common for childhood sexual abuse survivors to become over achievers and accommodators. This means that most live their lives—or commonly into their forties when all of the subconscious stuff starts to break open—caretaking and doing the right thing all the time. That’s what I did. When I met the match that lit the bonfire of April 2014, I had unknowingly come to the end of my rope on top of unknowingly, unconsciously attracting a man who would in essence, replicate the abuse I endured as a child (psych professionals call it wounded attachment). Honestly, I was tired of being the one who handled it all perfectly and with grace. Growing up is exactly the OPPOSITE of what I needed to do. I apparently needed to run free, make mistakes, and channel my inner teenager, like I’d never really done. I had to heal a lot of subconscious wounding and programming that I didn’t even know existed. I still do, but without the implosion of 2014, I don’t think I would have gotten to this place as quickly as I have. And I don’t think Scott would be where he is today, in his career and in life in general.
And some phoenix may rise from these ashes but the fire comes first
It truly took the fire burning all to the ground, in order for us to rise from the ashes—as a two people who love each other to the depths of our souls, and as individuals who are becoming the people we were always meant to be.
P.S. I do not recommend our particular method of burning down the proverbial marital house but this was our path. And in our case, a gift. :) If I had to do it all over again, I’d ditch the kerosene and I’d TALK MORE. Make it known what was going on in my head and heart, no matter if I thought it would hurt him. And I’d want him to do the same for me. Give each other the space you need, as individuals, but also tune into each other. Oh, and know that we’re here on earth to learn, to love, and to grow with or without a bonfire.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I posted this quote today in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It made me think long and hard about what so many women and men are doing right now. What a gift to have the ability to share your truth so easily through social media. If you're the one speaking out, it can also be a curse when others want to silence you. As my law enforcement partners and friends have said: "Sadly, Kiers, you have to protect yourself." And they're right.
I knew the risk when I started speaking up but I also knew the power in openly sharing the truth despite waves of fear—sharing the whole truth including my mistakes, nosedives, naivety, and weaknesses. To share the part of me that fed on the intoxication of the "love" drug and did whatever she could to feed the addiction, even if it meant hurting those closest to me and allowing abuse. Believe me, it was much easier to be the mom in the garage who won a deal on Shark Tank. I was comfortable there. Since it's human to want acceptance and validation, that persona was a damn good one that was widely accepted by many. But was it the full truth? Nope. We are human beings which means we're complicated—consisting of both light and dark, even if we don't want to believe it or see it.
We live in a world that wants to keep a lid on the bad stuff. "Don't air dirty laundry," they say. It's why generation after generation, cycles of abuse replay like a skipping record on a turn-table.
Guess what happens when we get REALLY FREAKIN' REAL? Light illuminates the dark spaces.. Light helps others see they truly have choices, no matter if they feel they've made their bed or just hadn't been shown how to take the blinders off.
"I didn't know what I was enduring wasn't normal until I started to read your blog. I read everything you write. And now, I'm taking my life back."
"The more I read, the more I understand what I went through during my first marriage, and why I felt powerless to change it."
"Every time you tell your story, I feel like I get a little bit healthier and further away from his sadistic ways. So please continue to write your story and know that all of us caught in his web of deceit and lies are better off every time you do."
This is what healing and forward movement looks like to me—my healing and others. We're not all bad nor are we all good, but if we want to continue to grow and evolve as individuals and as a global society, we have speak out about the dark side of life and our part in it.
On this MLK Day, I am eternally grateful for Dr. King and other trailblazers—then and now—that push us to ditch the rose-colored glasses and speak about things that hurt all of us. It is only through speaking the truth and owning our actions, that we can bring more light and tolerance to the world.
Thank you, Dr. King, for continuing to shine like the sun, lighting our way to a better future.
We all sat glued to the TV last night. It was Golden Globes night—normally a silly, not-deep-thinking-night where we guess wrong winners and say things like, "I thought that guy died two years ago?!?!."
Last night was different. It was moving and empowering.
I will never forget watching Oprah change lives last night, mine included. With tears streaming down my face, I felt such a sense of power and unity. I tried to hold back the water works but it was no use. I thought of my journey as a childhood sexual abuse survivor and my experience as an adult, dealing with emotional abuse by yet another predator. I thought of my dear friend who is going through a horrible divorce from a sadistically smart, terribly abusive man, and how she said to me the other day, "Someday soon let’s figure out how NO other woman has to figure this out alone. I have you, I’m lucky."
I cried some more.
I will never forget looking over at my husband, who was also in tears as he watched Oprah say the words, "when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of maginificent women, and some phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that you become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say "Me too," again."
And I cried some more. I'm so proud of him for weathering the storm with me, and understanding the depth of pain and fear involved in coming to grips with abuse and the shame that comes with it. Not just the pain of what I experienced, but in telling my story openly to the world and what that means in terms of inviting retaliation, judgment, and further abuse and harrassment. He is one of those phenomenal men who will walk arm-and-arm with us into a better future and I am forever grateful for his grace and unconditional love.
Time is truly up. It's been up for decades but finally, we are banding together in a way we haven't experienced in our lives to date.
We've got this. We can do it! We can be vulnerable and open, and share what it means to have endured and survived abuse, and gone on to thrive.
We've got this. For ourselves. For our children. For generations to come.
As Oprah said, "What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have."
Thank you, Oprah. And thank you to all of the brave women and men who continue to speak their truth.
Time's up, indeed.