As most of you know by now, I’m a writer. It’s not just a hobby; it is my business. The most consistent work that comes in at Alexis Chateau PR involves writing for law firms and one of their favourite topics is child custody. To make this work easier, I delegate selecting a topic to someone else and I essentially write what my teammate tells me to.
Last week, she sent me an article on parental alienation. I had never heard of it before, but once I understood what it was, it brought back memories. According to ABC News, parental alienation happens when one parent tries to brainwash their child against the other parent to damage their relationship and secure custody and/or the child’s favour.
Sometimes parents go as far as to convince the child that they are being abused or neglected — an accusation that may make it to the courtroom in the middle of child custody proceedings. Other times, it is the constant drum beating on a parent’s flaws or implying that the other parent does not love the child. Sadly, this works all too often.
If you are a child of divorce or another type of parental split, then you have probably suffered parental alienation yourself. I sure have. Here’s the story of how my biological father — who we will once again call Judas — attempted to turn me against my mother and how it blew up in his face.
The Black Jacket DemonIf you read my article…
…then you already know the ending to this story. You also know a great deal about the underhanded tactics my biological father used to permanently sever my ties with my mother. To better understand the dark foundations upon which my current happiness is set, let’s go back to high school.
A School on a Hill
In the early 2000s, I attended the all-girls Catholic School in Montego Bay, known as Mount Alvernia High. We belonged to the Franciscan order and attending the school was nothing short of a privilege. It is one of two top all-girls high schools in Montego Bay and one of the best schools on the island.
In spite of this privilege, high school was a dark time for me. I wore a black jacket every day that I had absolutely fallen in love with. Being on a hill by the sea meant that there was plenty of wind to justify a jacket, even in the tropics. No one asked me any questions until the day my best friend grabbed me by the hand to drag me off to gods know where this time.
When I snatched my hand back, she grew suspicious. She grabbed the sleeve of my jacket and pulled it up, revealing long red marks on my skin from a beating I had received the previous weekend. Later, I would show her the marks on my thighs and back, as well as one that had landed on my upper breast. She was appalled.
“Who did this?” she asked me. “You need to call the police. This is abuse!”
I had never really heard the word abuse applied in that fashion before. When I thought of abuse, I thought of women beaten by their husbands. I thought of women who lived in a constant state of fear.
I did not think of me. I was a minor and minors received discipline until they were old enough to be considered adults.
Nevertheless, I did know the beating was evil and uncalled for. My singular offence had been to slam a door you needed to slam to lock it after speaking with my biological father. He knew about the latch problem, but he wanted to beat someone anyway, and it was convenient to say that I had caught an attitude.
He called me back out to the veranda and beat me bloody in front of at least three contractors. They had come to the house to help him build an addition that, to this day, has not been completed.
I was humiliated and I was pissed, but I was not hurt. I had learned a few years prior, how to escape these beatings. I would slip into third person and watch myself suffer from a distance, waiting for it to be over.
In those instances, I felt no real physical pain, even as my skin split open and gave way to bruises and blood. I felt nothing and heard nothing but the clock ticking on the wall. Then, I would go to my room, shut the door, take out my Polaroid camera, snap pictures of my body and hide them in a bottom drawer.
I don’t know why I started taking the pictures, because I wasn’t being abused. It was discipline. Right? I was a minor. This was what parents did.
So, naturally, I was confused by my friend’s reaction. Didn’t all 14-year-olds suffer as I did? I showed another friend and another friend and another friend and the reactions were all the same.
My God! I thought. This is abuse? Why didn’t anyone tell me?
One Woman Down
No one knows for sure why Judas started to beat me. As a child, he rarely put a hand on me. When Mom called on him to discipline me, he would crack jokes. I think he raised a hand to me maybe two times in my childhood, though he did enjoy telling lies on me so Mom would deliver a whooping for things he did. Why? I have no idea. Maybe he enjoyed my pain.
His beatings started when his favourite victim fled to the United States. I remember the last big fight so clearly. He had woken me up with all the fuss in the living room and I rolled my eyes, sat up in bed and looked out at the moon. It was big and beautiful and round. Somewhere in the distance, an owl hooted. I wondered what it must be like to be an owl, to escape into the darkness unseen and send a hoot or two out into the night to remind people you still existed.
Behind me, I heard things falling to the ground in the living room, right outside my door. I could see the light streaming in beneath it. I went to the door and opened it just in time to watch him clear everything off the entertainment centre in one swoop of his giant hand. Mom jumped aside as a receiver, speakers and universal remotes flew about the room. He was in a rage and when he was in a rage, he was destructive.
Even so, Mom stood her ground. “If you think I’m going to stay in this house with you, fearing for my life, you have another thing coming!” I shut the door and jumped back into my bed and under the sheets.
Within weeks, Mom left. I scraped together the last of my savings and gave her everything I had. I was glad to see her go. I thought for sure I would get some sleep now. Little did she or I know that I would be next.
A Hole in the Wall
Despite being a country apart, my parents maintained their marriage long-distance. My mother had, however, found her inner strength after that last big confrontation and was no longer the docile wife he once knew. It made him very angry.
He was Seventh Day Adventist, which essentially meant that I had no life as a teenager on a Friday night or all day on a Saturday. Yet, one day, I woke up with a voice in my head. It told me, “Get out. Go to the library.”
I wasn’t allowed to set foot in a library on a Saturday. That was what the non-SDA kids did. I wouldn’t even dare to ask. Yet, there was this voice telling me to do it and to do it now.
I recognised that voice and I trusted it. Everyone did. I had a bit of a reputation as an un-practised and unintentional medium in my family and among my friends. So, even though it was counter-intuitive, I packed a bag and went to see my grandma next door.
“Where are you going?” she asked me. “Isn’t it Saturday?”
“To the library,” I answered. “Is Hayley already gone?”
She shook her head to say no and asked what had gotten into me. “You know your father’s going to be mad as hell when he wakes up and you’re gone.”
“I know, but I’m going. I have to go.” She knew that look, so she didn’t question me any further.
We hadn’t been at the library for an hour when my grandmother called and asked to speak to us. She was frantic. She wouldn’t explain what had happened, but she told us to come home NOW! I thought to myself about how much trouble I must be in for breaking Sabbath and leaving the house without permission.
When we arrived home, Judas did not even realise I had been gone. After calling Mom and failing to receive an immediate answer, he had burst into one of his fits of rage. He was convinced she had taken up his favourite pastime: cheating.
But, this fit was worse than usual. My grandmother said she could hear the whole house coming down next door and thought for sure it had flattened. She was worried and suggested I stay with her. I refused.
When I returned home, he was in the storeroom. I walked through the house. My passport was sitting suspiciously on the coffee table by the door, but I was focused on the gaping hole in the wall, where he had punched out a window. The living room was destroyed far worse than the night he had had that final spat with my mother.
“He can destroy the house, but not my room, please not my room,” I said to myself. I held my breath when I stepped inside.
He had put his fist through my bedroom mirror, shattering it. It was never fixed. My computer and the desk it sat on was overturned and my camera was on the floor by the foot of the bed.
I felt my heart drumming a dangerous beat in my head. I was in third person again. This couldn’t be happening. My one, last sanctuary: destroyed. I backed out of my room and headed for the front door. On my way out, he came up from the storeroom and stopped me.
“My hand…” he said. It was bleeding. I noticed now that there was blood all along the floor, which is still there to this day. “Help me.”
In that moment, I felt a hatred come over me. I kicked the door so hard it slammed into the wall behind it and I walked off. Hayley was on her way over to check on me. She was asking questions, but I didn’t hear her. I made it all the way to my grandmother’s house before I blacked out.
My last thought was, “I just want to throw myself on the ground and pull my hair and scream and kick like a crazy person.” I was told I did exactly that on the rock and gravel of my grandma’s outdoor walkway.
I have no memory of that. I woke up on her couch sometime later.
A Final Goodbye
When I finally returned home, against my grandmother’s wishes, my passport was missing from the coffee table. I didn’t think anything of it. I went to my room and tried to clean the dried blood out of the wooden floor.
I swept up the glass in my room, set my desk upright and crossed my fingers for my computer. It was still working. My Polaroid camera no longer flipped open and shut the way it used to, but it worked too. I had used it to take pictures again before cleaning up.
Shortly after this came the holiday where he forced me to stay in Jamaica, while he flew off to America and tried to get my mother deported. What better way to ensure they could be together forever? That was the final straw for her and it signified the real and final end of their marriage.
A Brand New Man
The rage cooled after Mom left. He shifted his focus. Now, he wanted to play the victim and be the good parent. He still forgot to feed me or buy groceries, but he never forget to drag my mother through the mud.
Over and over, he would call her, using me as leverage to make threats. He told her she would never see me again. That he would take me some place far, far away. He had hidden my Jamaican passport and American visa, so she could forget about trying to book a ticket to see me.
Taking a Mother’s Child
Exhausted, Mom decided she was tired of fighting. I was old enough to choose a parent and she would trust my decision. “Okay, she told him. Take her.” She hung up.
He came to me in triumph, telling me how my mother did not want me. She had a new life now and didn’t want to be a mother anyway. I was a bother and a burden, but not to worry; he would take care of me.
Sometimes, I would call Mom and she wouldn’t answer the phone. I would assume she was out in the world living this new life he mentioned, and did not have time to talk to me. She would get back to me hours later or the next day asking me what had happened.
“Why didn’t you answer when I called?” I would ask her. I was angry. She really is ignoring me, I would think. She’s doing this on purpose. She’s out having fun like I’m not here suffering with this bastard she left me with.
But, I did not become angry with my mother. I became angry at both of them. I felt completely and utterly alone. I wanted to die and have it over and done with. What was there to live for? Kill me now and be done with it.
Little did I know that Mom and Grandma were plotting behind all our backs and that I would find myself weaving the plan together without even knowing it existed. During my seething period, I told Mom I was having trouble sleeping, so I was going to take up drinking, because that’s what people like me do, I guess. She told me to be careful and asked me to reconsider, but she did not reprimand me.
I was never very good at being a bad child, so I tried to make myself drink for a week or two before tossing the bottle out the window. I called her back. Drinking was a bust. Now, I think what I’ll do is become a lesbian, because men suck and women are awesome. She told me that she would support me no matter what I decided, but that I should take some time to think and not be hasty.
Well, I wasn’t a very good lesbian either. I had zero interest in romance and pursued no one, even though two of my friends were lesbians and two were bisexual. I had bigger fish to fry than breaking hearts. I was too busy fantasising about being dead.How lovely it must be to not exist! I thought.
Along Comes Graduation
Despite my obvious preoccupation, I was a bundle of joy at school. Besides my best friend, no one was the wiser. I laughed and joked and when people tried to insult me in class, it rolled right off me like it was nothing. I maintained excellent grades and was in the top tier for all my classes. Everyone thought my life must be absolutely fabulous. People like me must have nothing to worry about.
It wasn’t pretence either. I was genuinely happy at school. I didn’t go out on the weekends like normal teenagers, so school was a social affair for me. No school meant no friends. I was also good at school and breezed through most of my classes like I was waltzing through the park.
School was great.
What worried me was going home.
I made it to graduation with honours. My mom still has my high school awards up over the fireplace in her living room. Judas stole all my certificates, but I was always able to sneak the actual awards to her.
Graduation Day for me was sad though. Hayley and I graduated in the same year, so Grandma came to support us both. Judas wasn’t there and I was happy for it. But, who I really wanted to see was my mother and it broke my heart that she couldn’t make it, even though I kept a brave face.
Eventually, Judas showed up somewhere in the last half or quarter of the ceremony. I rolled my eyes. I didn’t want him there; I wanted my mother. He had done everything he possibly could to ruin my chances of studying for my exams and he succeeded.
I sat so many of those papers with nothing but a few hours sleep and way less studying than I should have done. I wasn’t supposed to be better than him. I should stay in my lane, but here he was pretending to congratulate me. He could chomp a dick.
I escaped as soon as I could to see my friends. I knew that this was goodbye for so many of us. But, after a while, I couldn’t stomach seeing everyone with their mothers and fathers looking so happy.
So, I went off by myself to sit on a wall and mope. It was my English teacher who found me. She wanted to thank me for being a good student and to wish me well. She believed I had a bright future as a writer and wanted to tell me not to give up on it. But, looking back, I think she also spotted a lonely and broken girl who wanted her mother.
After we tossed our hats into the air for our final picture and started on the way home, Judas said, “If your mother loved you, she would be here. Instead, she’s in America. But, I’m here. I’m all you got.”It was salt in the wound and I hated him for it.
The Final Chapter
To begin the final chapter, we have to go back to the mystery of my passport’s disappearance. As a teen, you are not so very concerned about your missing passport. It’s not a document you use often. However, while Judas was trying to get Mom deported in Atlanta, she told me to keep an eye out for it.
One day, I was looking for some medical records. I don’t remember why I wanted to see it, but there was one drawer in the master bedroom where everything was kept—my report cards, my medical records and the certificates that Judas would later take. But then, I noticed the paper lining the bottom of the drawer was lifting up.
Beneath that lining, I found my passport, copies of my mother’s passport, my grandmother’s will, and other documents Judas had no business holding in his possession. You know what else I found? All those pictures I had been taking of the marks on my body and my destroyed room. How he found them, I do not know. I packed everything up and took them to my grandmother.
In the drama of the attempted deportation — which failed — he didn’t at first realise these things were missing. But, once that calmed down, all hell broke loose. He threatened and even had his entire side of the family call me. One uncle told me I was an idiot, that my mother was brainwashing me and that if I were a smart girl, I would return my documents to my father.
I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about, but if he was wise, he would mind his own business. That was my favourite uncle and I never spoke to him again. He called me once a long time afterwards to apologise. When he was done, I passed the phone back to his sister and returned to my room.
With all my documents in hand, my mother and grandmother were working diligently to put their plans in place. They told me nothing of it. My job was to hold out, stay sane, stay in school, and stay alive.
When my father refused to support me financially in college, hoping I would drop out, Mom picked up the slack. I was sixteen and she hated the idea of me working when I should be in school.
When he discovered that she was supporting me, he packed me up and moved me forcibly to another parish about an hour and a half away. This was where his family lived.
He told me if I returned to see my grandmother, someone who was keeping an eye out for me there would do me harm. I was also banned from speaking to my mom. Mom continued to support me by sending my money to Grandma, who gave it to Hayley, who gave it to a friend in the neighbourhood, who attended my college, who then gave it to me.
To speak to me my mom, I had to save her name as Alyssa and when she called, I had to answer like it was one of my friends from school. However, eventually, he caught on and tried to take my cell phone.
Mom says it was one of the most frightening experiences as a mother. She was thousands of miles away doing all she could. She could barely speak to me without endangering my life, and she had called, and my last words to her were, “He’s coming! He’s coming!” After that, all she could hear was screaming.
When I saw him coming, I had run out of the house. His family’s house was atop a hill on a street overlooking the sea. Rain and poor drainage had stripped away much of the asphalt, leaving potholes that could twist or break a leg. The streetlights overhead were dim and blocked by trees. There was no moon. But, I was not going to let him take away the last connection I had to my mom.
I took off at breakneck speed down the hill. I felt my ankle give way, but caught my balance and kept on running and screaming for help. I wanted witnesses. I wanted the neighbours to come out. They did, but they did not know what to do. Was I just a bad teenager who deserved to be kept in line by my father? Or, was I really in danger?
An aunt also came out to see what all the fuss was about. I asked her to keep him away from me. I just wanted to talk to my mom. Why couldn’t he just let me talk to her? She didn’t believe me. I was overreacting. I was lying. I was a bad teenager. Why would I say these things about my poor father?
The rage took over. I was back in third person. I threw myself onto the rocky, broken road and screamed. I was sick of this. I was sick of this life. Then, I got up and started running toward the highway and the sea. “I’m sick of all of you!” I shouted behind me.
My aunt grew frantic. Her son had drowned in that sea. She called me to come back. I told her I was going to do it. This was it. I was going to walk right into the sea and rid them of their problems. She begged me to come back. She told me she would see to it that I kept the phone, but she still thought I was lying and I hated her for choosing his side.
Shortly afterwards, Mom and Grandma’s handiwork came through. Judas was issued a summons to appear in family court and after he and his family berated me, called my mother a whore and told me my grandmother was a witch, I left. I was an ungrateful and undisciplined demon spawn. I was possessed and a disgrace to the family.All I heard was, I’m going home.
When I left, I moved temporarily to the city. I couldn’t face that house again so packed with dark memories and broken things. My cousin asked a friend to put me up and Mom scraped together what she could to ensure I stayed above water.
After exams, the new semester started and I received my own informal summons from Grandma to meet her at family court. As a minor, I was not allowed inside, but I was summoned by the judge for the ruling.
She told me that after hearing both sides, she did not know who to believe, but since I wanted to be with my grandmother, she would award her custody. However, that was paperwork. For all practical purposes, she granted me my emancipation. I had just turned seventeen.
“This isn’t even legal,” she said, “but I can’t think of any other way to protect you. I don’t know who’s lying, but I would hate to think you’re being used as a pawn.”
Throughout everything that happened, my mother never said an ill word against Judas. Even after they split up and I visited without him and he called, she would always urge me to take the call. She always encouraged me to try to see some good in him.“You only have one father,” she would say.
But then one day he called to ask how I was doing, and when I told him what my grades were for my first year of college, he immediately flew into a rage and cursed me out. Once again, my mother was a whore and I was a demon spawn. I hung up and never accepted another call from him again.
If you still haven’t read…
…you probably should. That is the story of how he reached out to me earlier this year telling me he needed his daughter back.
“I’m sure you have daughters and sons all around the world,” I replied, alluding to his world-class infidelity. “But, I’m not one of them.”