How do you tell your children that you’re terrified of their father? The same father they only know as fun and loving. Today my son asked, “Why can’t Daddy just come here and get us?” Well, one reason is that there’s a lovely piece of paper that says he can’t come near the house or anywhere near me, so that’s why we have what’s called a supervised exchange for their visits. We never have to interact. But more importantly, the other reason is that I can’t see him, smell him, or even sense him without immediately flashing back to having his hands wrapped around my neck pressing toward the ground.

I can’t explain to them that while he may be perfectly fine now, capable of calm rational decisions, no longer fixated on making me pay for the crime of doing what I felt best even though it split from him… I cannot keep myself from ceasing to breathe in his presence, as if my body reverts to its last state when it was with him. I only see him in court. And recently I had to sit next to him on a bench in a courthouse. I thought I’d “gotten over” the attack. The nightmares had stopped. I’d hit what I considered high-functioning, forward-thinking status again. But it was all I could do to manage my fear. I counted the guards in the hallway. I reasoned that he didn’t appear to be manic. He didn’t seem so out of it as to attack me in such a public place. My brain believed I was safe. My limbic system did not. My heart was racing, pounding in my ears. My body went rigid, my legs heavy and wobbly at the same time. My palms were sweaty. This was my reaction to the man I’d given my heart to and thought I’d be with for the rest of my life .

So no, Daddy cannot just come here to pick you up, not now, no matter how inconvenient this other setup is. But I’ll have to do something because as we move forward to some sort of detente, we might move to a setup without court intervention and I know there will be the inevitable question “Why can’t Daddy come home?” And I have a feeling that I’ll be the only one standing in the way of that. I will have to play the heavy telling my kids they can’t have the thing they want the most. They will have their dad. He just can’t have me anymore.