Tuesday, December 2, 2014

He Spent Compulsively, Had No Friends, and Shot his Dog in the Head

I know I haven't blogged in awhile. I don't really know why...other than to say that writing about these things can be emotionally exhausting. So I avoid. But I've thought of a few things recently, so I find myself back here.

Compulsive online shopping. When I talk about the financial abuse aspect of my story, I tend to forget about his compulsive online shopping habit. I always mention about the expensive gifts he gave me right from the start, as well as the vacations and the shopping sprees. But the fact is, the guy spent tons and tons of money online. On Amazon, in particular. He had Amazon Prime and seemed to get a rush from spending money and knowing his purchases would arrive in two days. I don't think I can even itemize all the stuff he bought. Shoes, household goods, absolutely random items, multiple purchases of the same thing if it was a good deal...to "give as presents" to people. I'm telling you, the UPS truck was in front of our house every. single. day. with boxes and boxes of stuff.

Should this have been a red flag? Uh YEAH! Sociopaths need a rush to fill the void. Spending sprees are a rush; we all get them and call it "retail therapy." That's normal. This was not. I couldn't understand the amount of purchasing.

At one time, I had diamond solitaire earrings, a 2-carat engagement ring, a diamond wedding band, a 3-stone diamond ring and a 2-carat diamond solitaire necklace. (He took all those and pawned them when we broke up, of course.) And those were just the diamonds. I had tons of jewelry in 2 very short years.

I know from him that he'd bought lots of expensive jewelry for his ex before me, as well. When the shit hit the fan with them, in what sounds like a similar fashion to how our marriage imploded, she came back to the house with cops and he hadn't hidden the jewelry yet...so she took what was rightfully hers when she left. He complained about that. Often. He stalked her online and pointed out to me pictures where she was wearing "his jewelry." It bothered him so much that she was wearing the jewelry he gave her. He really viewed it as his. He wasn't going to make that same mistake with me...and he didn't.

Anyway, point being, he spent a LOT of money. And because he refused to share bank accounts, I never really knew where all the money came from for this stuff. Surely a captain's salary in the military couldn't fund all this stuff. I'll likely never know the true story behind his finances. Although not much shocks me anymore when it comes to him, I'm thinking the shadiness behind the finances probably would.

No friends/not close with family. This is probably one of THE biggest red flags for me right now. If a guy doesn't have any friends? Not close with his family? Run. There's something wrong if he's got no friends. There's something wrong if he doesn't talk to or particularly like his family. Normal, well-balanced people develop and nurture relationships. We crave closeness with people--and beyond just the person we're in an intimate relationship with.

He had one friend. Okay two. One was a guy he met probably two years before me, at his previous Air Force base, but who was then stationed across the country in California. Another was a female lieutenant in his current unit (remember: I wasn't allowed to have male friends; but I was expected to accept and befriend her, which I did). He'd lived overseas early in his military career, then was in the Midwest from the early '90s to about 2006. You mean to tell me in all those years, there were NO friendships formed. Deep bonds from military life? From the years he was in college? Those were the only two and very recent?

Not normal.

He was estranged from his father. He claimed it was because his father loved his ex-wife and was upset he had fucked it up. So they weren't on speaking terms when we met. His mother did call and he did call her once in awhile, but trips from DC to NJ where she lived were infrequent and he often didn't want to stay long and even overnight. He didn't talk to his two older brothers.

He essentially was alone in the world.

Not normal.

He shot his dog in the head. I just remembered this one. He told me his Vizsla dog he had in the '90s had gotten old and sick. The dog didn't like to go in the car as it was, but he was taking it to the vet to be put down. The dog, probably sensing what was going on, became aggressive about getting in. So instead of figuring out a peaceful way to handle the situation, he takes the dog out in the woods and shoots it in the head. WHO DOES THAT???!?!?!?!

Not normal. Not normal at all.

That, my friends, is a sociopath.


Monday, September 22, 2014

A Rant to Victim-Blamers about Victim-Blaming

Unless you've been under a rock the past several weeks, you've probably seen the video. You know the one. Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée Janay. We finally saw what happened inside that elevator--the truth wasn't surprising. Sadly, I had been arguing for weeks on social media with men AND women who wanted to believe all sorts of alternatives about how Janay's lifeless body wound up being dragged out by the man she loves.

When the first video tape came out--the one where she was dragged, before the actual knock out was released--I heard many iterations of the following:
  • She probably attacked him so he defended himself
  • If she's gonna come after a running back, that's what she gets--it's his job
  • They were both drunk
  • If he was drunk, he didn't know what he was doing
  • If she was drunk, she went crazy
  • Maybe he shoved her and she hit her head
  • Bitch was probably drunk and fell and hit her head
  • Bitch married him anyway--clearly wants the money
  • Bitch married him anyway--she must like getting beat
  • Bitch married him anyway--she must be stupid
  • Bitch married him anyway--she deserves it
And then, when the knock out video was released, it was similar victim-blaming, but more along the lines of "bitch married him, wants the paycheck," "bitch married him, she's stupid," etc.

I'm coming to the realization that in 2014, women continue to be treated as second-class citizens in this society. Hell, I had a friend message me on Facebook after hearing a poll on the radio that said more listeners thought ANIMAL abuse was wrong than intimate partner abuse. Hey, I love animals just as much as the next person but...really?!?...it's more ok for a woman (in most cases, it's a woman)--a human being--to be abused than an animal?

I've had to step away from many online arguments over this, if only for mental self-preservation. Many people really are this ignorant about domestic violence. And they'll say these things with so much self-perceived knowledge...as if they KNOW what it's like.

Let me tell you: you have NO IDEA what it's like unless you go through it.

Take a step back and really think this through. Do you REALLY think a woman WANTS to get beat? That she likes having black eyes and bruises and physical pain? That she deserves to be harmed at the hands of the man she loves?! And make NO mistake about it...she does love him. That's only one of the probably 50+ reasons she has for staying with his sorry ass. Because guess what? He has already sucked her in and made her fall in love with him BEFORE the abuse starts!

Don't you people understand that?! It's not like these men fly their abuser flag for all to see! ESPECIALLY when they're trying to win over their next target.

Abusers LIVE for the pursuit and know exactly how to play the game. And that's what is it...a game. Win her and get control over her. Meanwhile, victims are falling in love because we're told how amazing we are, never met anyone like us, we're an upgrade from their ex, they can see themselves growing old with us, all they want is a long life of happiness with us, they'll take care of us, they'll take care of our kids if we're coming into the relationship with them, they'll give us the life we've dreamed of, we're just so beautiful and kind and good and blah blah blah blah blaaaaahhhhhhhhh. They've been waiting their whole lives for someone just. like. us.

So okay, to all you men who want to blame us...maybe YOU are the problem. Maybe YOU see too many behaviors in descriptions of abusers that hit a little too close to home; maybe you fear you might just be one. Ever thought of that? Why in God's name would you blame a woman for a man beating her or abusing her in any way at all? Would you want that for your sister? Your mother? Your cousin? Your close female friends? Because I'm sure they're not all stupid women, right? But guess what boys...it CAN happen to the women you love. No one is immune. So quit blaming the gender you're supposed to be so enamored by and give us a break and help us out a little. Have our backs! Talk to your asshole controlling friends--you know who they are and you know you have them--and tell them to knock it off! Call them out on it!

And I have so very much to say to the women who victim-blame other women. I got into it with one lady who claimed to know so much about DV victims because she'd worked with them back in the mid-80s. I didn't tell her I was a survivor for a little bit, and then dropped the bomb that I'm a DV and gun violence survivor--and recently. Not from 30 years ago. It shut her up. But I hate to even have to pull that credential. I couldn't sway her with anything I said prior.

See, she thought she knew better. SO many women who haven't been abused think they know. "I wouldn't put up with that shit. I'd leave right away." "I'm not weak." "I'm not stupid." I've met countless survivors as a result of my journey and I'm here to tell you: they are some of THE strongest, smartest women I know. NONE fit the stereotype of weak victim. They're sassy and feisty, funny, educated. Drop dead gorgeous. We're just like any of you who have had the good luck not to have met an abusive man. AND let's not forget: abuse is more than physical only. There's emotional, mental, financial, sexual. Just because you're not getting beaten doesn't mean you've never been abused in any way--and if you haven't, you don't know how lucky you are. It's 1 in 4, ladies, 1 in 4.

I swear I will not stop until this victim-blaming crap ends. What about ABUSERS?! Why in the world are victims being blamed for the horrendous actions of abusers? THEY need to be held accountable and much stronger consequences must happen.

This is insanity. Please share this blog with anyone in your life who really needs to be TOLD about victim-blaming. It has to stop.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I'm Angry. Really REALLY Angry.

I was challenged by a good friend on Facebook to do the 7 days of being grateful thing, or whatever it's called, but today I'm struggling. I feel very angry. I think I'll pour out all the anger here, as I never have before, and start the grateful challenge tomorrow.

I'm angry.
I'm angry that he tricked me.
I'm angry that I fell for his bullshit.
I'm angry that his words of love and affection meant nothing.
I'm angry that I fell in love but was only a pawn to him in some sick game.
I'm angry that I trusted him.
I'm angry that I was so naïve and stupid.
I'm angry I gave my heart to him.
I'm angry I envisioned this perfect life with this "perfect" guy and ignored his fucked up behavior.
I'm angry I allowed myself to so blindly follow his toxic and poisonous influence.
I'm angry that I was able to be manipulated by material things and empty promises.
I'm angry that I was able to be manipulated into RUINING relationships that mattered to me--and will probably never, ever get back.
I'm angry that he drove a wedge between me and my older son.
I'm angry that he controlled me.
I'm angry that I didn't know about emotional abuse and red flags.
I'm angry that I didn't know about sociopaths aside from what I saw in movies.
I'm angry that he exposed me to living with a husband who was addicted to pills.
I'm angry he was so psychotic that he drugged me.
I'm angry that HE imploded our marriage.
I'm angry that he blamed ME for the destruction of our marriage and family.

I'm angry that he destroyed me financially and it'll take years to crawl out of it.
I'm angry that he was able to play the system for so long.
I'm angry my family and I lost thousands upon thousands of dollars in legal divorce fees trying to pry me from his grip.
I'm angry that those who were in positions to protect us bought his complete bullshit.
I'm angry that police were so cynical about judicial [lack of] consequences that they wouldn't arrest him.
I'm angry that judges and magistrates continually gave him the benefit of the doubt.
I'm angry that I was viewed as the hysterical and dramatic wife--even though it was all based on being traumatized.
I'm angry that I was helpless to protect myself and my family.
I'm angry that he decided to do the ultimate in control--decided whether I lived or died.
I'm angry that he nearly killed my father who never once threatened him.
I'm angry that he didn't give enough of a shit about his own son that he would shoot through a door behind which he was standing.
I'm angry that he almost wiped out THREE generations of the Ranta family.
I'm angry that he was smart enough to know how to surrender without being killed.
I'm angry he didn't at least have the courtesy to turn the gun on himself.

I'm angry that because he's a sociopath, he likely isn't miserable in jail but is probably thriving in that environment among criminals that he can use and manipulate.
I'm angry he still gets his military pension and disability and can pay huge defense expenses as a result.
I'm angry that he and his slimebag lawyer collect $2500/mo in rent for our house, which should be in foreclosure but isn't.
I'm angry that I don't see a dime, and nobody can seem to figure this out or help me.
I'm angry the bank has done nothing about that, so that money goes directly to his defense.
I'm angry that he will NEVER plead guilty and not drag us through a trial.
I'm angry that he has more rights than we do as victims.

I'm angry that I now know about gun violence.
I'm angry that I live with PTSD and triggers.
I'm angry that I don't trust men--at all--and may not ever again.
I'm angry that I spook so easily.
I'm angry he subjected our son to blood and gore and trauma--things NO child should have to see, ESPECIALLY at the hands of his own father.
I'm angry that my hand is numb.
I'm angry that my father's hand is numb.
I'm angry that my family was exposed to the horror of abuse because of him--both before and after the shooting.
I'm angry because of the hate I feel inside.
I'm angry because of the turmoil I feel inside.
I'm angry to have lost the old me--that's part of the grieving process, too.
I'm angry for the loss of innocence.

I'm angry that good people I know and love are going through hardships, especially health-wise, and a demonic subhuman like him gets to live.

I'm angry that he's still alive.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Guest Blogger! The Beginning—​Red Flags

I'm welcoming guest blogs by family and friends who know me best! My first guest blogger is my dear friend, Kaysha, who wanted to share her thoughts and feelings about what she saw early on in my relationship with Tom. We texted yesterday after she emailed me her blog, and the one thing that sticks with me is that she, too, felt some of his behaviors were "off" and bizarre--but emotional abuse is tough to see. I'm so touched that she took the time to write this. It did bring me to tears, yet helps me so much. Thank you, Kaysha, and love you tons!
I am one of Kate's good friend's from D.C. We met each other at work about 15 or so years ago (eek, that long ago?). 
Kaysha and her daughter, Vivienne, and their dog, Zoe
I was friends with her when she was dating her ex-husband, when she was pregnant with her first child (in fact, I threw her a baby shower for him), and then the end of that marriage. We spent 9/11 together at my house, amongst many other of our good friends. Kate always speaks her mind, has a fantastic sense of humor, makes friends easily, never puts up with bullshit, and stands up for her friends and for what she believes is right. She is one of my closest friends, although geography has gotten in the way of how often we see one another.
Just a little background about me, I feel that this is quite relevant to what happened with Kate. For a few years, as a child, my mother was married to a man who was physically, mentally, and financially abusive to her. I witnessed a lot of this abuse from the time I was 5 until I was 9 (as I lived with them at the time), when my mother finally left her abuser. 
I watched her go to work wearing sunglasses, with apparently no one noticing the black eyes, or, more likely, no one having the bravery to mention it and ask if she needed help. Each payday my mother surrendered both her paycheck and checkbook to my stepfather (along with her car keys). We literally lived in a log cabin at the end of a mile or more long driveway so that we could be isolated from our family, friends, and even neighbors. If my mother wanted to drive the car and/or buy something, she had to ask my stepfather for permission and had to have proof and very good reasons to back such expeditions up. 
I witnessed much of the physical abuse (the log cabin was only one room, hard to miss anything there). I remember one night (before we lived in the log cabin) being woken up by my trembling 80 pound dog as my stepfather screamed and hacked his way into their locked bedroom door with a knife. My dog and I silently tip-toed back to my room and shut the door as quietly as possible and lay there the rest of the night hoping that he wouldn't try to come into my room. Anyway, my mother finally found the courage to leave him, and luckily she had a supportive family that we were able to live with until she could get back on to her feet.
I first met Tom the day of my baby shower. Kate was one of the hostesses for my shower. Everyone was atwitter about him. You see, it was a male/female baby shower, but it was exactly one week after Kate and Tom's first date. What kind of guy willingly goes to a baby shower for someone he doesn't even know? Many people were asking this, and the answers varied from "A great guy" to "A guy with no life." No one thought it was a red flag, but it certainly was unusual. I didn't realize then that that was also the last time I would see Kate without Tom until she finally left him. This is really important to point out. From that day on, I never saw Kate without Tom. No girls' nights out, nothing.
I think another thing about Tom that put people off was his teeth. He was very handsome, but his teeth were unnaturally blindingly white. It was weird. It put me off, but again, it was something that was hard to say made him a bad choice for Kate. Again, he was handsome, and maybe his (unnaturally) white teeth made him even more so to Kate. It seemed a bit odd to me that a man would spend so much energy on his looks, but who knows, maybe they were naturally that white? No way in hell.
Things moved pretty quickly with Tom and Kate. Again, Kate is a passionate person, so although I felt a little concern for how quickly things moved, I didn't really think it was a red flag. Kate was a single mom and met this guy who seemed totally into her, so why not let her enjoy that? She deserved to be loved. And she was no pushover, she always stood up for herself.
When Tom had his motorcycle accident, I went to visit them at the hospital. Let me say at this point, this is something that I did as Kate's friend. As far as Tom goes, I had been around him and Kate several times at this point, but felt no affinity towards him except for that Kate cared for him and I wanted to be there for her. Not that I disliked Tom, but I just never got much of sense from him at all. I am a very warm, friendly, huggy person, almost to a fault the person who likes to give people the benefit of the doubt. I didn't have misgivings about him, but I felt no warmth. And I certainly noticed that I seemed to be one of very few people that actually visited Tom when he was in the hospital. Also, Kate and I took a walk at some point and that is when she told me that he had a bad reaction to his meds and snapped and yelled at her. I remember asking her how that was possible. I had heard about people having allergic reactions to meds, but never getting mean on them. I even remember going home and doing a rudimentary Google on it and coming up with a page similar to this:

Again, I felt like I should mention this again to Kate, but she was so happy with him, and then BAM, before I got a chance, she called me and told me that he asked her to marry him in the hospital.
Again, red flags popped up everywhere in my head. Why in the hospital? So unromantic really, I mean he asked her to get the ring and bring it to him. And why so quickly? Why couldn't he wait till he healed at least and really surprise her and maybe get down on his knees?
I go over these feelings I have and others that I plan to share later, and I feel like I let Kate down as a friend. I saw these things but didn't share them with her because I didn't want to rain on her parade. Also, not only did I fail Kate as a friend, but it made me question myself and tendencies to give people the benefit of the doubt, over and over again. In the past it has mostly affected only me, and nothing so painful as this (the worst I can think of that happened to me was my $5,000 boyfriend, but that's a whole other story that has to do with me losing only a little pride and a lot of money). But after this I want to make a promise to myself and my friends that I will be more truthful and look out for red flags and call them as I see them. 
I promise myself and my friends that when I have a gut feeling or see red flags, I will react (when it has to do with myself) and I will share my concerns (when it has to do with my friends). That is what friends are for (and I deserve that as well). I don't know how Kate would have reacted had I shared my concerns at the time, but I know she would have continued to be my friend, and if there is the slightest possibility that by having that conversation, Kate would have gone in a different direction, away from that man, then it would have been well worth it. We'll never know.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Time When He Showed My Son the Gun

I want to talk about the guns.

He grew up around them. His father put guns in his hands at a very young age. There's a picture of him at around age 3-4 holding a dead duck by the neck. The duck was about as big as he was. Many parents in this country do these things--put guns in their kids' hands. We see how well that goes, what with a 9-year-old girl accidentally shooting her instructor with an Uzi. What could possibly go wrong when putting weapons of death into young hands?

Okay, I digress. I have strong opinions that I'm not going to get into here. The focus is on him.

So yes, he knew his way around guns. He hunted as a young boy, he shot skeet, he enlisted in the military out of high school, so was around them constantly as an adult. He knew how to put them together and take them apart, of course, as part of his training.

When I met him, he had more guns than I've ever seen in my life. Well, I guess I'd never really seen guns in anyone's home before; we never had guns in my home growing up, and I don't recall seeing guns in any friends' homes either. I'm assuming if there were any, they were put away and out of sight. He had a glass display cabinet full of hunting rifles. He also showed me his shot guns and hand guns. He was a bachelor at the time, no kids, so none of them were locked or stored safely.

There was a shot gun under the bed.

I didn't like all those guns, but in all honesty, given what he told me about his history with guns and with the understanding that he was military and guns are part of their culture, I accepted it. I didn't like it, but I accepted it as a part of being with him.

Obviously when I was moving in with my young child, I requested that he get trigger locks for the guns that weren't in the display case. He did, but wasn't happy about it. He didn't like the idea that he'd have to struggle with a lock should an intruder come in. I'll give him credit though; he did do research on various trigger locks and gun safes in order to store them safely yet still be able to access them quickly. I know one of the safes was a quick combo and one required a fingerprint to open.

I give him the credit, but now I'll take it away. Because those locks didn't remain on the guns. He took them all off eventually.

There's no controlling a sociopath.

He'd clean them in front of me. He thought it was funny to play with the laser on the hand guns. He knew I hated the guns, yet was always asking me if I wanted to hold them. He informed me that he'd be teaching our son to shoot--and know his way around guns--for his safety. He said he'd start teaching him by age 5. I really didn't have a choice in that matter. I did feel helpless.

Fast forward to early 2012. He had left Florida again to go back up to the DC area. I was moving back into our house. The photo below shows what he left behind in our bedside table for me to find.

All his guns had been seized a year earlier by the police when I was granted the original restraining order.

Yes, that's KY Jelly. I guess he wanted me to think he was banging someone in our bed. But he also wanted me to know he was armed again.

Now fast forward to September 2012. After he had gained back unsupervised visits, he had my son for visitation at a condo where he was renting a room.

My son re-told this story to me yesterday. He's a little older now and is able to tell more details. He said Tom showed him his gun at that condo. He said Tom told him that he was going to teach him how to shoot it. He said he didn't touch the gun, but that he felt scared something would happen.

He said it was the same gun Tom used to shoot us.

Note: So even though all his weapons were seized, he was still able to legally purchase a new one in the state of Florida. No matter what your stance is on guns in America, I think we can all agree that guns need to be out of the hands of domestic abusers and we need to close loopholes that allow those with abusive pasts to get guns.  

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Want to Talk about Abuse, Trauma and PTSD

Cynics tend to scoff at PTSD. Stuff that goes on in people's brains isn't visible; so it must not be real, right? We must just be making it up...or being overly dramatic...or too sensitive...or seeking attention.

I see comments such as those on social media. They're hurtful. Because I'm here to tell you: PTSD is very, VERY real.

I didn't have it before knowing Thomas Maffei. I wasn't hyper-vigilant about the behavior of men. I didn't scare easily from relationships. I didn't startle easily at loud voices or noises. I didn't flinch at a car backfiring.

I didn't cover my ears and curl up in a ball sobbing when I heard fireworks.

I do now. This past 4th of July, I was sitting alone in my house in the early evening. My kids were at our next door neighbor's/friend's house. We were planning to go to the fireworks in town, but it was raining. I thought it was a good time to relax, have some alone time that I rarely get. I sat back on the couch, stretched out my legs and scrolled through Facebook.

Then I heard POP-POP-POP!! It sounded very close.

Next thing I knew, I had my hands over my ears and I was curled into the corner of the couch in the fetal position. I burst into uncontrollable sobbing. I couldn't breathe.

It's weird. Logically, in my head, I knew I was safe and not back in that apartment with bullets flying through my body. But the pop sounds from fireworks in the neighborhood caught me off-guard and my body reacted. I think it was because 1) I was alone and 2) it was the same number of pops. It took me to that moment of sheer terror--that he really had shot a gun. That I was going to die.

I texted my friend next door and she came over to calm me down. She just kept telling me that I was safe, over and over again. It took a little while but I did settle down.

The worst part about PTSD is that you just never know when or what will trigger you. I didn't expect to be melting down on the 4th of July. I LOVE 4th of July!!! At least I used to. I actually do believe that I can be at a fireworks event and watch them and be ok because my brain understands what it is seeing. The pops from those fireworks were unexpected and I didn't see them--only heard. I'm also triggered by people's behavior, particularly men. Tone of voice is a big one. Being pushy is another one. It's not that I sob every time something triggers me. There are varying degrees. Certain behavior tends to make me put my guard up and go numb. 

I tend to be "heavier" than I used to be.

To my friends, family, acquaintances, and anyone else who knew me pre-shooting: I truly do understand that you miss the "old Kate." I know you want to see me go back to "normal." You want my Facebook posts to go back to funny and lighthearted snippets of my life, my beloved someecards, Onion articles--the humor that made me me. You may not want to see the heavy domestic and gun violence stuff. It's a painful reminder that you almost lost me, and that I'm far from the "old Kate" you once knew.

Please understand that I am healing the best way I know how. I know I'm not the same as I was before the shooting.

I don't know how anyone could possibly be the same after a murder attempt.

I found a great list from Heal My PTSD about understanding those with PTSD. I highly recommend anyone who loves someone who survived trauma to commit this list to memory.

#1 – Knowledge is power. Understanding the process of a triggering event, the psychic reaction to trauma, the warning signs and symptoms of PTSD, and available treatment options for PTSD allows you to help recognize, support and guide your PTSD loved one toward diagnosis, treatment and healing.
We need you to be clearheaded, pulled together and informed.
#2 – Trauma changes us. After trauma we want to believe —as do you—that life can return to the way it was; that we can continue as who we were. This is not how it works. Trauma leaves a huge and indelible impact on the soul. It is not possible to endure trauma and not experience a psychic shift.
Expect us to be changed. Accept our need to evolve. Support us on this journey.
#3 – PTSD hijacks our identity. One of the largest problems with PTSD is that it takes over our entire view of ourselves. We no longer see clearly. We no longer see the world as we experienced it before trauma. Now every moment is dangerous, unpredictable and threatening.
Gently remind us and offer opportunities to engage in an identity outside of trauma and PTSD.
#4 – We are no longer grounded in our true selves. In light of trauma our real selves retreat and a coping self emerges to keep us safe.
Believe in us; our true selves still exist, even if they are momentarily buried.
#5 – We cannot help how we behave. Since we are operating on a sort of autopilot we are not always in control. PTSD is an exaggerated state of survival mode. We experience emotions that frighten and overwhelm us. We act out accordingly in defense of those feelings we cannot control.
Be patient with us; we often cannot stop the anger, tears or other disruptive behaviors that are so difficult for you to endure.
#6 – We cannot be logical. Since our perspective is driven by fear we don’t always think straight, nor do we always accept the advice of those who do.
Keep reaching out, even when your words don’t seem to reach us. You never know when we will think of something you said and it will comfort, guide, soothe or inspire us.
#7 – We cannot just ‘get over it.’ From the outside it’s easy to imagine a certain amount of time passes and memories fade and trauma gets relegated to the history of a life. Unfortunately, with PTSD nothing fades. Our bodies will not let us forget. Because of surging chemicals that reinforce every memory, we cannot walk away from the past anymore than you can walk away from us.
Honor our struggle to make peace with events. Do not rush us. Trying to speed our recovery will only make us cling to it more.
#8 – We’re not in denial—we’re coping! It takes a tremendous effort to live with PTSD. Even if we don’t admit it, we know there’s something wrong. When you approach us and we deny there’s a problem that’s really code for, “I’m doing the best I can.” Taking the actions you suggest would require too much energy, dividing focus from what is holding us together. Sometimes, simply getting up and continuing our daily routine is the biggest step toward recovery we make.
Alleviate our stress by giving us a safe space in which we can find support.
#9 – We do not hate you. Contrary to the ways we might behave when you intervene, somewhere inside we do know that you are not the source of the problem. Unfortunately, in the moment we may use your face as PTSD’s image. Since we cannot directly address our PTSD issues sometimes it’s easier to address you.
Continue to approach us. We need you to!
#10 - Your presence matters. PTSD creates a great sense of isolation. In our post-traumatic state, it makes a difference to know that there are people who will stand by us. It matters that although we lash out, don’t respond and are not ourselves, you are still there, no matter what.
Don’t give up, we’re doing our best.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Time When His Father Called Him a Sociopath

Oh how I wish I had the email his father sent him in the first several months I knew him.

He had already told me about his strained/non-existent relationship with his father, who lived in some extremely remote area in South Dakota. He said his father loved his ex-wife before me and blamed him for it ending. The indication was that his father was a flirt and thought his ex-wife was attractive--which I found disturbing, obviously. He told me that he'd tried to tell his father about how abusive she was, about how she'd thrown a wine bottle at him and broken his ribs, how she'd stomped on his foot and broken toes. He said he'd even sent his father the hospital record to prove it. But his father believed she was provoked somehow and that he was at fault, that he deserved her abuse.

After he met me, he said he'd had a rare conversation with his father, that he told him about me. The father didn't approve, however, because I had a child. His father had called me used goods. He thought his son could do better, and should try to get his ex-wife back. Clearly I wasn't on his level or caliber, having had a child with another man. This was something to be looked down upon.

I was incensed. This man didn't know me! Who the hell was he to look down his nose at me? Parents of guys I'd dated always loved me! To be written off like that without so much as a conversation was hurtful. And, it wasn't anything I'd ever seen before. My parents have always been warm and welcoming to those I'd dated. I just didn't get it.

Then he told me about his father.

He had been a pilot in the Air Force. Then he flew for American Airlines. He was a ladies man. He cheated on his wife, my ex's mother, more than once. He was degrading and belittling to her. He eventually left her for a younger flight attendant whom he married and also degraded and belittled. He was aggressive and horrible to his two older sons...but supposedly never to my ex, his youngest son. But my ex saw how he treated his family and others in his life. He saw him lose good friends and alienate this family.

It was never clear whether there was physical abuse to my ex's mother, or to the younger flight attendant, or to the brothers. But it was clear that at the very least, emotional abuse was rampant. Although it was never called that either.

It was just that his father was a raging asshole. The term abuse was never used.

My ex said he wasn't like his father. He said his sensibilities and sensitivity were much more like his mother. That he was docile and kind and nurturing. Like her.

I believed him.

Back to the sociopath email. At some point within the first several months--after the phone conversation where his father had rejected me--he showed me an email he had sent his father. He went to bat for me. He stood up for me against this man who had just strong opinions about a woman with a child who was dating his son.

The father called him manipulative. Divisive. A person who does things for others only as a means to get something in return. A person without conscience and empathy. A user. He said he wanted nothing to do with him.

He was describing his son as a sociopath.

You know what? My ex called the email PROJECTION--that his father was calling him those things because that's what HE really was.

Remembering that email makes my head hurt.

Was the father really abusive? Did things really happen the way I was told they did? My ex certainly emulated his father, often bragged about his professional achievements and personal conquests. So is the father a sociopath, too, and his son followed in his footsteps?

My guess? Yes. Absolutely.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Time When He Got Me to Remove My Signature Mole

You know how Cindy Crawford has a signature mole? Well, I had one, too. It was on the side of my nose. I actually always liked it. I thought it gave my face some character. It wasn't outrageously large or anything. In fact, when I lived in LA in mid-90s, I had head shots done; the photographer actually enhanced it. He said it was a cool feature on my face.

Not according to my ex.

Very early on, he asked me if I ever thought about having the mole on my nose removed, as well as two on my left breast. I'd had a passing thought about the ones on my breast because they were visible when I wore a bikini (sigh...vanity), but I liked the one on my nose. I told him so.

He told me that my face was so beautiful, but all his eyes focused on was the mole. And what a shame that was. He indicated that I would be much prettier if I had it removed.

"I had so many moles on my face. I had a bunch removed," he said. "It's no big deal and looks so much better."

As for the ones on my breast...he pretty much told me that they were unsightly. Very unattractive. That at the very least, if I didn't get the one on my nose removed, I should definitely get the ones on my breast lopped off. He encouraged me to make an appointment with a dermatologist to consult about it.

I did. My ex went with me.

The doctor said there was no real medical reason to remove the moles. That they weren't of concern from a skin cancer perspective. But, he said if I wanted them removed, he could do it. I told him I was leaning toward having the two on my breast taken off, but was unsure about the one on my nose. My ex piped up, asking how difficult it would be to remove. The doctor said that because of it's location (not a lot of skin), there was a chance for a noticeable scar, so it was up to me if I would be happier with a scar than a mole.

My ex started in. A small scar would be better. My face would look so much prettier without the mole. It was so distracting. And so on and so on.

Needless to say, I agreed.

The moles were removed about a week later. He came with me. The two on the breast were no big deal. The one on my nose? I almost passed out. It hurt so badly. I could feel the removal and the stitches pulling through. I had tears going down my face. A piece of me was literally being removed and I wished I could stop it but it was too late.

We went on vacation to a resort in Mexico not too long after the mole removal.  The small scar that I "might have" on my nose? Try a gaping hole as it healed. The stitches opened up and a wide scar formed. It took a long time to look normal.

See for yourselves.

Control. It was all about control. Sometimes I wonder how much of it was to see what he could get me to do. How far he could push the requests/demands and how much I would bend. Encouraging me to remove moles so I'd be prettier?! How outrageous is that?!

I read something about abusers/narcissists/sociopaths not too long ago. It said that these people are so charming, so attractive, so dynamic, you just want them to like you. I know that's part of what it was. I just wanted him to like me. I was mesmerized, I was blind, I was smitten.

I wanted to be everything to him, even if that meant making changes to me. I didn't understand yet that I'd never be enough. Because people like my ex suck the life out of you. You twist yourself up in a pretzel to please them, but they're never satisfied.

They are emotional vampires.

And now I have a scar where my pretty mole once was. It's kind of a metaphor actually. I also have internal scars as a result of this relationship--scars on my heart and mind that won't ever be what they once were. 

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Time When He Evaluated My Private Parts

This is embarrassing and so super personal and beyond mortifying, and some may not agree with this level of detail, but <throws hands up in air> here it goes. This is my blog and my story.

He made me feel insecure about a very, VERY private thing: my body.

I'll never in my life forget where I was and how I felt when this was said to me.

I was standing in his room, near the dresser. I had just showered and was wearing a robe. I'd untied the robe, with the intention of getting dressed, so it was hanging open. He was standing in the doorway to the bathroom, looking at me.

"Has it always looked like that?" he asked, his eyes on my lower half.

I didn't understand what he was talking about at first. I thought he meant my stomach.

"Well, I mean it has never been perfect but there's a little extra skin after being pregnant..."

"No. I mean your vajayjay," he said. He always called it that. It was super creepy and super gross.

I. wanted. to. die.

I felt my face get hot. "What do you mean?!"

He shrugged. "I dunno. It just looks...different...from other women's I've seen. I figured it looks like that because you've had a baby."

I just blinked, dumbfounded. He wasn't the first man I'd dated in the three years after my divorce and meeting him. I hadn't heard anything like this before.

Was I hearing this correctly?!?

"I...I'm not really sure what you mean..." I stammered.

"It just looks different. I can tell you've had a baby just by looking at it. It feels different, too. I can definitely tell the difference between women who haven't had a baby, like my ex, and you." He said this in a glib and cavalier way.

I remember looking down at myself and feeling so...mortified. I told him that I looked the same now as I did before I had my son, and that I'd never had any other similar comments before him--only that I knew that everyone's bodies are different and no one looks the same.

"Yeah...but I can tell you've had a baby. There's a big difference between women who haven't given birth and women who have. You got really torn up!" He said this with pity.

As if my son had done this to me.


I can honestly say that I've never felt more unattractive in my life. I don't clearly remember how the conversation ended. I think I just shrugged it off or changed the subject. But inside I wanted to curl up in a ball.

Of course now I know what this sociopath was doing. By making me feel insecure about a very intimate area, he was trying to make me feel grateful that he was willing to be with me despite this egregious flaw.

When I was pregnant with our child, he asked the OB/Gyn if I could have an extra stitch after the birth. He asked that more than once.

Such evil. I was faced with such evil and I didn't even know it.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Time When He Made Me Lose My Male Friends

The damage he caused in my co-parenting relationship--due to jealousy and control issues--was bad. But, he also didn't want me to have any male friends in general.

He couched it in "protectiveness" with manipulative compliments. That he "knew how men thought." That I was "so hot and so nice" he didn't want me to be taken advantage of. That men "just want to fuck."

He told me a story about a conversation his father purportedly had with him and his ex-wife when they were first dating, encouraging them both to not have friends of the opposite sex. That it just leads to trouble. That there's no reason to have friends of the opposite sex once you're in a relationship. That it only makes your partner feel uncomfortable and threatened.

I remember telling him that I didn't think that made much sense. I argued that it didn't matter if every male friend I had wanted to get in my pants--I have a say in whether that happens or not. And I certainly didn't have that sort of interest in my male friends, so what was the big deal? Relationships are about trust. I told him I trusted him.

After all, his "best friend" was a female.

That's right. His best friend was a female whom I embraced from the very start, and by whom I did not feel threatened. I didn't insist that we not hang out with her, that he not text her or communicate with her. However, I was not afforded the same level of trust and respect.

He "urged" me to take down my Myspace profile. I did it. I wanted to prove my loyalty to him. I thought maybe if I did that, he'd see how serious I was about him. But that wasn't enough. He wanted to see my emails. He wanted to know if any man at any time contacted me.

One time not too long after I'd moved in, I was bathing my son and had left my email account open. I had nothing to hide. I didn't even think twice about it. Suddenly he appeared in the bathroom.

"Who is Alex Brady*?" he asked.

"A former co-worker and friend...why?"

"You had lunch with him the week after we met? Did you fuck him?" he demanded.

"No! He's married! I've known him since like 1998!"

"Why didn't you tell me about this 'lunch?'" He made those air quotes, as if I wasn't telling the truth.

"I don't know! You and I had just met. There was nothing to tell!"

"I don't want you talking to him. If he's married, he definitely wants to fuck you. If he contacts you again, I want to know."

The conversation didn't end there. He could never just let it drop. He made little comments about Alex for months afterward. Wanted to know details about what I knew about this guy and his life. He'd ask me many different ways about whether anything physical had ever happened. I had a guilty feeling over something that had never happened!

It really is the most frustrating feeling in the world to be accused of something you didn't do. I truly felt that he didn't believe me that I hadn't slept with this guy.

And, actually, Alex did email me subsequently. But you know what? I did NOT tell him about it. I deleted the email, and then deleted it out of my trash. That's how it went. I knew an email would create an "issue" between us, so it was easier to just delete. I was asked often if I'd received any communications from men. I always said no.

Eventually I gave him the passwords to my email accounts, thinking that would prove I loved him and only him and had nothing to hide.

No amount of reassurance was ever...I mean EVER...enough. Not ever.

*Real name has been changed.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why I Feel like an Asshole

I need to get this out there. I can't bottle it in anymore.

I feel like an asshole. I really do.

My life has been destroyed. Financially, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. My children's lives have been forever affected. They have their own struggles/issues now, which will likely impact their adulthoods as a direct result of this. My family is traumatized. There is steaming wreckage all around me.

I'm not sure that I fully forgive myself--or how I ever can. I'm not looking for pity or reassurance. I'm just being real.

I re-read my blog entries. On what planet was I living that these things were happening and I didn't run?

I've read about abuse. I've read about sociopaths. I've talked with therapists. I've talked with fellow survivors. I understand how I got pulled in and tricked by a very cunning and "talented" abusive sociopath.

But what was going on with me internally at that time that made me so lethally vulnerable to a predator like him? How incredibly low must my self-worth and self-esteem have been? How did I allow a man to so easily and swiftly gain control over my life?!

I want to say that I wasn't a stupid or weak person but...maybe I was. Because it was incredibly naïve of me to believe that no one would ever intentionally bring harm to me. But I think on some level I actually thought I was exempt from that somehow. Because I'm a good person who wouldn't want to intentionally and systematically destroy someone else's life, that also couldn't happen to me.

Besides, I know a "bad guy" when I meet him. Right? Bad guys are very obvious. They wear their assholeishness on their sleeves and I don't put up with bullshit anyway...

I guess what it comes down to is this: I was vulnerable because I had succeeded in everything else in my life except romantic relationships. I had an established editorial career at that point, good mommy, lots of friends, close with my family. But I had two failed marriages. I'd married and divorced my college sweetheart in my 20s, married and divorced my older son's father in my early- to mid-30s. I never took a breath to say maybe I needed to be on my own for awhile and not define myself by a man/relationship/marriage. Those divorces were tough, for different reasons. But I wasn't taking time to figure out why they didn't work, or to fully heal from them.

I was focused on the fact that I'd failed--and on not failing again.

And not failing again meant finding the perfect guy and having a successful relationship.

So maybe--secretly--I went on Match to find a husband. Maybe--secretly--I didn't like being alone.

Maybe, actually definitely, those reasons combined made me vulnerable to him. It's like wearing blinders. I saw what I wanted to see. Deep down, very deep, I do believe I recognized all those early behaviors as odd. But it wasn't enough to make me run. No. Because the package was so perfect. He was exactly what I was looking for.

What could go wrong?

Yes. I feel like an asshole.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Time When He Targeted My Co-Parenting Relationship

I'd been divorced for about three years before I met him. My ex, my older son's father, and I had gotten to a pretty decent place during that time where we were successfully co-parenting. We had taken him to a few monster truck shows together, sometimes had dinner together with him, and communicated about him in effective and positive ways. I'm not saying there was never conflict, but we had worked hard to get to that place.

Drama was minimal at that point.

I think I can pinpoint the moment that my ex became a real problem in the eyes of my abuser. It was probably within the first month.

We were in a store and my cell rang. It was my ex, who was at a concert. They were doing a cover of Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere." When we were together, I used to do the entire rap for his little girls. He'd called so I could hear it. I laughed and said something like, "Awesome! Have a great time!" I may have shrugged and made a "wtf" face.

But what I remember clearly was his face. He was not happy. Not at all.

The "blank empty" came into his eyes.

"What did he want?" he demanded.

"He was just calling from some concert. They're playing a rap I know all the words to." For some reason, I wanted to move on to another topic quickly. I could feel the tension rising.

"Well why is he calling you? He's still in love with you. Why do you answer his calls? Are you still in love with him?!" and on and on came the interrogation.

From that moment on, he was on a mission to drive a wedge between my ex and me. He began making constant comments about him being a "tool" and a "dork" and a "retard." He cut down his looks, his intelligence. He said that I shouldn't be friendly or even civil/cordial toward him. That it should be "all business" and matter of fact, and absolutely no more activities together with our child. That was not appropriate...unless I was still in love with him. Otherwise, I had a boyfriend now, and that should end. I shouldn't see his girls anymore either. We were divorced and they shouldn't be a part of my life. That only showed I was still attached. And buying the other parent a small birthday present for our son to give? Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts? All of which we had exchanged in previous years, for the benefit of our son, so he could give gifts? Also not appropriate. I had moved on and gift-giving, even if it was technically being handed over by the child, should be stopped. He wanted to see any emails I received from my ex, and insisted on being involved in responding to them. He would ask me often if I received any. I'm a bad liar. "My" emails went from friendly to flat and even somewhat combative in a very short time.

I know it sounds like I didn't stand up to him about any of these things. I really did, especially the gift-giving. I sent him links to articles about divorce and children, where experts said it's absolutely appropriate for ex-spouses to buy small gifts to give each other that the children would present. I argued with him that we were teaching our son the importance of recognizing others on their special day, etc. Nothing I said mattered. I think at some point I thought it was just easier to do it his way.

Besides, he said HE would buy gifts for my son to give me.

But the worst part was that he began to disparage my ex in front of my son. That was one I didn't back down on, but it never stopped him. He called him a "retard" often in front of my son. I'd admonish him, saying that it wasn't good for my son, that it's still his father, that he needed to not say such things in front of him. He'd then accuse me of still being in love with my ex because I was defending him. He said I must be, or I wouldn't care what he said. I explained over and over that it wasn't that at all. "I left him 3 years before I met you," I said. "I obviously had moved on or I would have gotten back with him in the first place." Accusing me of still being in love was deflecting my point, which was don't talk badly about my child's father in front of my child. Hell, or in front of me! I wasn't the one bringing him up all the time.

It didn't matter. The comments continued. All the way to the end.

And sadly, to this day, my co-parenting relationship with my ex, I fear, is irreparable. And, his daughters hate me for cutting them out. I can't blame them. They're in late high school and early college now. Young women.

Probably the perfect candidates to hear my story about abuse.

But back to the point: I was so bent on "proving my love" to him, that I didn't see all the collateral damage that was happening in my wake...and how long-term the effects would be. And the guilt I would carry. Likely lifelong.

But that's what sociopaths do! They systematically chip away at their victims' relationships so they become more and more isolated...and dependent on them. This would be the first of many.

Love and Support for Kate Ranta and Family

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Time When He Told Me He'd Stalked His Ex-Wife

It's true. He stalked his ex-wife. And, sadly, when he told me what he'd done--he was smug and bragging about it--I didn't see the underlying message: if you leave me, I'll do the same thing to you.

We were out on his back patio sharing some wine and he launched into a tale about how he had "gotten back" at his ex-wife, who had left him less than a year before I met him.

He said she had cheated on him. He had confronted her, an argument ensued, and she left the house in the middle of the night. She had come back the next day with cops to get her belongings. He was upset that she had taken all the expensive jewelry he had bought for her.

Sound familiar?

But I felt badly for him. She had cheated on him, after all. "How could any sane woman cheat on this amazing catch of a guy?!" I'd wondered. I mean, how dramatic and over-reacting was it to come back with cops to get her things?? She was crazy. Oh, and as I mentioned in my first post, he also said she had abused him physically during the marriage. So she was crazy and violent. Oh, and he also said she had a drinking problem. And mixed Ambien with alcohol. So she was crazy and violent and a drunk drug addict.

This poor guy, mixed up with a woman like that!

He told me that after she left, a buddy of his through the military--a CIA agent--had bugged her car for him. He was able to log onto his computer and track her whereabouts. He said she had been going to a hotel frequently, the assumption being she was meeting up with her married commander whom she was fucking. He said he could have them both court martialed, but he was too nice a guy to ruin her military career. 

The bug on the car also showed him where she had moved to. A gated apartment complex. He said one night, after an evening of wine consumption, he took Ambien to sleep. But at some point in the night, he woke up, GPSed her address, got on his motorcycle, and went there. He wanted to take back the sound system he had installed in her car, as well as the Garmin GPS he had so generously given her.

He said it was fuzzy because of the Ambien, but that he remembered being faced with a 6 foot wall when he got there. His adrenalin was pumping so high that he was able to scale it and hop over. He broke into her car and ripped the sound equipment out, along with the Garmin.

"She didn't have you arrested?!" I asked.

He snorted. No. She probably suspected it but couldn't prove it was him anyway. Besides, those were HIS things. He had bought them for her and he wanted them back, however he had to get them. She was an ungrateful bitch who didn't appreciate all he had done for her. It was his right to take back what was his! 

"Oh yeah, I got her back good another way," he said. He chuckled, recalling that he had loosened all the nuts and bolts on her mountain bike when she asked for it back. That way, maybe she'd get hurt while using it.

You may be asking yourselves how alarms didn't sound off in my head when hearing these tales. It's all about delivery with sociopaths. As I re-tell it here, the narcissism and sociopathy is so glaringly obvious, however, at the time, I was only vaguely familiar with what a narcissist even was, and only in a very general sense (self-absorbed). When a sociopath tells a story, it's presented in such a way that it sounds completely normal coming out of their mouths, no matter how outrageously tall the tale is. I don't know how else to put it.

I was captivated by him. On some level, I knew it was bizarre--even criminal--that he had tracked her, that he had broken into her car. But on another level, as much as it grosses me out and pains me to admit it now, I found his "take charge, take no shit" attitude...attractive. <cringe>

There was another very important--and disturbing--tale he told me later about her...the day after we were married.

But that's for another blog.

Sociopath Checklist

Below is the very first list I'd ever seen about sociopathic behavior. I highlighted the behaviors he displayed in the above blog--his thought process, his sense of entitlement, his lack of empathy, his lack of morals and values, his cold and calculated vindictiveness. Sociopaths are terrifying. If you encounter anyone showing ANY of these behaviors, RUN. Immediately! 

• Glibness and Superficial Charm

• Manipulative and Conning
They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible.
They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.

• Grandiose Sense of Self
Feels entitled to certain things as "their right."

• Pathological Lying
Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities.
Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.

• Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

• Shallow Emotions
When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.

• Need for Stimulation
Living on the edge.
Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.

• Callousness/Lack of Empathy
Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others' feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.

• Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.

• Irresponsibility/Unreliability
Not concerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.