There was always a constant worry as to what was happening with John and the kids when I was not around. It seemed like every time I left a room one of the kids claimed that John had put his hands on them, and he would always deny it. Of course, I’d seen him put his hands on the kids in the past and had him turn to me and say, “That didn’t happen”….. as if I were hallucinating. I was always afraid he was going to hurt them. I still am.
One morning I had gone into work a bit early to have a celebratory breakfast with one of the teachers who was retiring. My phone rang and when I picked it up I could hear James screaming and crying. It took me a while to calm him down enough so that he could talk to me. He shared that he and his father were having a disagreement and that he was feeling very upset. He also shared that there had been a large violent fit and a rough interaction with John. He told me that his dad was saying things to him that weren’t true and that were bothering him. I could hear John in the background arguing with what he was saying to me. “Stop lying James! Tell the truth James!”
I tried to get James to focus on my voice and tune out the yelling. Eventually he calmed down enough to hear me. I suggested he take a nature walk with his father and listen to the birds. He agreed that would be a good idea. He hung up and I went about my day.
Later that day I picked James up from school and noticed a purple bruise on the side of his nose. I asked him how he had gotten it. He stated that he didn’t remember. I asked him if it happened at school and he replied, “No Mommy. It happened before school”. (Not something I would expect someone to say if they didn’t remember getting hurt.) Then he started talking about the morning interaction he had with John. “Mommy, when I went to call you Daddy kept saying ‘Tell her the truth James. Tell the truth’ but I WAS telling the truth. Daddy kept saying things I didn’t want him to say and he wouldn’t stop so I got upset.”
I knew exactly what James was talking about because John had been doing it for months. He waited until I wasn’t around and then said negative things about me to the children to try and get them upset with me. I think he believed it would make them bond more with him and less with me, but of course it only upset them and triggered the violent tantrums that accompanied James’ autism. At his counseling session that day he spoke to his counselor about the interaction that morning. He rarely put trust in adults but he was happy that she was going to try and speak to John.
Later that night, James and I were sitting on the couch and he said “Mommy, I told Daddy that Amy (his counselor) was going to call him and talk to him and he said sarcastically, ‘Ohhh yeaaaa?’ and was mocking me.” John was standing right next to James as he said this to me. He didn’t say a word. I just told James I was proud that he used his words to talk about his feelings and that he tried to work things out with his dad. I reminded him that he can’t control other people, but he can control himself and he did a great job.
My blood was boiling. Why was John trying to sabotage our son?! His words were toxic. He was trying to twist James’ thoughts… make him doubt himself… make him feel as if no one can help him and protect him from this abuse….he had moved on from gas lighting me and was now doing it to our autistic son. As always…. more mind control…. more manipulation.
The next morning I woke James up and gasped. The purple mark that had been on the side of his nose had turned into a black eye. It was a mild one…. but it was definitely a black eye. All morning he was sticking by his story that it happened at home when he was alone with his dad (who always put him on the bus as my work hours started earlier). I confronted John. He was adamant that it did not happen at home. I suggested that maybe he got hurt during his fit the previous morning to which he said, “He didn’t have a fit.” I, of course, knew this was another lie. I could hear the explosive behavior when James had called me, as did the room full of teachers that were with me when he called.
I knew no good could come from this conversation. I knew he wasn’t going to tell the truth. So I just replied OK. Suddenly John bent down and put his face directly in front of mine. In a very aggressive tone he said, “What?! Why did you say that?!” I just replied that I was saying OK, to let him know I heard him and I left for work. As always … more intimidation…. more non verbal threats.
On my way into work I got a text message from John. James had apparently remembered that he had gotten hurt at school. He was running around at recess and had bumped into another child. I responded that it was very strange that James didn’t remember this until he was left alone with John. I also said I thought it was strange the school staff didn’t say anything about him getting hurt. He just replied that James had lied. Why? Why would he lie about that? What would he possibly gain from lying about this? I knew he had been telling the truth and that now John was trying to control the message and protect himself.
I sent an email to James’ teachers asking if they knew what happened. They agreed with James’ story. He did not get hurt at school. He was not running around at recess. He was bug hunting with the gym teacher and a few other students during recess and at no point did he get injured. The nurse checked out his eye and documented it at my request.
I knew in my heart that somehow John had given James that black eye. I also knew in my heart that he got James to lie about what had happened. This man was escalating. He was hurting my children and he was brainwashing them into thinking they needed to protect him while he did it. Why was the system not helping me to protect these children?!?!