by Lillian Csernica on June 21, 2019
Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.
I am living through what has to be one of the longest weeks of my life. During this week I have accompanied my mother to the emergency room twice. Mom is quite frail and weak now, receiving dialysis three times a week along with a lengthy list of medications.
On Monday night Mom fell down in the bathroom at her apartment. Fortunately, I was there. I needed help to get Mom on her feet and into her wheelchair, help provided by the local paramedics. Mom’s health is declining. We have now reached a stage that I’ve been dreading.
On Tuesday I went to the courthouse in Santa Cruz and filed for a domestic violence restraining order against my sister. I had 25 pages of evidence including photos which documented my sister’s abuse of not just my mother but my invalid son Michael. I met the morning filing deadline. By 2:30 p.m. the order had been granted. My next stop was the Sheriff/Coroner’s Office where I filled out another form requesting the help of deputies in serving the order to my sister. She was due back from a two week vacation that very night.
Wednesday was a rough day. Knowing that my sister was there, I could not go home. I was afraid of what might happen next. I had no idea whether or not the sheriff’s deputies would serve the order that day, or if the necessary bureaucratic processes would leave me waiting, exposed to the continuing danger of my sister’s presence.
Why do I think my sister is dangerous? On May 28, the night I came home after BayCon, my sister started a fight with me that escalated into violence. I had to grab the phone, hide in the garage, and dial 911. Sheriff’s deputies came. I wish to God I had known I could ask them for an emergency protective order. Had I done that, they would have taken my sister away then and there. I didn’t know. That meant once the deputies left, I was stuck. I couldn’t get my mother, Michael, John, and myself all out of the house at once, not all by myself. There we were, alone with my sister, who had just assaulted me. My sister, against whom I had solid proof of elder abuse and the abuse of a medically fragile, entirely dependent young man.
Where was my husband Chris? In Las Vegas. He’d left the house on Monday, the day before the fight, driving to Vegas for a week’s vacation. He finally came back on Friday night. On Saturday morning my sister started another confrontation. I took Chris outside and told him what had been happening.
Chris didn’t believe me. He kept pushing aside my fears, questioning my credibility and my account of what my sister had been doing. Chris insisted on seeing the police report before he’d do anything about the threat my sister posed to everyone else in the house. Has he read it? I have no idea. The moment I realized he had no intention of confronting my sister, I abandoned any hope for help from him. I had to do what was necessary to protect myself, my children, and my mother, and I would have to do it alone.
In situations of domestic violence, there is a primary abuser and a secondary abuser. The secondary abuser often enables the primary, feeding the victim that classic line, “You must have done something to deserve it.” I had already learned about the concept of triangulation. My husband and my sister were two points on the triangle, side by side, while I was the point at the bottom. I have endured this situation for more than the 6 1/2 years we’ve lived in this house.
You might say my sister did me a favor when she hit me. She slapped some sense into me by making me realize just how serious the situation had become. No more excuses. No more telling myself it wasn’t really that bad. No more accepting the blame and the gaslighting and the cruelty and the twisted power games.
On Wednesday night, the sheriff’s deputy served my sister and evicted her from my house. The hearing lies ahead. I believe the restraining order will be granted permanent status by the judge who hears my case and sees all the additional evidence I will provide.
My mother, my sons, and I will be safe.
My name is Lillian Csernica. I am a survivor of domestic violence.