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Mediation with emotionally abusive stbx

(16 Posts)
creativevoid Tue 17-Dec-13 02:50:47

I've posted on here a few times as I've worked through my decision to leave my verbally and emotionally abusive h. Although I know it is not recommended I agreed to mediation because I wanted to avoid a court battle over the children as I thought all the conflict would be really bad for them and the resulting antagonism between h and me would poison their childhoods. I raised with my lawyer my concerns about how he treats our older ds. Most of the time he is genuinely a good dad but when he is angry he can go too far and the final episode which ended the marriage began with him screaming at our five year old ds, who was weeping, and when I intervened, calling him pathetic. These things don't happen often (with the children, with me it's a different story) but obviously aren't acceptable. I resolved that if he would get some help that would be acceptable.

Today in mediation he didn't deny what he had done but did classic minimisation, denial, deflection. There was no acknowledgement of how wrong what he has done is, though he does say he regrets it. It basically ended up that he would only get help if I would, as he regards my accusations as a "tactic" in the divorce and this is his way of getting assurance that I won't use it against him. I said fine because god knows I could use some help on why I put up with all this. Later though I said, I don't think I need anger management counselling, though. And the mediator said, well, I think I heard h say you did. So I said, well fine, because I have been very angry with my x and done things I am not proud of. But this has been because of his treatment of me and (I realised after reading Why Does He Do That) another reason to leave. I have never behaved like that with anyone else and no one else would describe me as angry. But then he might say the same.

But on reflection I am thinking that, as predicted, I have been manipulated in this mediation process to getting help for anger management (rather than help I actually do need), and that if he won't even acknowledge his problem, what is the point?

I guess I'm looking for thoughts and support. I am really reluctant to leave mediation as I just don't have the stomach for a court battle and there are a lot of issues and assets that need to be resolved.

Don't agree to anything yet. Take your time cake

mummy2wills Tue 17-Dec-13 04:04:05

I've heard on here before that you shouldn't go to mediation with an EA partner for the very reason that they manipulate the situation. I too am divorcing an EA husband and it is hell, so I really do understand and sympathise with your situation. I have only recently learned that everything STBXH says is to get a negative reaction from me, so I try really hard not to respond. Good luck x

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 17-Dec-13 05:31:36

This is why mediation isn't recommended. An abusive/manipulative person simply uses it as a source of information and ammunition against you. You open up and admit to being angry with him over his behaviour and..... pounce! ... he turns it right around so that you appear to be some irrational nutter that needs mental health treatment. Result: his own behaviour (the one actually causing the problem) is brushed under the carpet. What is particularly worrying is that the mediator seems to be going along with this version.

I think you'd find courts a lot less emotive and therefore less of a 'battle' than you're anticipating. As said above, take a big step back from him and admit to nothing even remotely negative from now on that could be used against you. Keep the focus firmly on him.

houmousandcarrotsandwich Tue 17-Dec-13 07:37:55

Can't help you, but dealing with an EA at the moment (who I would like rid of, but hes playing me well!).

Its bloody hard and emotionally draining. So just holding your hand x

Your story is a clear indication as to why mediation is never ever recommended in cases of abuse.

To use mediation is to subscribe to the mistaken idea that abuse is related to "misunderstandings" or lack of communication. If discussion and compromise, the mainstay of mediation, could help in any way most domestic violence situations would be long ago resolved because victims of abuse "discuss and compromise" constantly. Mediation assumes both parties will cooperate to make agreements work; the victim has always 'cooperated' with the abuser; the abuser never cooperates.

Mediation can be and is ordered by judges/courts, as can counselling and mental health evaluations. They are tools in the abuser's arsenal to be used against the victim as often as he chooses. In order for mediation to work and to not make situations worse the parties involved must have equal power and must share some common vision of resolution. This is clearly not present when domestic violence has taken place in a relationship.

Mediation practitioners must be alert to the need to interview partners separately with specially designed questions in order to determine if abuse is or has been present. Many domestic violence professionals can train others to screen safely for domestic violence. To not do so risks unsuccessful mediations, at best, and increasing the victim's danger by colluding with the abuser, at worst.

A person who has been terrorized by an abuser is not free to participate in a mediation process with him, even if the mediator(s) assume or believe that they "understand". Being truthful about any of her needs or experiences in the abuser's presence or proximity practically ensures that she is in more danger later.

The mediator is left with a no win: either the victim's danger is increased, or she is not fully or truthfully participating, or both. The well meaning mediator may actually encourage the victim to feel safe enough to share information that could seriously compromise her safety. In any case the whole intent of mediation is lost.

To engage an abuser and a victim in a process that implies equal responsibility is damaging to both. The victim is once again made to feel responsible for the abuser's behavior, and the abuser is allowed to continue to not accept full responsibility for his behaviour choices

Again you have been made to feel responsible for HIS behaviour, its a mistake to continue at all with mediation under these circumstances.

I would seriously also consider whether he should actually have any access to the children at all other than through a contact center. He is not above using them, he is using them to get back at you as "punishment" for leaving him. He will never play nice because he is at heart abusive and unreasonable.

No he is not a good dad either but an abusive one instead. Women in abusive situations often write that sort of comment when they themselves can think of nothing positive to write about that man.

Hermione123 Tue 17-Dec-13 08:42:11

Don't accept parity. He's trying to put you on the same footing as him. Have you ever called your ds pathetic? No. Mediator sounds like exactly that, they are treating him as having equal weight. Talk to your lawyer about saying that you felt pushed into agreeing to the a m counselling and back track. If he goes nuts, let him cool down and give it a few days before trying again. Doesn't have to mean mediation will fail, that's his threat to make you comply.

creativevoid Tue 17-Dec-13 11:45:11

Thanks everyone. Hermione, you are right. Nothing has been finally agreed or settled. The mediator asked us to go away and research what type of counselling might work. I spoke with my lawyer and she said to think about it over Xmas, I don't have to agree anything, and I don't have to stick with mediation. I am resolved not to accept the pronciple that I need anger management counselling. I am thinking proposing I get counselling for abuse victims, which is what I actually need! But am wondering if insisting he get counselling is worth it since he isn't going to do it in good faith.

cestlavielife Tue 17-Dec-13 11:53:09

thing is the meidator is barking up the wrong tree.
I assume that
you want to sort out specifics practicalities children contact finance right?

and the mediator has - under ex influence - turned it into you both getting help with your empotions... either you are paying a therapist/counsellor or you paying a mediator to sort out praacticalities. decide which it is...

nah... turn it back to using mediation to try to sort out practicalities.
tell mediator you will sort out your own counselling independently and you dont want to waste mediation time discussing forms of counselling.

if i am correct, then
you want mediation here to be about the practicalities of arangements.

if mediation cant help with that then do it at court...

if you want to discuss your emotions then use a different forum.

cestlavielife Tue 17-Dec-13 12:00:19

have done few such sessions with ex -nitemare... the one which actually worked for me was when i had v clear idea of what i wanted from it.
I had few lines to take that i kept repeating. calmly. broken record technique.
you need to train yourself... and first few times i let myself get caught up in defence mode or accusations eg rather than say "he is lying" state a fact and let the facts speak for themselves.

eg ex: she hasnt let me see the DC for two years!
me: he saw them last wednesday,
mediator: so did you see them last wednesday?
ex: yes, I did, but...
mediator: ok so you have seen them, now....

NettleTea Tue 17-Dec-13 12:06:31

perhaps you could suggest that you ask a professional which type of councilling you should have - get a GP referral, tell the whole story and see what type they suggest (and I would suspect they would suggest individual councilling which will help you detangle yourself from his crazy making and re-assert your boundaries) win win situation, and demonstrates a clear willingness to address any 'issues' you may or may not have, whilst giving you the emotional support you need to see through your divorce.

Its also worth noting that mediation is not legally binding and cannot be used in any further court/divorce. So you may well find that you agree stuff in mediation and then he doesnt follow through. Mediation cannot enforce anything. TBH with someone as manipulative and aggressive as this, Id go straight to court and stop giving him the chance to further wear you down. At least the court process is fairly cut and dried, and you can get all negotiations done through a solicitor.

There is no point kidding yourself you can do this nicely. Nicely would mean just agreeing to everything he says. He has no ones best interests at heart apart from his own, so look at that first mediation meeting, where you were not even discussing the tricky stuff, as a warning as to why this is the wrong course. Its a waste of time and just drags things out much longer and more painfully than just going straight to court.

If costs are an issue, then its worth pointing out to him that quick is cheaper. Maybe suggest solicitors because they will do whats fair by the law.

Hermione123 Tue 17-Dec-13 12:09:27

agree with cestlavielife re broken record on the key points and repetition - i realised he's cleverly changed the nature of the debate by even getting you to acknowledge that you need any kind of counselling. Given that your behaviour doesn't cross lines with the DC, maybe that should not be in-scope at all. Yes so options include: drop all counselling references (but this means you don't have a record of the e a incident wrt your ds), or back-track, insist on the am counselling for him and proceed with court hearings if mediation fails. I think your lawyer should advise based on what you wanted before the mediation (which will probably be what you want after you've processed it all).

wallypops Tue 17-Dec-13 14:48:57

I would advise writing to the organisation who did the mediation and complaining about the enabling of EA that the mediator did, and say that he is not competent if he cannot spot manipulation. I'd be tempted to go once individually so at least you can put your side across.

I went with my x before our divorce and it wasn't, for me, useful at all. In fact it was jargon & imagery based nonsense, basically just ex and mediator showing off to one another about who knew the most.

In the longer or shorter term find someone really good who is going to help you tackle the manipulation. Your shrink should work with only you and not with both of you. I know that I saw someone who made me read loads of books and work really pretty hard on myself, but it made a real difference, and really opened my eyes. Clearly it's still all a work in progress. I had previously seen someone else, who was next to useless - probably meant that I complained less to my mates, but didn't actually help me advance, or put an end to the abuse. Finding a good shrink is probably harder than finding a good husband.

Make it clear that you are there for the negotiations not counselling. Go in with your list of non-negotiables. For all the other points say you'll think about it, then go back and talk it through (with your shrink). While obviously you are there for the good of the children - don't let him use that as a weapon against you. I have found in all these negotiations that both my ex and his mother are only looking at their interests and not those of the children. I good argument to use is that 'that is not in the interest of the children'.

All I can really say is massive hand holding from here and good luck. This is really the bottom, it will get better.

creativevoid Tue 17-Dec-13 16:12:09

Thanks Wallypops. Don't get me started about h's mother! Where do you think he learned all this!

How did you find a good shrink? I am seeing a relationship counsellor (alone) and we both agree this is a holding position until I can find someone more suitable to deal with abuse. I went to women's aid hoping for some recommendations but didn't get anywhere and that just leaves me picking someone off the internet who has the word "abuse " on their website hmm

wallypops Tue 17-Dec-13 22:40:40

Mine does behavioural and cognitive therapy. But for me the key was that he talks more than me the sessions are really short - 25 mins and I had to do my homework before I went back. I live abroad so all in a foreign language as a working mum with a 2&3 year old. Tough work. But god he is awesome. Occasionally I go back if I need to but it's been over a year since I've been. Divorced for nearly 6! Over the years I've seen 4 and ironically the 2 really good ones were men! Both aimed to get you back out there with attitude rather than navel gazing. God by the end I bored myself with the ones that just want you to talk! Obviously just my opinion.

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