Carolyn Hax: Deciding when to call the police/CPS; Seeing abuser again; socializing with abusive spouse of a friend

Carolyn Hax has a good response for a common problem:

I realize there is a sense of crossing a Rubicon when calling the police or child-protective services on a parent — of putting them in “the system,” of possibly doing more harm than good. I also understand why this sense is often enough to keep people from making the call.

At the same time, if these kids are in crisis, then it’s every witness’s duty to speak up.

Read her response here.

In my own case, I knew someone who works “in the system,” so I asked her for advice.  But if you can’t do that, Carolyn has some good ideas.  Another thing you can do is to ask Social Services/CPS for advice before making an official report.

I especially like Pace1’s comment:

Please do not talk yourself out of what your instincts are telling you about the likelihood that this woman’s kids are likely experiencing at least emotional abuse at the hands of their mother. You cited two instances of red flag behavior.

Please also don’t think you’ll get more clarity “talking” to the kids. Kids in abusive homes are often very good at keeping the “family secret” of abuse. They may display a lot of love toward their abusive parent because kids will attach at any cost in order to survive.

Kids are often convinced the treatment they receive is deserved because they are bad–a belief often reinforced by the abuser because abusers are unlikely to take responsibility for their behavior. Please err on the side of protecting the kids. A call will most likely initiate an investigation, not an immediate removal….

In another thread of the comments, someone asked,

I have a question: if you were sure, absolutely sure, that you knew someone who had abused a spouse or a child, could you “forget” that enough to socialize with them in other contexts?

Maybe its just me (and I would need to be absolutely sure of the abuse part), but if I *knew* that someone had committed physical, verbal or emotional abuse against a family member, that would make them someone I would ~ based on my own morals ~ not want to socialize with.

The general answer: NO.

Exactly.  That’s why I could not easily socialize with Tracy and resented being forced to.

I also like this comment farther down:

Someone I hurt owes me nothing. I owe them. And the first thing I owe them is the right to assert enough control over themselves and their choices to go forward. I can be ashamed of my own conduct; but I don’t get angry or hurt if someone exercises their God-given right for self-determination and chooses to avoid me.

But abusers do: abusers get *angry* and *offended* when people don’t let them be dominant. They convince themselves that they are entitled to be/act the way they are/do. And because there is no real guilt, no remorse, the pattern endures.

The mere fact that Grandpa is still in the middle of the drama shows that he hasn’t changed. And if he can’t hit with his fist or his belt, he can mindfrick her with his presence and the gaslighting of pretending that nothing is wrong and she’s making a big deal about everything.

You can decide to forgive a rattlesnake for being a rattlesnake, I guess. But you don’t let it get within striking distance of you, that’s for sure.

Several people in this thread “get” why abuse victims do not want to even be in the same room with their abusers, how the abusers try to maintain power over them, and just being in his presence can trigger the cycle.

This cycle, and abusers trying to maintain power by forcing their presence on me where they could continue to psychologically abuse me, is on display in the e-mail my abusers sent me last year.

 

 

 

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Sentencing of Madison Mother Who Starved Her Child

The stepmother of a 15-year-old girl who ran away from home starved and vastly underweight was sentenced Friday to five years in prison on reckless endangerment and mental harm convictions.

Melinda Drabek-Chritton, 43, of Madison, had a role in the neglect of a girl who badly needed professional help to cope with lifelong emotional issues.

But although she initially tried, those issues were not addressed between 2008 and Feb. 6, 2012, when the girl ran away from home barefoot and dressed in pajamas and was found by a passer-by who called police.

……Genovese said that Drabek-Chritton and the girl’s father, Chad Chritton, initially did try to help the girl when they brought her to Wisconsin from Texas in 2006, where she had been living with her birth mother and her mother’s husband, who was a sex offender.

The girl initially claimed that the man had sexually abused her, then denied it, but Dane County Human Services investigators found there was ample evidence to show that she had been sexually abused.

After the girl’s last medical appointment in 2008, Genovese said, Chritton and Drabek-Chritton decided that they “didn’t want to be bothered with her problems and gave up.”

When the girl was found she weighed only 68 pounds. She told police that she had been confined to the basement of the family home, starved and was not allowed to use the bathroom upstairs.

She said Drabek-Chritton abused her and encouraged the girl’s younger half-brothers to treat her badly as well.

Chad Chritton, 42, was convicted in March of felony child neglect but a jury deadlocked on other charges. Prosecutors will re-try him in November.

Drabek-Chritton’s son, Joshua Drabek, 19, is scheduled to stand trial in February on sexual assault and child abuse charges. –Ed Treleven, Stepmom of girl in abuse case Sentenced to five years in prison

This statement from the above article is one reason why I fear the system may fail Richard and Tracy‘s kids (another is the slap on the wrist he got for choking his kid, and other cases I’ve read about in our state in the past several years, of kids being killed after CPS did not do its job):

But he said there is lots of blame to go around. Despite near-constant intervention with the family by Dane County Human Services, nobody helped the girl. “This case is a system failure,” Ozanne said.

CPS was called seven times on the Chrittons, but kept closing the cases as “unsubstantiated.”  Even probation agents didn’t catch it.

Reading about this case is also when I first came across this information about food hoarding.

This raised new red flags about Richard and Tracy, because they once told me their kids were hoarding lunchmeat.

Since by now we already knew about the abuse and Richard choking one of the children, my husband and I both wondered if there was more going on than we knew about.

This isn’t about kids sneaking away snack food because their parents don’t want them to have it.  This is squirreling away things like lunchmeat and other foods because you don’t know when your next meal will be:

“She said the girl’s behavior in the hospital was consistent with that of a persistently starved person. The girl ordered as many items from the menu as she could, then hoarded the food and tucked some away for later, Knox testified.” —Judge orders trial in Wisconsin starved-teen case

 

So why does a child hoard food? Often food hoarding is directly connected to significant neglect that the child has experienced in consistently having their basic needs for life sustaining food denied or inadequately met.

As a result, the child is forced to become prematurely self-reliant in meeting their own basic needs. –Charley Joyce, Child Neglect and Hoarding Food

 

Cracker crumbs found under a pillow.  Moldy food rotting under the bed. A stash of food hidden in a backpack. A child who sits at a table and eats – and eats – and eats, until you are afraid their stomach can handle no more.  Sound familiar?

…Children communicate needs through behavior. On a deeper level, this issue is not about food but about control. The child is not yet ready to trust the adults in his or her life to provide a secure, safe environment.

That trust cannot be won by threats, punishments or shaming behaviors.  This behavior does not come out of a vacuum. Rather, it is an adaptive response to deprivation. It often stems from years of food insecurity. –Lisa Dickson, The Power of Food: Tips for Handling Hoarding

 

Incidences of food maintenance syndrome have been linked to acute stress, particularly from personal traumas such as abuse or maltreatment.

In many cases, children with food maintenance syndrome have undergone periods of neglect where they did not have access to adequate amounts of food.

The child then develops a heightened survival instinct related to food; whenever the child has an opportunity to consume food, he or she does so in excess and hoards any remaining food.

In situations where food is not consistently available to meet basic needs, overeating and food hoarding are natural reactions to fight off potential future starvation.

However, these habits can continue even when food has become readily available thus causing food maintenance syndrome. The characteristics of this disorder are a sign that the person afflicted still feels insecure about whether his/her basic needs will be met….

Food maintenance syndrome is rare in the general population but there are certain demographics where it is very common.  In particular, foster children are prone to food maintenance syndrome.

Abused or neglected children who are not in foster care also frequently display symptoms of food maintenance syndrome. —Food Maintenance Syndrome

LYING, STEALING, AND HOARDING FOOD: Survival techniques gone wrong

Read more about this case here.

 

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More details of Tracy’s abuse of her children

I’ve described the squalor they lived in.  This is no way for kids to live.

Shortly before April 15, 2009, she and Richard spent the afternoon in the state capitol, getting the TEA Party started.  Richard didn’t tell me what they were doing right away, just hinted about possibly doing something “illegal” or getting arrested.  But nobody was arrested.

Anyway, they left the kids with me.  When they returned and picked them up, just minutes later, Tracy screamed at her children at the top of her lungs!

I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill yelling, but Exorcist-like screaming! 

It was so loud and hysterical that I heard her from my door as they pulled out of the parking lot!

And this was just minutes after picking up the children!  After an afternoon of being separated from them!  How on earth could anyone get so flustered so fast by even the naughtiest of children?

This was shortly after I received the e-mail in the above section, so I heard for myself what Richard complained about.  I felt bad for the kids, and wondered what the neighbors must think.

Early in 2010, I saw Tracy–right in front of me–pop her tiny three-year-old in the back of the head so hard the girl’s tongue flew out.  I go into more detail about this below.

In June 2010, I sat on the couch watching the two oldest girls dancing in the living room.  They did absolutely nothing wrong, and looked sweet and happy.

But all of a sudden, Tracy went from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds, flew over, and began screaming and whacking fury at them.  

I had no idea what on earth the kids could have done wrong.

They didn’t say a word or fight back, just seemed to go limp.  Even their faces were blank.

Yet Tracy grew madder and madder, screamed louder and louder, yanked their arms around, and whacked spanks every which way! 

Like a human tornado, striking without reason or cause or humane feeling.

It wasn’t even at me, yet it left me nervous and scared of her for the rest of the evening!  I go into more detail about this and Tracy’s various other abuses that evening, in chapter 7.

I felt gaslit because if Richard told me she was abusing the kids or him a certain way, or that she was screaming at them all the time, he’d acknowledge it as abuse.

But if I saw with my own eyes what she was doing to him and the kids, he’d tell me everything was fine and she was being nice to him and slapping your kid on the back of the head is fine and screaming keeps them from being spoiled etc. etc.

Another way I felt gaslit: Tracy did these things right in front of me, as if daring me to call Child Protective Services.  It was truly bizarre.

Since Jeff wasn’t around or wasn’t looking, I began to wonder if it was on purpose, so I wouldn’t have a witness to back me up.

But when we visited, Jeff did hate walking into yelling.  He says our son was afraid of her, and that always ticked him off.

I heard her picking fights, and screaming at Richard (in my house) in louder and louder tones, while not listening to a word he said, while he tried very hard not to argue back.  

I saw her smack him on the arm in fury and give him intimidating looks.  

I heard her pick at her kids for petty things and make them feel like idiots, sometimes screaming at and belittling them for little things.

Several times, I heard her belittling and humiliating the eldest child.  One time I remember was in 2010, when she started ridiculing the poor girl one evening.  I remember feeling indignant, that it was blatant verbal abuse.  She called the girl stupid!

Around that same time, when the third child was 3 or maybe 4, Jeff and I saw her sucking her thumb.  We thought it was cute and smiled; Jeff said, “Did you get that from [our son]?”

Then Tracy started screaming her head off at the poor toddler, saying, “Are you a baby?” and not to do that.  It was so ferocious and belittling that the girl began to cry.  It infuriated me.

When the middle child was 3 and potty training while living in my house, Tracy threatened to spank her if she peed her pants!  I believe the child had only just started potty training in the past couple of months, yet Tracy accused her of doing it on purpose!

It’s only natural for young children to have accidents.  Even my son’s 4K teacher requested every child bring a spare pair of underpants to school, because it is so common.

I recall Tracy chewing out the oldest for sulking for “not getting her way”; are you so sure the sulking wasn’t actually anger over being treated like crap by her mother?

Proper discipline requires the parent to act like an adult and be in control of herself, not act like a child!  If the girl sulks, ignore her!  When the girls are good, praise them!  They do what brings them attention, whether good or bad attention.

Once, in 2010, Tracy started tickling the middle child–not ordinarily an abusive act–but she kept going and going despite the child’s screams to stop.

Everyone kept laughing–except me: I heard fear and pain in the girl’s voice. 

When Tracy stopped, the poor child ran into the bathroom to cry.  

But somehow, I was the only one in the house who saw this as wrong, while everybody else laughed.

This horrified me, so the next morning as I walked my son to school, I reminded him of what happened, and told him to never laugh at someone like that.

How on earth can you like a woman who constantly verbally abuses little children right in front of you?  How on earth can you get beyond simple pleasantries and become besties?

Was I supposed to become a fake, two-faced friend?  Would that please her?

(My college friend Catherine has her own version of a Tracy, whom she tolerates because she’s friends with her “Tracy’s” husband.  But her friend apologizes to Catherine for his wife’s behavior!  Wouldn’t that have been nice from Richard, instead of constantly looking the other way when she pulled crap, and treating me like the problem was all mine!)

She chewed out her husband in front of me time and again for little things–I don’t want to see your domestic disputes!

It was so bad that Richard often joked, “I love her, but wanna kill her!”  I knew he didn’t mean it literally, but it wasn’t funny: It was a symptom of how bad things were.  She also joked that she’d never divorce him: She’d kill him instead (making him not want to drink the coffee she just made for him).

Richard said he needed to be around to protect the children from Tracy’s rages, to keep the abuse under control.  This article echoes him:

Some men stay because they believe they’re protecting their children from abuse or acting as an ‘abuse buffer.’

According to state law, he is obligated to stop the abuse or be subject to prosecution himself, to remove the children from his abusing spouse and notify authorities.

I keep hoping he will do just that, because there’s only so much I myself can do, especially since they didn’t listen to me and I’m no longer around them.  I have no way of finding out what CPS might have done about it[This section was written before July 2011, when I discovered Richard was also dangerous to his children.]

Richard also said that the middle child was very sensitive, and would try to comfort the others.

This article sounds like Tracy, from various sources: what I witnessed, what Richard told me, what others told me.  She did these things with me, with him, with others.

One form of “isolating behavior” listed here is to argue in front of others to make them uncomfortable around the two of you–which she did with Richard right in front of me, many times.

Because I saw Tracy–a large and tall woman–smack a tiny three-year-old girl–small for her age–on the back of her head…because I was shocked and appalled to find people on the Internet say that it’s not abuse to do that…

When researching this behavior, I specifically looked for information on the effects of smacking small children on the back of the head, or anywhere else on the head for that matter, such as the face.

(You have to be careful in research like this because “smack” means “spank” in many countries, and I’m not concerned about light, quick spanks to the well-padded butt.)

I’m less concerned about the effects on older children or teenagers (though I don’t condone that, either) because their heads are more developed and teenagers are practically fully-grown.

But smacking small children is especially risky because of their lack of physical development, small size, and the risk of sending them into a table, TV or other piece of furniture.  Toddlers have been killed this way (I found articles about this, but forgot to link them, and couldn’t find them again).

Here is an article about a toddler whose mother “slapped the child, causing him to fall and hit his head on the coffee table,” which then caused the child to suffer severe head injuries and permanent brain damage.

Here is an article about a man who slapped his toddler against a high chair repeatedly, killing her with traumatic brain injury.  Also see my blog posts on the subject:

Hitting kids upside the head is ABUSE (my 6th most popular post)
Child Abuse
Examples of child abuse
…Because slapping kids on the head is ABUSE!  STOP THE VIOLENCE!
Slapping kids upside the head causes traumatic brain injury (my 2nd most popular post)

Tracy and Richard also thought it wrong to even notice and praise a child for doing a chore, as if it would somehow spoil her (then wondered why they couldn’t get their kids to do chores).

I don’t want to describe what the children did on the Web, but a couple of incidents sounded like classic “acting out” behavior, which abused children often do.

Children act out what they see; their demonstration of violent behavior can be a manifestation of their exposure to domestic violence (The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence). –Jessie Brown, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Acting-out behavior can also include bullying, drugs, risky sexual behavior, or shoplifting.

When children observe their HAP parent acting in an anti-social and aggressive manner over an extended period of time they often pick up on a number of these behaviours and over time, consider them to be socially acceptable.

Children are a product of their environment and do learn what they live. Children living under the influence of a hostile-aggressive parent may become themselves, selfish, self centred and have growing anger management difficulties as years pass on.

Children who are being physically abused or yelled at constantly by a HAP parent will begin to deal with their own problems in the same manner, often lashing verbally and physically at siblings or schoolmates.

Many of these negative behaviours are often observable at the child’s school. HAP behaviours picked up by a child from the HAP parent will, in many cases, seriously affect a child’s development and interfere with their ability to lead a normal and balanced life.

Some professionals may misdiagnose the child as having a conduct disorder and prescribe medication but, in reality, these professionals fail to realize that the child’s own parent is instilling these types of negative and anti-social behaviours into the child. —Hostile Aggressive Parenting

Tracy thought that if her children were happy, loved her, etc., she wasn’t abusing them.  But this isn’t a proper gauge:

In many cases, it is not unusual for a child to exhibit signs of affection and love towards a HAP parent at some times which can be very confusing to the occasional or untrained observer who may see the child showing affection to the HAP parent at some particular time.

Psychologists have recognized for years that even children living under the care of abusive caregivers, often will have deep seated loyalties to those who may be physically and emotionally abusing them.

Most children often long for the love and approval from their caregivers so it is not uncommon for a child who is being abused by an HAP parent to be seen showing affection at some times to their HAP parents. —Hostile Aggressive Parenting

Richard wasn’t blameless, however.  He had repented of past abuses, but didn’t acknowledge that he still condoned abusive behaviors.

Like for example, he refused to believe that screaming at children all the time was abusive.

He even told me you should let a husband lose his temper once in a while, that he and Tracy had been blurting things out and yelling at each other and it was somehow “good” for their marriage.  (More on this later.)

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

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Discovering they live in squalor

After they moved out, they lived in squalor, no matter how nice the place was at first.  I feared for their children, growing up in a place like that, especially for their health because of the lack of sanitation.  It could be considered child neglect!

Tracy got furious whenever Richard insisted that she help out more around the house, that he couldn’t do it all himself and take care of all their kids.  A mutual friend also saw this for himself.  I’ve been told that the house got so filthy in their last city, that the state had to step in, though I won’t go into detail on what the state did.

Yet Tracy complained about me doing housework when she lived in my house, as if she expected me to sit on my butt all day talking to her and somehow the house would be clean.

When Richard described the house he was living at before he moved to our place, it sounded like hoarding and/or squalor conditions: Cockroaches and mice running around.  Trash piled up.  Black mold.  The kids named one of the cockroaches, like a pet.  The kids also hoarded food in their rooms, not snacks but lunchmeat.

But whether they were technically hoarders or not, wherever they lived was soon filthy and stinky and looked like a dump, whether a broken-down old house or a 10-year-old apartment.  Even their vehicle had the same stench, and was full of trash and stains.

Even the mutual friend–a bachelor!–called their house disgusting, and still mentions it from time to time, especially if somebody accuses him of bad housekeeping.

Richard was delayed moving into our house because he had to throw out so much trash and mold-ruined clothes.

I went to the trouble of extra-cleaning the house before he arrived, so he could go from squalor to nice.  My son and I even cleaned the marks off the walls, including his drawings.

Unfortunately, one or two of those cockroaches apparently hitched a ride with Richard, as much as he tried to avoid it, because I saw a couple of cockroaches in my clean house for the first time ever in my entire life.  I sprayed and set out traps, and never saw them before or since November 2007.

In 2010 or 2011, I developed a fascination for shows about hoarders, because of this exposure to real-life squalor and trash hoarding.  What I saw looked familiar, not so much the hoarding as the poor housekeeping.

I wanted to see if their behavior qualified, and what drives people to live like this.

I have also seen many toilets on these shows which look just like Richard and Tracy’s–the element of their squalor which most horrified me and probably caused most of their stomach bugs.

That thing must have been infested with e-coli with all the fecal matter covering the seat and floor.  I mean, come on, when your own children’s health is at stake because they must sit every time they use the toilet–CLEAN IT!

I am a housewife, ever since my son was born.  Before that, I worked part-time.  My husband and son have always made a clutter-free house impossible, and my husband slacked off on his own chores all the time, but (in the eyes of everyone except my mother-in-law) I have always kept a clean house.

Not neat, but clean.  No mounds of trash, and bathrooms cleaned weekly.  At least, when I was in charge of cleaning them.  But even when my husband did that, I still spot-cleaned the toilets daily, so nobody had to fear using them.

Being exposed to their squalor drove me to be even cleaner, as if staving off the horror of my house becoming like theirs.  I use their house as a bugbear for my son, what will happen to his future place if he doesn’t clean it.  I joke that I’ll spank him if I come visit and it looks like theirs.  He wrinkles his nose and says he doesn’t want it to be like theirs.

I even felt a bit traumatized, so when I told my mom that we broke off relations with them, I finally poured out to her by e-mail and phone the filth I had experienced.  I also needed to talk about the filth with Todd.  I had to purge it, just as I do the entire abusive experience through this memoir.

Already I never knew what to expect in other people’s bathrooms, but this made me especially nervous when visiting other friends.  I fear such squalor anywhere I go, even though I haven’t seen it since.  I feel immense relief even if a bathroom hasn’t been cleaned recently, because it still is nowhere near the horror of Richard’s toilet and bathroom floor.

They didn’t have mounds of stuff in the living room, or bugs in the refrigerator, but there were unsanitary conditions.

Even the chairs and couches all had what looked like brown butt-marks, as if the filth from the toilet seat had been ground into them, so I had to force down revulsion just to sit down.  (This cause of the marks was plausible.  Don’t ask how I know this.)

The dishes, pots and pans piled in the sink often looked like they’d been sitting there for some time, with food long since dry and stuck to them.

The house smelled like decaying trash and body odor.  The bathroom sink was neglected like everything else, cluttered with stuff and filthy, and once I even found a disposable diaper in it and couldn’t use it.  And that was the only bathroom, so how were people supposed to wash their hands?

Jeff said the condition of the house was even worse when they expected only him and not me, which made him feel like he wasn’t worth cleaning up for.  (They said they cleaned for me, and I thought, “This is clean?”)

Jeff was also disgusted by the toilet.  It also sounds like the mutual friend saw even worse conditions than I did.  It sounds like I never saw just how bad it could really get, because they cleaned up for me.

But from what Richard, the mutual friend and Jeff told me, there was indeed trash hoarding along with unsanitary conditions.  Maybe “cleaned up” means they pitched the trash.

In my house, they left a huge pile of dirty laundry (including underwear!) on my living room floor!

First Richard started doing this, so I got disgusted and bought him a frickin’ laundry basket.  But he only put clean laundry in there, and still piled the gross dirty stuff on my floor.  ARGH!

But being a nice hostess, and already starting to fear his sarcastic wit (such as calling me Mom for wanting him to call if he’s going to be late in a snowstorm), I wasn’t assertive about it.

In fact, once I did try to get him to clean it up, he called me pushy, I apologized, then he laughed at me.  (This is a narcissistic trait: backwards reactions to things.)

When Tracy arrived, I hoped she would get him to improve his hygiene and habits, but hers turned out to be just as bad (she bathed every three days), and the laundry pile stayed put.

I didn’t feel comfortable hinting at her like I did at him, since with him I felt as comfortable as a twin sister, but she was scary.  (Once, when they visited after moving out, I had to re-wash a freshly washed blanket after she used it.  It stank that bad.  I sometimes wonder if they bathed even less often after moving out.)

Day after day I kept telling them when my laundry was done, but they still neglected their laundry, until they reached crisis levels.  If I tried to help, I was treated like I was creepy.

After they moved out, I vacuumed and wiped up the carpet before I could feel okay walking around there.  Then I saw them make the same pile (including underwear) on their own living room floor!

When they lived with us, I had to clean up after the adults and the children every time they used the bathroom.  I don’t want to go into a lot of disgusting detail, but this was not your usual ick left behind by the inconsiderate person ahead of you.

No, this was a dusting of filth all over the toilet and floor, or various other leavings, depending on who it was and what happened.  Didn’t they see it?

So I was constantly busy cleaning the bathroom, constantly using bathroom wipes.  (We went through four tubes of wipes a week!)

As the months passed after they moved out, I noticed whenever I used their bathroom that nobody kept up with it like I did–and the toilet and the floor around it grew worse and worse all the time.  There were layers of filth!  I’ve seen toilets on hoarder shows that remind me of this.

I feared for the health of those little girls.  I also feared what kind of crap (literally) they were tracking around the house on their feet.

I don’t consider myself excessively clean, but they already considered me practically OCD (I suppose I am in comparison), and I wanted to be a good guest, so I bit my tongue, swallowed my revulsion, and sat on the couches/chairs anyway.  Then changed my clothes when I got back home.

I began holding it in for as long as I could whenever we went over there.  But sometimes, I couldn’t help using the toilet.

But first, I was forced to use wet toilet paper and soap to scrub the seat, the front of the toilet under the seat, and floor as best I could, so that filth would not get on my skin and clothes.

Even that could not fully clean it, and all that caked-on filth, left black stains behind.  The bathtub was also neglected.

I wondered if they even noticed the smell or how filthy it was in the bathroom–another question I have when watching hoarder shows.  Other friends occasionally have dirty or cluttered houses, but nothing close to this.  Hoarders do not seem to notice the filth, because they live day-to-day in conditions that require others to wear hazmat suits!  And get angry when others remark on the filth!

Richard kept cancelling (at the last minute) some get-together we planned for the two families, because some child had a nasty stomach bug.  Richard blamed it on the cold weather; I knew the real reason: the lack of sanitation in their bathroom.

As an SCA person with geek friends, I have been in homes where the housework was low on the priority list, and am used to turning a blind eye to such things; I have been in a gaming store in which the bathroom was apparently kept up by apes; but I have never seen anything like what was in their bathroom.

From what I saw and was told by others, including Richard, an appalling level of filth was normal in their household, not just in my city but before they moved there.  They moved twice while I knew them, and both places ended up looking exactly the same over time–even an apartment which was only maybe 10 years old!

They kept pointing the finger at each other, or at the kids.  I wondered how two grown adults, at least one (usually two) of which was unemployed the whole time I knew them, could have no time to clean.

What did they do all day if they weren’t at work?  If they lacked money for cleaning supplies/wash machines, why not wash clothes in the tub and use vinegar to clean?

When Tracy’s mother visited them for a few weeks, and started cleaning the place, Richard and Tracy got furious with her.  I felt sorry for her, forced to stay in this place for so long, but not allowed to clean it.

I also see this reaction on hoarding shows, as the hoarder screams at people for throwing away rat-pee-covered books.

I got yelled at just for wiping honey off a table before setting down my books; Jeff got yelled at for helping clean up because the place would still be a mess when he got there; I got snapped at for giving Jeff a bottle of wipes to clean up after our son when he used the bathroom.

Richard made me feel like I had deeply insulted him by giving my son those wipes, that I implied his bathroom was not clean.

Well…even though the wipes were to clean up after my son, who was still potty training…instead of feeling insulted when people point out the obvious truth, just clean the frickin’ thing!

Even when they gave me a blanket during the winter, I often had reason to believe it was not clean, from what fell off it onto the table.  (I don’t want to be more specific on the Web).

Between this and the cramped conditions of their apartment/house compared to our own two-story condo and the field out back, where kids could freely roam and play and make noise without annoying the adults–I kept wishing they would come to our house more often.

(Heck, my house was even cleaner now because I had to stave off the specter of being like their house, and “cleanse” myself of it.)  Our house was a lot roomier without eight people sleeping in it and a mountain of dirty laundry in the living room.

But Tracy complained about our cats making her allergic (another reason that Richard bringing his family into my house to stay for a while was a very bad idea), and they wanted to play D&D on their dining table rather than in our basement, so we kept having to go over there.

So afterwards I came home, changed clothes, and cleaned the inside and outside of my shoes.

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t refuse to go over there, period.  But Richard had me so enwebbed in his spell–and afraid to tell him my true opinion lest he make me feel like a prissy clean freak and a disgracefully bad-mannered guest–that I put up with it quietly.

When other people stayed with them, I wondered how they could stand the filth.  Even Jeff, when we ended the friendship on 7/1/10, said how glad he was to not be going back into that house with that smell and the filth.

And starting in 2010, when it became clear I was not going to have another child, and I no longer needed to hold onto baby things in case Richard’s little ones came over–I began deep-cleaning my own house.

I gave away the baby things, turned the changing table/baby room back into a library, and started cleaning things I never bothered with before.

My son was older, so with no little ones around we could bring down the breakables again, and I had more time to go deep into cupboards, clean behind furniture, and start cleaning more things more often than I did before.

(I even discovered some beautiful wedding-present-dishes and glasses that had been completely forgotten about.  They were good for daily use, so I washed them and put them into circulation, replacing our tired old ones.)

This was how I dealt with my grief in the summer of 2010, and it became a yearly summer routine.  Now that my son was older and I had more time, I took the toilet job back from my husband, because he didn’t do it the way I liked and had to be reminded all the time.

I now needed sparkly clean toilets, and floors swept every day.  My house would be CLEAN! cleaner than it ever had been! because I couldn’t stand even the faint resemblance to the filth I saw in THEIR house!  I’m not sure if “traumatized” by their filth is the right term, but it was something like it.

They all lived in my house for six weeks.  And while I was forced to constantly deal with the filth they brought into my house, constantly cleaning day and night for weeks, dealing with the mess and bad hygiene and cockroaches and lice and laundry on the floor and allergy medication left in reach of the children and bathroom cleanups every time somebody used it–

Tracy was constantly hostile to me, showering me with insults which should have led to her getting kicked out the door.  And she then tried to force me to grovel to her for her forgiveness and approval, because she twisted my treatment of her into something it was not, and her own treatment of me into sweetness and light.

I found myself down the rabbit hole.

Things were so bad that the only reason I can think of for staying friends with them for so long, was Richard’s hold over me.  I could not imagine life without him.

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

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