Justice is No Lady: Chapter 11: Jack, the One I Lost

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by Tess Willoughby When Jack was just a baby, Nate had rejected Jack’s personality, and had set out to beat and berate it out of him. When Jack reached middle school age, or perhaps a little bit before, the seeds that his father had planted suddenly sprouted. Jack began to come unraveled. “Something is wrong [Read More...]

Justice is No Lady: Chapter 10 My Right to Be Heard

By Tess Willoughby

Nate got another partner almost immediately. He found her on a Christian dating site. Patty had money from her millionaire father and a big house paid for by the government salary of her estranged husband. Nate had told me that remarriage for me was unbiblical, but he found a loophole in Scripture and told the children that he and Patty were already married in God’s eyes. God having spoken, Nate moved into Patty’s house and put our marital home up for rent.

Nate wrote me a letter warning that if I did not “come to terms” (give him full custody of the children), he would hold a big yard sale and sell off everything in the house that belonged to me and the kids. He had the right to do this, having been awarded the entire contents of the house by the courts. The letter specifically mentioned a silver tray that my grandparents had given us as a wedding present. The toys, costly and old-fashioned and ordered from catalogs, had been my parents’ birthday and Christmas gifts to the children. The kids had left behind probably two thousand dollars’ worth of toys–$300 in large hand-carved wooden blocks alone. Nate sold them all, except for a few that he informed us he would keep at Patty’s house for “when the children come home.” Nate sold or gave to Goodwill the 150 books in my personal library and the children’s library.

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Justice is No Lady: Chapter 9 – Terrorists, Far and Near

Warning: This story series contains descriptions of physical abuse.

by Tess Willoughby

September 11, 2001. This dark day united all Americans in horror, in terror, and in pain.

With at least one exception: Nate Willoughby.

I found out that our country had been attacked using our own commercial aircraft when my mother called me from town and said, “Turn on the news.” Her tone of voice suggested the worst of the worst of the worst: so awful that you didn’t ask “what channel?” because it didn’t matter what channel. The president had been assassinated. There was some horrific, unthinkable natural disaster, probably in Virginia. Something so bad she couldn’t say it.

I hung up, turned on the TV and watched the Twin Towers burn, holding the phone in my hand.

The phone rang. I hit the answer button. Nate lit into me about how I needed to come back to him and I was in rebellion against God and would probably go to hell.

I swallowed and sat on the floor and said, “Are you aware that terrorists have attacked New York City? The World Trade Center is burning!”

Nate said, “Who cares. We’re talking about my life.”

I hung up on him and sobbed and choked in front of the TV until I didn’t have any more strength to cry. How mean and insane was my husband? How would I ever get away from this vindictive bastard without being destroyed? Was Nate even human? Was my country’s government about to fall? How many more planes had been hijacked, and what would blow up next? It felt as though my own personal hell had unleashed national horrors and worldwide chaos. The lid had blown off life itself and nothing venerable, nothing precious, nothing good could stand. My own personal, religious zealot terrorist had gone global somehow and the world was burning and crumbling to the ground; nothing and nobody was safe from crazy men with extreme religious agendas.

Post-traumatic stress does funky things with your brain. That September, I believed that I had landed in a world without personal boundaries, without national security: a world of merciless anarchy where freedom was not only impossible but a joke and and an illusion. A world where terrorists could strike anywhere and nightmarish, ruinously expensive court hearings never ended, but God was silent. I believed that I could lose absolutely everything, even my nation. If not for my parents, I would have lost my sanity.

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Justice Is No Lady: Chapter 8 ~ Backlash

Warning: This story series contains descriptions of physical abuse.

by Defendant Rising

Part Two: The Legal Aftermath

I fled to the farm where I grew up and spent several weeks just trying to get the fuzz out of my head. I went to the doctor, who diagnosed Abi with failure to thrive. I supplemented her with formula but continued to breastfeed, because for once I had the luxury of breastfeeding by my own lights, and I intended to enjoy it. I moved six kids, 9 years old and under, in with my mom and dad, who were absolute angels about it.  I do not remember either of them complaining even once.

What were Tess’s long-term plans? Did I want separation? Divorce? Neither? Was God angry with me? Could I ever go back? I just stumbled through the days, utterly numb. I could not feel the presence of God, which struck terror into my heart. I could not pray, and opening a Bible freaked me out. Where had my faith gone? What did I believe? My thoughts were like muddy water that must be filtered through normality until the water runs clear. It took a long time to get clear, and in the meantime, I made a very costly mistake.

I filed for legal separation but then withdrew my action. Here is how this went down:

Nate called four or five times a day. He also sent multiple long emails every day. A few highlights:

  • “I will counter-sue for divorce on fault-grounds of desertion.”
  • “Venue (where the divorce will be held) is where the marital home is. You will have to travel back and forth repeatedly.”
  • “I will avail myself in good faith of every legal procedure available. This means massive expense to your father. I will appeal any and all negative decisions.”
  • “As I am living in the marital home, you will lose the [custody] fight. And of course, if I have the kids you will be paying me child support.”

In every email and phone call, Nate demanded that I come home immediately. In one email he made a condition: “Because of your hart [sic] heartedness and manifold sins against me, I will require that you sign an oath before God that you will submit to my authority completely, without question or dissention, and joyfully.”
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Justice is No Lady: Chapter 7 ~ Spiritual Adultery

Warning: This story series contains descriptions of physical abuse.

by Defendant Rising

Nate says what happened from Christmas of 1999 through summer of 2000 was this: I condoned his affair with Angel.

I guess Nate should know, because “condone” is a legal term and he’s a lawyer. That’s not the way I remember it. I remember two things: being very ill and being very angry. After the lingeré bonfire, Nate kept his sickly, irate wife very busy listening to his sermons on forgiveness, doing unpaid paralegal work (he set up his new firm at home with the clients stolen from his former boss), getting through Christmas on a shoestring, overhauling our finances, and going to marriage counseling with pastors Mike and Randy.

All this was going on in my last six weeks of pregnancy. The financial overhaul alone was tiring and overwhelming. Nate planned another home birth for me, increased my life insurance, and made me sign for credit cards in my name to reduce our interest rates. Then he rolled all our debt onto the cards, charged law office supplies to them, and locked the cards in the file cabinet. I wasn’t sure how increasing my life insurance saved us any money—after all, it cost more—but Nate insisted that I wouldn’t understand even if he explained it to me. I couldn’t even balance a checkbook, so if I would just trust him and sign here, here, and there already, he would take care of it all. It was futile to ask questions, I would just be even more worn out with Nate’s thousand-word answers, excuses, and insults.

Marriage counseling was also futile—it didn’t help matters at all. Nate was enraged for two reasons: I had great respect for Mike and Randy, and Mike and Randy were very hard on Nate. Randy made one remark during counseling that hit me like a stun gun.

Randy said, “Nate, in your heart you have rejected God.”

My brain began to blink to life. The broken mirror pieces in my mind fused into one big mirror, still picturing Nate, but he was ugly—uglier than the portrait of Dorian Gray. Ugly as sin.

Nate’s “theology,” no matter how complicated, was a substitute for faith, not evidence of faith. I knew it in that instant.

Nate’s retribution was swift, his diversion brilliant. He accused me of being in love with Randy and Randy of being in love with me. We could continue to go to the church and to marriage counseling, Nate decreed, but I was not allowed to speak to Randy unless Nate was present. Nate spread ugly innuendo about us throughout the congregation. In private, Nate assured me that the only thing I was guilty of was “spiritual adultery” so far—of putting another man in Nate’s place of spiritual head and God-mediator. I needed to watch myself, though, he argued, or I’d be in bed with Randy next.

I hated Nate with every ounce of my strength. Randy’s wife was very pregnant too, and it hurt to see the pain and doubt cross her face. Randy’s marriage held tight, though, and his wife was soon beaming again.

As the controversy blew over, I focused on the imminent birth of my sixth child. I had to lie down a lot. The cramps were breathtaking. I had legal research to conduct. I had my children to educate. Plus, Nate had one last theological curve ball to pitch. Nate had begged my forgiveness for Angel. He had repented in tears, and agreed to the marriage counseling. Now, in the wake of my alleged “spiritual adultery,” Nate was backtracking. Could a convinced polygamist, Nate asked me, ever commit adultery? Nate said, “Maybe only women can commit adultery.” As he explained to Mike and Randy, he was “looking at six months” of no sex while I carried Abi, and what better time to look for a second wife? (A little wrinkle: Though only 21, Angel was married. Her husband was in the Navy and deployed at sea.)

Suddenly I was the adulteress, and I wasn’t buying a ticket for this guilt trip. Nate and I had one heated argument after another, and, as long as we were arguing, I hotly denied that I needed God to speak to me through Nate or any man.

By the final two weeks of pregnancy, I was too uncomfortable to argue any more. The pressure on my pelvic floor was so intense that I wished I could simply hang from the ceiling via a system of big elastic belts between the legs and under the belly, attached to straps, affixed to wheels on tracks. Then, I fantasized, I could push off with my swollen feet and glide from room to room. Nate responded to my weakness and discomfort by threatening to exercise his “right” to polygamy on a permanent basis and move another woman into the house, if I couldn’t figure out a way to carry babies and have sex simultaneously. If I left him or reported him to the authorities for practicing polygamy, Nate said, he would use the courts to take the children and everything we owned. No other man would ever want me with six kids. [Read more...]