** This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as shared with me by a friend who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
My friend and I had been neighbors for over 11 years. I was there the day she, her husband, and their children moved into the house next to me. We became fast friends and enjoyed spending time together and watching our children play together.
It came as no great shock when my friend's husband and she divorced. He had been cheating on her for years, and she finally had the evidence she felt she needed to file for a divorce. When the divorce was final, it was time for visitation to begin with her children and her ex-husband.
Her ex-husband had moved from the very small town where my friend and her children remained to a large metropolis. Her children weren’t familiar with this large metropolis, and they were just beginning to navigate visiting their father without their mother nearby.
The first time the children visited their father, it was very stressful for them to be away from their mother overnight. However, their mother had done all that she could to prepare them for this visit. She’d ensured that the child that required medications understood how and when to take them (she was 12, so old enough to understand), and she made sure to mentally prepare her children for the change in accommodations.
Understanding that her ex-husband lived with 3 other men, she explained to her daughter and son that they would be sharing a bedroom with their father. Although the children were very nervous, they understood that they would have to share the bedroom on cots with sleeping bags, and they assured their mother that they would be fine.
Upon arrival, the children were introduced to the 3 men who were his roommates. One man, in particular, paid too much attention to the 12-year-old daughter, making her extremely nervous. After sharing a pizza with their father’s roommates, the roommates dispersed to go and do their own thing, and the children and their father played a board game.
Suddenly, during the board game, their father’s phone rang; he grabbed the phone and ran to the bathroom shutting the door behind him. The 12-year-old daughter overhead him make arrangements to go and meet up with someone. She knew it was a woman because she could hear her voice when she laughed.
When their father came out of the bathroom, he told the children that he was going to go for a walk. The children asked if they could come along, and he refused. He assured them that he would be back in 20 minutes.
He then left them alone in the house with his 3 roommates. He didn’t tell his roommates that he was leaving; he just left. At this point in time, the roommate that made the daughter nervous appeared in the living room and asked the children where their father was.
Thinking quickly, the daughter told him in his room and said they were just headed into the room with him. She grabbed her 7-year-old brother's hand, and they went into the room and shut the door. The 12-year-old girl then told her brother to hide underneath of the bed, and she pushed a lot of furniture against the door. She, too, hid underneath the bed after she pushed furnishings against the door. She then picked up the cell phone her mother had given her for emergencies and called her father. He didn’t answer. It had now been nearly an hour since he left, and he had promised he would be back in 20 minutes.
For some reason, the daughter didn’t call her mother at this point; had she done so, her mother would have dropped everything and gone to retrieve the children. The father returned about 3 hours later, and when the daughter heard him enter the house, she removed the things against the door.
She asked him why he didn’t answer the phone, and he pretended that he didn’t hear it. The children were returned to their mother 2 days later, at which point they told their mother what had happened. The mother, furious, called her attorney and refused to send the children back to her ex-husband for 3 months.
Before the courts allowed the children to return to his house, he had to agree that he wouldn’t leave them alone with strangers ever again. The court ordered the mother to resume visitation, or she would have to go to jail for contempt of court. She seriously considered this; however, she knew that this action would give her ex-husband the upper hand, so she dutifully drove the children to his new home.
This time, he had moved and was sharing an apartment with a woman. The visit went much smoother this time. My friend had also instructed her daughter to call her if there were any issues. My friend also went a step further and had her daughter text her a few times daily to ensure their safety. It’s sad that a grown man would instill fear in children like this man did.
Today, the daughter is an adult and has no interaction with her father. Although she tried some counseling sessions with her father, they didn’t go well. She is in contact with her mother and her siblings but avoids her father like the plague. What would you have done if it were you?