sexual abuse

The Domestic Abuse Worsens in the Summer of Hell–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–July 1994, Part 1

As usual for the past few summers, we had a family reunion in Three Rivers, MI.  It may have been sometime around the fourth of July, but that’s only a guess.  For the first time, I had a boyfriend and/or fiancé to bring.

He annoyed people, though, like Mom and my brother Jake.  He begged for a Mountain Dew and even offered to pay for one, which embarrassed Mom.


I was glad I waited for marriage before having intercourse.  From what I could tell from my limited experience, it was much better to wait, as I did.

Marital sex was wonderful and freeing: I could give my body over to Phil in trust and freedom, knowing my body would belong to him for as long as we both should live.

I was sure it pleased God, too, that we waited, and I also praised Him that we waited.  I felt He blessed our union and the love we made.


One night on Picket Fences, the Judge presided over a child molestation case.  The sheriff’s daughter thought her best friend was having a baby by her own father, and that she didn’t even realize how wrong this was.

But to prevent prosecution, the “father” finally had to admit they were Mormons, and this girl was not his daughter, but the second of his two wives.  The first wife, whom the people of Rome, Wisconsin had thought was the girl’s mother, was about his own age.

(Rome was supposed to be a fictional town, but I found two Romes on the Wisconsin map.)

This caused a problem, of course, because bigamy is outlawed in this country.  But the Judge said,

“Common-law marriages exist all over.  There’s nothing to stop them from having a common-law marriage.  They must dissolve one of the marriages on the books, but they can still consider it common-law, and live as they have been living.”

And common-law marriages, of course, are not legally recognized in Wisconsin, so he wouldn’t legally be a bigamist.

It seemed Providential that this was on Picket Fences at just this time.  I also read in the newspaper about someone in California who lived with a woman he considered his wife, though she wasn’t legally, and the paper called her his “girlfriend.”  But as far as he was concerned, she was his “wife.”

These are two examples that I believed showed my marriage to Phil was truly legitimate, even if the local law didn’t recognize it, so we were truly married before God.

It seemed like God was trying to show us, through two examples so close together that summer, that it was OK.  They showed these marriages were common and real, not just our own idea.

The porcelain bird, my “engagement ring,” sat on my dresser all summer next to a picture of Phil; both got dusted regularly and lovingly.


I wrote these things in a letter to a pen pal on 7/3/94:

Thanks for the two cards!  They were cute.  And the bunnies were really appropriate, considering I have a stuffed rabbit that we call our ‘son.’

He wanted to name our first son Benjamin, or Benny.  We gave this name to the rabbit, which he gave me in the spring.

I saw one of the bunnies sold in the Campus Shop, and thought how nice it would be to have one.  They were cute and cuddly and wore T-shirts that said, “Cuddle up with someone from Roanoke.”

I didn’t say a word about it, but Phil got me one.  Phil now has two sons; he named one Benny.  More from the letter:

Interesting all the attention the World Cup is getting.  In the comic strip ‘Cathy,’ Cathy’s new boyfriend has been watching it, but I don’t think they really understand what’s going on.  My brother has been talking about it, but I don’t think my dad has been watching.

The TV Guide had articles on it, wondering if soccer could ever catch on with Americans.  Phil, of course, doesn’t watch because he’s not into sports.  I don’t know if it will catch on, but one thing’s for sure: American football will probably remain the sport of choice in this country….

We haven’t set the date, but probably next summer.  My parents plan to pay, it being the tradition even though nowadays the groom’s family might help or the couple might pay for it themselves.  My parents intend to use our local church for the ceremony, which was what I’d hoped to do.

So you see, my not converting to Catholicism would not be an issue.

My parents apparently like the engagement.  It means two of their children married off–my older brother is getting married in a few days–and only one [left]…to find somebody.

P.S.: Phil’s not selling cable anymore.  His pay was hardly enough for the work he did or to cover the gas he used.  Now he’s working in a factory.  Hopefully this one will work out.

The factory was in Mishawaka, but Phil thought the people there sounded Southern!  I knew some people from Mishawaka who did have an accent different from the rest of us.

Or it may have been a Michigan accent, which it did sound much like; we’re so close to the border that we share the county, and the whole area is called Michiana.

Maybe Mishawaka people do talk differently than South Bend people, which would be weird because we’re literally across the street from each other, and South Benders don’t have an accent.  (We used to be one city, but Mishawaka wanted to be by itself.)

Phil noticed his co-workers, my dad and, I believe, Hoosiers in general, said “Wes-consin” instead of “Wisconsin.”  It always used to sound like “Wisconsin” to me, but after he and/or Peter mentioned it, even I thought Dad said “Wes-consin.”


Phil and I, since I wanted to match his schedule, got into a routine of sleeping in Sunday morning, having Sunday lunch at home (sometimes warmed up if we slept too late), going to the evening service, then getting our own fast food dinner, because Mom never made dinner on Sunday evening.

Our traditional Sunday dinner was at lunchtime, then we’d have ice cream (sometimes cake or brownies a la mode, too) in the mid- to late-afternoon, and popcorn after the evening service.  But this no longer satisfied me and often made me a little sick.

We used to go to the morning service, and people complimented Phil’s deep singing voice.  But when Phil began working second shift and we took on later hours, we decided we’d rather sleep and go to the evening service.


On July 3, I wrote to Pearl,

Oh, by the way, did you have any idea what Dave thinks of me?  Phil told me some things Dave said to him that really upset me, especially since they’re untrue–though Dave believes them–and one is based on faulty information that he took as the truth.

Phil, of course, didn’t listen to them, which I suppose is what really matters, but after all, Dave will be my brother-in-law.  (Isn’t that an odd thought?) I thought we got along well enough, but I was told that Dave called me a name.

Then I had to see him in Botany.  He started talking to me about something, and I couldn’t forget what Phil had told me, and wanted to get away.  At least the semester was about over then.

I’ve gotta wonder if his opinions of me are based on things Peter might’ve told him while we were still at odds.  If so, that might explain why Dave would tell Phil we don’t get along at a time when I’d just met him for maybe the first time and thought we did get along.


But all did not stay rosy.  The factory seemed to change Phil’s personality.  Even his language began to change, with more cuss words than before.

As the summer wore on, I felt like Phil always had to be right, yet he accused me of this.  He kept taking my different views as attacks, turning them into arguments when they were not meant to be.

He said once that it’s a guy thing–that they don’t like to be wrong.  Basically, that they get mad or act hurt because it hurts their pride.

I felt forced to defend my position because he cut it down so much and refused to let me have a legitimate point.  It frustrated me to no end when he acted like this then pinned all the blame on me.

It seemed I wasn’t allowed to disagree with Phil about things, or have a good point or idea, or a legitimate feeling or reason.  It didn’t seem fair, him accusing me of what he did himself.

Then he shut down emotionally or left the room.  (Some people leave the room to cool down.  But to me it felt like a manipulation tactic, not allowing me to have my say: also known as withholding, the silent treatment, or stonewalling.)

As an example, once, when we were about to make love (if you can call it that), Phil wanted my backside.  I didn’t want to do it that way because it was not just disgusting, but also excruciatingly painful.  Then afterwards, the pain continued during bowel movements.  THIS GUY NEVER HEARD OF LUBE.

He got mad and yelled, “It’s always your way!  You’re right.  You’re always right!”  Then he stormed out of my room.

But as his next girlfriend Persephone would say, it is my body.  I shouldn’t have to do something I’m not comfortable with.

I hated having to beg Phil to take showers–and use soap.  I shouldn’t have had to.  One day, he said he would use both soap and shampoo.  At one point, I turned on the water upstairs for a second or two to wash or rinse my hands, probably after going to the bathroom (without flushing), then I turned it back off again.

A few minutes later, Phil came upstairs, complaining.  He said that he didn’t use soap after all because the water got cold.  He waited and waited for it to warm up again, but it never did, so he stopped his shower.  I said I did turn on the water for a few seconds, but I turned it off again.

He yelled at me for having sabotaged my own desire for him to use soap in his shower.  I said I had to wash my hands.  I said it was only a second, and hardly long enough to cause a problem.

(I knew how the water worked in that house, since, after all, I’d lived there for twenty-one years.  Running the water or using a dishwasher or clothes washer may make someone’s shower cold or hot, but only for as long as you have the water on–not after you turn it off.)

He said it was cold for a long time–like several minutes.  If it was, then it sure wasn’t my fault, but he just wouldn’t listen to me.  (Maybe Dad was running some water downstairs.  Or maybe the hot water ran out.  Or maybe he was just plain exaggerating or impatient and couldn’t wait two frickin’ seconds.)

This wasn’t a good enough reason to stop showering, because it happened to me all the time, and I didn’t come out and yell at people for ruining my shower.  I just waited it out and then finished up when the water warmed up.  Or I shut off the water while soaping up, and turned it back on again to rinse off.

He was so unreasonable.  He even scolded me for using too much shampoo, when he barely used any, and I had waist-length hair!


Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:


Be Brave and Tell Your Abuse Story: “The victim who articulates the situation of the victim is no longer a victim; he or she is a threat.”

Here is a blogger, Caitlin Roper, who courageously keeps posting even while her rapist keeps reading.

He found her blog by looking up her Twitter account, since 10 years later he still was keeping tabs on her.

She has been documenting her recovery from the abuse by her “best friend,” as a journal, just as I’ve been doing with my own blog.

Some of her posts which resonated with me, since the feelings were the same, just different circumstances:

On the day I found out my abuser had found my blog, I asked myself, What now? …

Hey, I get it- you put something out there on the internet, you have no guarantee of privacy….I embarked on this exercise resolving to tell my story and to express my feelings as openly and as honestly as I could….

So when I learned that my abuser, while stalking me online, had found and read every word, every feeling and every vulnerability I had shared I felt sick….

…If I was to close my blog entirely, it would be as if my decisions were based on his actions- affording him power or control over me still.


If I am triggered and I allow myself to feel hurt, am I giving him power over me?

–Read the whole thing at Am I Giving My Abuser More Power?


I know he reads this blog. It’s not enough that he has done so much damage, never attempting to make any restitution- he can’t even let me have a safe place to work through my trauma? —When You Realize Your Abuser Will Never be Held Accountable


My abuser does not want me to write about my experiences. He does not want me to be strong. Like all perpetrators, he knows what J. Baldwin stated:

“The victim who articulates the situation of the victim is no longer a victim; he or she is a threat.” My Abuser Found My Blog

Read the whole blog (it’s short) and may it inspire you to be brave and tell your own story.

[Update 8/15/15: The blogger has made her blog private.]



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.


Seeing Abuser is Rough for Abuse Victims, Especially When Abusers & Enablers Blame the Victim: Annie’s Mailbox

From No Gifts From Her Abuser, 2/10/13:

Dear Annie: I am 39 years old. For the past 20 years, I have had ongoing therapy to recover from the sexual abuse I suffered as a child. My abuser was my half-brother.

When I finally said something at the age of 13, my family did not believe or support me. Since then, family gatherings have been especially difficult because my family expects me to attend when my abuser is present.

I can’t even tell you how difficult it is to be around him. The flashbacks are unbearable. Five years ago, with the support of my counselor, I decided I didn’t need to subject myself to that kind of torture and stopped going to these family functions.

The problem now is that no one mentions the abuse, especially to his wife and two daughters.

His wife, who is clueless, sends me Christmas and birthday presents, which makes me extremely uncomfortable, especially when I see his name on the card.

Is it OK for me to ask her to stop? I don’t want to insert myself into their lives or cause problems, but I can’t deal with this. — Still Healing

Comment #3, from Shasta:

You should inform her right away about what was done to you and then stay clear of that family from this point on.

People who protect, defend, ignore, or (God forbid) blame the victim are just as bad as the abuser themselves. They are justifying evil, which makes them evil too.

Also see It’s Perfectly Normal to Dread Seeing Abusers Again, Fighting the Darkness: Seeing the abuser again, Needing to Feel Safe: Going to same church as abusers, and Fighting the Darkness: Mutual Friends.

Why post abuse stories? (Was: Wondering if my blog stalkers will read about Phil now….)

The story of my abusive ex Phil is just about to begin in my College Memoir posts.  There is some more yet about Shawn, but the psychological abuse and sexual using by him has ended….

I knew Shawn had sorely used and abused me, but I had seen nothing yet.  Phil’s manipulations hit a whole new level with the lies he wove, even more lies than Peter told.

I know Peter lied about things like his opinions on smoking, making me believe we were meant for each other, saying he wanted to marry me, then later casting me aside and denying it, complaining to everyone about my “marriage talk.”

I can’t tell for sure if Peter really believed it when he told me he set up a mental link when he hypnotized me, and all the special psychic abilities his ninja training gave him.  He could have been fooling me, as Shawn thought, but he also could have believed it, being the sort of person who believes in such things.

But Phil deliberately fooled and manipulated me, taking advantage of my gullibility.  He took my interest in psychic and psychological subjects and–practically from the beginning–began elaborate ruses which climaxed in the summer of 1994, having made me believe that he acted out his dreams.

He told me we were married before God, kept reassuring me when I doubted, but when he lost interest and no longer needed my parents’ hospitality, he quickly discarded me and said we were never truly married.

I’m no psychologist, but he was probably a narcissist.  Phil is the reason I first got interested in researching abuse, in the 90s, because it took me many years to recover from all he had done.

The reason to post these stories: It’s a public service.  All these stories–of Peter, of Shawn, of Phil, of Richard and Tracy–are not just about expressing myself or venting, but about warning and validating others.

I’ve long since been freed of those abusive relationships, but others could still be going through one much like it.  Abuse victims need to know they’re not alone, and that this is not normal treatment, so they can escape it.

Abusers try to make you think the abuse is your fault.  Shawn would coerce and try to convince me to do what he wanted, tell me there was nothing wrong with it–then after I did it, blame me for giving in, make me feel dirty and cheap, talk like I was seducing him.

Phil kept blaming me for his abuse, telling me I had to have my own way, always had to be right–because I did not want him to sodomize me.

Tracy abused and bullied me and tried to make me believe it was all my fault, that she had every right to do it and I had no right to complain.  Richard went along with it.

Not only that, but he even called me “ridiculous” for being psychologically affected when a couple of his friends began sexually harassing me online.  The harassment triggered feelings I had long since forgotten, brought them back up, alive, so that a year later I was still being triggered.

I had been sexually harassed by guys in high school, and sexually abused by Phil–and now Richard was calling me ridiculous for equating those incidents with what his friends said and did to me, for remembering those incidents because of what his friends did, and begging him to stop mentioning those guys around me so it would stop triggering me!

Abuse victims need help to get out of the gaslighting fog.

Reading stories and articles like the ones I post, and discovering the names for what I went through–emotional abuse, abuse by proxy, engineering impossible situations, sexual abuse, and the like–helped me realize it wasn’t me.

I used to say Phil was “borderline abusive,” because I thought abuse was physical–though I did write in a letter to him that he abused his authority as a husband.

But reading in women’s magazines in the mid-90s about emotional and verbal abuse, is when I realized he truly was abusive.  I now understood why it spooked me one day in 1995 or 1996 to think I heard his voice at my workplace, even though he had never hit me.  (I believe I actually heard the boss’ son.)

My husband’s observations on Phil’s behavior, helped me see that no, it wasn’t just me, he truly had mistreated me.  My husband is the first one who told me that even though Phil did not hit or beat me, he did things that could qualify as physical or sexual abuse (forcing me into disgusting things I did not want to do).

When you think about it, I was “rescued” by Phil himself: He decided I was not submissive enough, that I was the problem, and left.  But for a long time, I felt that his leaving was the ultimate form of abuse.

Though my friends told me he was controlling and possessive, my eyes were not fully opened until after I stopped grieving the relationship, met my husband, and started doing research and writing about what happened.

In those days, the Internet existed but in a much smaller form, and we did not have computers capable of using it beyond e-mail.  I had access to the Net my senior year through my roommate Pearl’s computer and a modem, but it was limited to AOL.

That was 1994; I had no idea just what the Net was capable of.  The explosion of websites and blogs on abuse had not yet happened.  We didn’t have Google.  After leaving college, I did not have a computer capable of doing much on the Net.  All I had were occasional magazine articles to open my eyes.

But now, you can search the Web for information and stories about abuse.  You can immediately identify what you’re going through.  You can learn how to leave safely.  You don’t have to wait years until you happen upon an article, book or TV program defining what happened to you.