One of the most disturbing scenarios that often accompanies—or is the cause of—relationship break-ups, is abuse. At the same time, many choose to remain in an abusive relationship. One in four women and one in seven men, aged 18 and older, have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
DivorceForce always looks for people trying to help change this epidemic. One such person is Claire Cappetta. We think you will find both her experiences and solutions inspiring.
DF: If I may, can I ask you about your experiences in an abusive relationship?
Claire: I started to date a man I had known for awhile. It was wonderful. I was independent. I didn't have to rush into a relationship. It just happened. We were together for a year when I asked my children if we should ask him if he wanted to move in with us. He was practically living with us anyway.
I thought if he moved in, it would be easier, as we could also split the bills and life wouldn't be so difficult financially. We were a happy family for awhile; but when I asked him to pay for food or to split a bill, the answer was no, even though we had agreed to it all before him moving in. Life became stressful. I was not only supporting my children, but I was now supporting my boyfriend.
We argued constantly, and life was miserable; so one day I packed his belongings, took them to his parents' house, and finished it. Or so I thought. For five months, he stalked me. He slept in his car within sight of my house. He called constantly. I would find roses in the windscreen wiper of my car when I went out. He followed me everywhere I went. We would find small tree branches stuck into my letterbox. He became mentally unstable.
I called the police, who tried to catch him; but he always seemed to know when they were coming and would drive away before they got there. Finally, one day, he was there when they arrived. He was made to sit in a police car while the policeman looking after my case tried to convince me to have him arrested. I broke down, and just as I said yes, arrest him, the policeman came in, saying he had let him go. My ex had convinced him he would be a 'good boy' and leave me alone.
He didn't change. A week later, there was a knock at the door one evening. I thought it was my friend stopping by. It wasn't. My ex pushed the door open and forced his way in. I remember struggling with him, trying to push him back outside, but then everything went dark. When I woke up, I was tied to one of my kitchen chairs, by my ankles and wrists. My ex sat opposite me, with a knife. He held me hostage for a week.
I was to act normal while my children were around; but as soon as they went to bed, I had to go back to being strapped to the chair. He spent hours, days and nights, holding my face, telling me that 'only death would separate us.' He was by my side when I drove my children to school, cooked dinner, washed plates—there was never a moment when he wasn't there. He told me that if I told anyone, he would kill my children, and then me.
Finally, on Friday, I told him I had been wrong. I said I loved him, and that I must have been crazy to end it.
I knew he wanted to go out that night. I promised him, after washing the dishes, that I would let him back in—not only into the house, but back in my bed. I told him I loved him with all my heart. I cried and hugged him; and as I hugged him, I held my breath. The stench of him was nauseating. He had not washed or showered in twelve weeks!
My children went to stay with their father for the weekend. My ex came with us while I took them. When we got back, he told me to sit in the bathroom with him, while he took a shower and got ready to go out. I was 'good.' I was 'obedient.' I smiled, utterly exhausted, knowing very soon he would leave—actually leave!
Once he was dressed and primped, he smiled, hugged me, and told me he'd be back around 11 o'clock. I smiled. He kissed me. 'Be good' were his parting words as he walked down the path to the gate. I watched him get into his car and drive away.
I locked the door, exhausted. I had only been allowed to sleep in the kitchen chair when he slept. Adrenaline got me to the phone. I called my father. I remember him saying hello. I tried to speak, but all I could muster was a weird, muffled squeak of 'Dad,' then everything went dark. When I woke up, I was laid on my sofa, my father offering me whiskey. I was happy he had a spare key. He waited for my ex to return that night. I vaguely remember a lot of shouting. That was the last time my ex pushed his way into my home.
I was offered a new job, 300 miles away. I very quietly sold my house, packed up, told my children, 'one day I will pick you up from school, and we'll move to the seaside.' My ex continued to stalk me, and sent letters threatening to kill me. It was the letters that were the tipping point for the police to go to his house and arrest him for harassment.
The day the moving truck was outside was the day he broke his Order of Protection. He drove past and saw it. I had packed everything in our home and collected my children from school, telling them we were moving to the seaside, and picked up a rental car. I'd wanted to leave my old car outside the house, until the following Monday, when a car removal company was due to pick it up.
I went home after picking up my children from school to put our suitcases and pet cat Harry in the car, when my friend called. I picked up the phone. She was the only one apart from the police who knew I was moving that day. She screamed 'Get out! Get out! He called me! He knows you're moving! He's gone to get a shotgun and he's coming for you!'
Three months later, my ex was found guilty of 'harassment' in the magistrate's court in Pudsey, England. The sentence? He was 'Bound Over for 1 year'—basically, he could not contact me for a year, or he would face prison. I have not seen or heard from him since that sentence passed down.
DF: Why does an abused spouse continue to stay in a dangerous situation?
Claire: I understand why an abused spouse stays in a relationship. We stay because of many reasons. We believe our abuser when they tell us we are worthless, useless as a girlfriend, wife, mother, cook, cleaner... I was told I was only good for one thing, sex. I was told I was ugly, and no one else would ever want me, and I was lucky to have him. I was stupid, only had the intelligence of a rat—that one stuck for awhile. We are scared, frightened that not only will we die, but others around us who we love, will too.
If we can raise our heads above all the verbal, mental and emotional abuse, we have to be able to find the funds to leave. When our phones and bank accounts are constantly monitored, it becomes incredibly difficult—even bus fare to a shelter or a friend's house is often hard to find. When an abused decides to leave an abuser, it can take not just days and weeks, but months, to plan a safe escape.
DF: For those that cannot find the will to leave, what do you suggest?
Claire: If you cannot find the will to leave, find something to help you through it. I recommend meditation, mindfulness, or an exercise like yoga. When we are abused, we live on heightened senses constantly—and we will burn out, mentally and emotionally. If you can learn to meditate, even if it's just when you take a bathroom break, it will help strengthen your calm and build you up slowly. It can help break down the emotional and mental abuse. Our minds lie to us better than anyone outside can. Replace the negative with positive, and who knows? Maybe one day you may just find the strength you need, to leave.
DF: If a person has left an abusive relationship, but is still haunted by his/her abuser, what can be done? Should he/she look into getting a restraining order? Does this stop the abuser from stalking the abused, in reality?
Claire: If an abused leaves the abuser, he/she should get a restraining order in place. It won't stop them, but it does give opportunities to have them arrested more easily and quickly than without one. Create a journal/diary. Make notes every time you see or hear from your abuser. Log down phone calls, visits, drive-bys—everything! Take pictures of them if they are within distance. Screen capture all text messages. Save everything! Police complain about the lack of evidence as a reason for why they can't arrest a stalker/abuser. Help them gather it. They can't be with you 24/7, but your phone can. Remember: capture, lock, protect everything. Then you'll have all the evidence needed for the police to make an arrest.
DF: You have created the 'Clarified Lifeline Panic Device.' Tells about it. How does it work? Who gets notified? Is it the added protection an abused needs?
Claire: I am the founder of the Clarified Lifeline. I know there are many devices on the market today—everything from lumpy, white, plastic gadgets to beautiful rings and bracelets, all offering a panic button built in to call friends and family in case of a personal attack. The ones I have seen are bulky, plastic, and rather ugly.
What if we could build a personal alarm, which is both beautiful and blends into our clothing and jewelry? I didn't want it to look like an alarm, while being as environmentally eco-friendly as possible. We are creating it so there is an indented button on the back; if pressed for three seconds, it will call the emergency services and record what is happening around you, giving them a GPS location to find you. The button has been designed so it cannot be pressed accidentally.
Along with the device is a phone app. The app has important features for the abused to use. We are creating a Journal, for a diary of events to be logged; and a Picture folder for photos and screen captures of text messages to keep safe. Both of these can then be used to give to the police to be used as evidence for an arrest.
There are Meditations to listen to and follow, to help provide a sense of calm from the anxiety; and Mindfulness quotes to help you stay in the moment and concentrate on the present. Mindfulness has been shown to help re-wire the neurons in our brains. By learning mindfulness and meditation, we can lessen the chances of PTSD and trauma. There is also a Community, where people can chat and talk to someone and offer support.
Many times, the abused has been gaslighted and told how useless they are. We are also including CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to help the abused understand emotions and reactions. It is a course developed by a top London Harley Street psychotherapist, and is fully accredited. Once completed, a diploma can be granted by paying the institutional diploma fee, set currently at between $10-$20, depending on the exchange rate.
I think back to how I was held for a week. I couldn't make a call to the police, or to anyone; but I think it would have saved so much pain if, when I was washing dishes, cooking, making him coffee, I could have just pressed a simple button. The police would've been there for me. How many lives could be saved from a simple button, calling the emergency services? They could be there for a family member who has to walk home at night, a son, a daughter. A personal alarm is needed by so many people.
We called it the Clarified Lifeline because we want to bring clarity for you if you are feeling abused. Being abused is a messy, dangerous, highly emotional and traumatic time. Our logo is the Triskelion, an ancient Celtic symbol, representing mind, body and spirit. We believe in keeping our minds healthy, our bodies safe, and our spirits intact.
Simply put, the Clarified Lifeline has been created because being safe shouldn't be complicated!
Claire is the Founder of the Clarified Lifeline, an author, life coach, cognitive behavioral therapist, and advocate. Claire has been a speaker on domestic violence at various events: Barrier Free Living, Moving Beyond Shame, Shattering the Silence Tour in NYC. She has also appeared on various blog talk radio shows including Freedom Talk Radio with Andy Peacher in the UK, and has contributed posts to See the Triumph Organisation. Her work has been endorsed by various professionals, including Carol Senior of the American Screenwriters Guild, Audry Hardy of The Hope Healing House Foundation, Ohio. She is a certified Life Coach and Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, and holds diplomas in Psychology and Mental Health. Learn more about Claire.