At the courthouse, the clerk told me she could not advise me about what to do but that she could tell me what my options were. She laid them out very clearly – I could file for an extension, which wouldn’t work for reasons already enumerated above, or I could file for a new order of protection, which would mean another hearing. She also told me that I could file a violation of the order of protection, either using the new case number – which would help me prove that I needed the order, or the old case number, which would allow the court to prosecute him to whatever extent the judge decided. With the help of my legal aid attorney and paralegal, I decided to file for a new order of protection but to file the violation of the order under the old case number, which would allow the judge to decide what, if any, consequences would follow. It took three days to process all the paperwork, and four trips to the courthouse, but it’s finally done.
Now it’s after 6 pm, and I’m sitting in a quiet house, trying to relax. My left hand is twitching, which is something it has done periodically since the first time he hit me. My chest feels tight and it is hard to get a deep breath. My stomach hurts. My heart races and then slows…races and then slows… I am exhausted from this constant hypervigilance, but I am afraid to stop looking over my shoulder.
The order is up at midnight. The new temporary order is in effect but may not have been served yet. I have no way of knowing, and probably won’t know until the day before court. I wonder what my abuser is thinking, what he is planning. I hate thinking about him, because that leads to memories that are incredibly painful – the way he counseled and supported me in the beginning as my pastor; the way he slowly began to make the sessions more about his problems and needs than about mine; the way he continually assured me there was no way to salvage my marriage and I should just give up and file for divorce. Those memories hurt, because they remind me of how much I depended on him. As my pastor, he was my spiritual leader, my mentor. He was powerful and I trusted him. I believed that he had my best interests at heart. I did not suspect that he was using my problems and the things I told him so that he could edge his way into my life and my emotions. I didn’t know that he would exploit the love I felt and use me so harshly. On the one hand, I feel stupid and incredibly naïve for having allowed it to happen, and on the other, I feel outraged that a pastor with years of training and experience would do what he did, and what he continues to do. At this point, I want him to leave me alone. I don’t want to have to think about him or wonder what’s going to happen next. I want this to be over. After all, it has been over a year now. That is plenty of time to let go, to move on, to have a life – for both of us.
Instead, I will go to bed tonight wondering what I’ll wake up to tomorrow. Damaged tires? Destroyed property? Will he set fire to the house – he’s threatened it in the past. Will he show up at work, with the excuse of checking on that resume he faxed over? And if he doesn’t show up, I will still be facing the dreadful prospect of the hearing – having to be in the same room with him, to feel his eyes on me, to feel his rage growing. I will have to face the questions about why I stayed, why I did the things I did, why I “let” him hurt me. I will have to give intimate, humiliating details to people I don’t know. Last time, being examined by his lawyer felt like being raped all over again. The knowledge that this is what is coming leaves me feeling sick and shaking. I want to go to sleep, but when I do I have nightmares and I wake up breathless and terrified. There isn’t a fragment of my life this hasn’t changed. There's a reason why they call what he did a "violation" - that's how I feel, as if the sanctity of my life has been violated by the threat of his obsession.
Last year, a friend of mine asked me how I was coping with the hearing and the stalking. I said I needed to find some way to live around the fear. That’s what I need now, a way to live in spite of the dread and anxiety that are my constant companions. I need a way to find peace.