Edited by kristenyostdc - 2/8/13 at 10:13am
Oh, that sounds so dreadfully unhealthy and painful. You certainly do need to get out. Someone so selfish and mean will most likely use the kids to get back at you once you leave. So you need to protect yourself by being as prepared as possible.
The number one thing for you to start doing immediately is document. Document the parenting and home labour divisions - note the date and detail what he did. Note every time he goes out, the details of how you know he was getting high, the date, what time he returned. How much alcohol he drinks daily, eg. 5 beers between 6pm-9pm. Record any negative/hurtful/neglectful interaction he has with the kids. Note anything the kids say about him or behavioural reaction to him. Try to remember the words he uses or paraphrase so you can demonstrate how he belittles you (and be sure to note which kids were present when he belittles). Does he over-control the finances?
I know this sounds like a lot of work and, omg, you have 5 kids! But, trust me, late nights are worth it and necessary. Do you have a smartphone? I stayed up late so many nights documenting using my phone which is a lot more conspicuous than using a computer.
Another potentially powerful use of your phone is the voice recorder. If you can record him arguing at you, that can be very very useful for you. I recently bought a small handheld voice recorder which has been so much easier for me to record with (I'm recording my ds1's rages so I can get more effective help from the therapist).
The primary thing you want to do is record his pattern. Demonstrate as best as possible that this is not just a one-off, short term kind of behaviour. Are any of your kids scared of him? Would they ever tell anyone like a counsellor or your family doctor? My first (wonderful feminist) lawyer told me that I had to MAKE evidence for myself because such family violence is invisible. She recommended I go to my family doctor and have a mini breakdown, tell her I'm really scared of H and I just wanted her to know because I'm preparing to end our marriage and from his past behaviuor, I know it's going to be nasty and I don't know how I or the kids will be affected, but she should know to expect something. I simply drove it home to her that I'm scared and I have real reason to be scary. She got it. Talk to the kids' teachers. Tell them you're worried about their emotional wellbeing because of your H's behaviour. Tell them your children have witnessed a fair amount of family violence (this includes verbal/emotional abuse) by their father and you wanted them to know so they can keep an eye on the kids. Also, you might want to add that you are planning on leaving and you know his abuse will escalate but you will do your best to check in regularly with them to see if much is translating in their school behaviours.
Do you have any family or friends who have witnessed his going out, getting high or his belittling you? Start building a support network for yourself. Tell one or a few key people what you are planning and why. Be sure that they will be supportive of you. You will need to draw on your friends and family when you start taking steps to ending the marriage.
If he gets scary at all in the near future, call the police. I know in the past there were many times when X would turn aggressive and block me from leaving a space or make a sudden move that made me flinch because I honestly didn't know if he was going to hit me or not (he never did hit me). But if I had called the police, it would have made a big difference in my case.
And... talk to a lawyer ASAP!
Oh and.... start building some kind of financial independence. Start a savings account. Buy grocery gift cards and stash them when grocery shopping, assuming he doesn't look at the items you purchase when you go shopping.
This is what I've learned through my process. I hope it helps you in some way. Your on your way to the beginning of your new life free from his anger, hostility and neglect. xo
Books I highly, highly recommend:
Lundy Bancroft: 'Why Does He Do That?'
Lundy Bancroft: 'When Dad Hurts Mom'
Thanks for the advice! I just added an app to my phone so I can type out things that happened on what date. My 7 year old has said on several occasions that he is afraid of my husband. He doesn't like to be home with out me there because he's so much worse. I've actually been thinking about taking him to a therapist because of some emotional issues he's been having. Maybe it's wise to take him now rather then later. I also do have a few people that have witnessed his abusive behavior, etc. We have been living with my parents since May! And my brother just started staying here too. They have all seen and heard it. They have also witnessed his total lack of help with anything that has to do with the children.
Next time your 7yo says something like that, write it down and note the date. This kind of thing is powerful when it comes time for you to write an affidavit. I've been there and was so grateful for my past journaling and for my past posts on MDC.
It would also be good for you to take note of the date when members of your family hear things. This way, if they have to testify or write an affidavit, they will have the exact date which will help make their stories credible. That's great you have witnesses!
Definitely take your 7yo to a therapist now. Don't wait. Once X and I separated and I tried to get ds1 some kind of therapy, X refused to consent and so ds couldn't even see the school counsellor. That's because we didn't and still don't have a legal custody agreement so they need both parents' consent. But if he's already in therapy and then you separate, your H can't make him stop. The therapist will likely do an intake appointment where s/he will ask about your history and your marriage's history, mental health concerns, etc. Be sure to state that your H is and has been verbally and emotionally abusive and that your child has, on occassion, told you that he is scared of his father. This will then be documented in the therapists intake report. Also, you can ask for him/her to write a letter summarizing any session. It will cost (approx.$150 per letter) but this is sooooo worth it if the letter will state anything related to your H's anger and/or your child's fear of him. Be careful not to discuss this ulterior motive with the therapist, however, because they can be very finicky about getting involved in legal proceedings. My ds1's psychiatrist dumped him when she realized we were headed for a high-conflict divorce - she essentially didn't want to be subpoenaed. But I have some letters she wrote before she stopped seeing ds1 that have been very powerful for my case. When I went to court to request medical consent for ds1 so he could get therapy, X's lawyer asked the judge to have ds1 live exclusively with X. Because of the old psychiatrist's letter from earlier in the year stating clearly that ds1 is scared of his father's anger, the judge immediately and completely dismissed the request.
I wish you luck and strength. You have a very difficult journey ahead of you. But, let me tell you from someone who has btdt, it is so worth it and you will not regret it, ever.
Yes, get your kid(s) to a therapist now. My lawyer said that the judge would not care about a log of events, that only a letter from a professional like a therapist or doctor would have any weight, and my kids refused to talk to a therapist. Do keep a detailed log though! Your judge could be very different than mine.