TWSC Submission: My Greatest Battle Outside the Courtroom – Surviving Financial Abuse from my Child’s Father

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I’m a mother of one and a lawyer. Since high school, I have been passionate about the law and advocating for people. I enjoy it now, every day. My story is one of mental and financial abuse. Even though I am a shark in the courtroom, I was manipulated by a man I once loved and almost lost my dream. My experience is proof that abuse can happen to anyone. This is my story.

Just like everyone else on compass in university, I met someone interesting. His name was Adam* and I rejected him countless times initially. Even though I turned him down, he was willing to prove he wanted me and went the extra mile. He seemed to have nothing to lose and was always there. He turned into someone I felt I could depend on and we started dating.

At some point, he picked up a bad gambling habit. It didn’t start out that way. As a student on campus, you’re generally struggling financially. Everyone is trying to make more money somehow and I understood that. So I wasn’t concerned initially about him gambling to make extra cash.

I was patient and understanding. Sometimes he wouldn’t have money to pay for lunch so I would. If I bought him lunch today, tomorrow when he had money, he would always have my back and try to spoil me here and there with gifts. He had a sponsor in the UK who sent him money monthly for his fees and some of his living expenses.

I didn’t quite notice when things started spinning out of control. He became obsessed with gambling. So we’d go out on dates and all he’d be doing is gambling on his phone. It would get so bad sometimes that whether he won or lost a bet would determine whether we had enough money to go home or not.

From bad to worse…

Things began to get intense. He would demand that I give him money even if it was all the money I had.

“No, no, no…you have to give it to me!” he would say. “I promise I’ll make it up to you. I’ll raise it and pay you back.”

He began gambling the money from his sponsor. He would have $500 USD today and nothing tomorrow.

He could lose [the equivalent of $700, $500 and $600 USD] in three days. He became like an internally displaced person, moving from place to place because he no longer had money to pay for accommodation.

My parents supported me financially and it reached a point where he felt entitled to my money. I remember one time he pleaded with me to give him my phone, and I did give it to him out of goodwill, but he never returned it.

He pawned his phone, laptop…all kinds of assets for money here and there. In fact, it became so bad that he started borrowing his friends’ laptops under that guise that he had assignments to do for a week. Then he would go to a loan shack and get a loan to gamble. So you can imagine the kind of debt he was accumulating.

When I tried to push him in the right direction, I felt like I was losing him, so I tried a softer stance.

At one point, I couldn’t even buy myself a pair of shoes or fix my hair because Adam was taking all my money. He knew when I’d been given money by my parents.

Even when I was interning at a firm, he had access to my bank account and would take my whole salary on payday. Sometimes, when we were together, he would ask to use my phone, gamble and leave me with a huge cyber bill to pay.

Sometimes Adam would call me and tell me in the afternoon to please send him some mobile money and promise to pay back shortly, but he would never give it back and I would have to plead with the taxi drivers to give me a ride for free. I thought that if I appealed to his emotions, he would straighten up, but he didn’t.

My friends did try to warn me, but he isolated me from them…from everyone around me. He even made me borrow money from them for him, and because I couldn’t pay it back, they didn’t want to see me. So, in the end, I lost my friends.

People he owed money would call and harass me looking for him because they couldn’t find him.

He had an opportunity to work for a reputable law firm in the country. He became one of the main advocates at that firm but still asked me for money. He continued to pawn people’s laptops to support his gambling habit. Eventually, he told me he had no place to sleep. He manipulated me into helping him.

Some time later, my parents gave me money to buy a new phone. Adam took it and said he was going to multiply it, but that didn’t happen. I ended up getting a cheap phone to put my parents at ease. When it came time for me to write my bar exams, Adam took the money my parents had given me, and I couldn’t write the exam. My parents let that go, too.

I lost my father’s laptop because Adam pawned it. My father didn’t talk to me for weeks. This was the second time that Adam had taken a laptop from me.

And then there was the other woman…

I was in a relationship with him long enough to have a child – four years. He ended up even cheating on me.

“You don’t excite me anymore,” he would tell me. 

He said many mean things to me and I actually started believing all the negative things he said about me. He broke me down.

When I found out about the other girl, I broke up with him, but he wooed me back. She ended up getting pregnant a few months before me. He was living with her but I didn’t find that part out until he disappeared for a week. I was about seven months pregnant at the time. I went out to look for him. I knew her name and the area where she lived, so I figured her place would be the best place to start.

I had turned him down countless times when pregnant but I figured maybe my child should have a complete family.

When I got to the area where she lived, I began asking people if they knew where she lived. Everyone I asked referred to her as Adam’s wife and when I eventually found her, he was with her, carrying a baby. That was a blow. I decided not to confront either of them. I just went home depressed and determined to end the relationship. Imagine his audacity – he had asked for my hand in marriage when I was two months pregnant and would come home, all the while living with someone else!

Despite all the drama with Adam, I was able to write and pass my bar exams.

The turning point – becoming a single mother

I bought my son a bed and Adam became upset, saying that I should have given him the money to do so instead. I had been giving him all my money up until this point and I had nothing. Remember, he had access to my bank account. I found out that the money that he took from my account is what he was using to provide for his other family.

One day, he told me that the other woman was almost due and that I should ask my mom to loan him money. He would pay her back, he promised. He would give me his ATM card so that when his salary comes in, I could withdraw the money and give it to my mother. That wasn’t a request, it was a demand. He felt entitled to it. The more I refused to help him, the more he yelled at me, but I stood my ground.

When my son was born, I didn’t have any clothes for him. Adam was not present for the birth. I was in the hospital without even a towel or a blanket for my baby. I was in a very cold place and not having anything to keep my baby warm was heartbreaking. I was a first-time mom and this was my reality.

In our culture, if you’re not married, the children will be named after your mother’s side. So, I named my child after my father. Adam made such a big deal about it and threatened to kill me. I blocked his number just to get peace of mind. I struggled for the basic things in life and not being able to provide for my son was a wake-up call for me.

Here I was trying to adjust to a new child with no money and yet Adam was harassing me about a child he wasn’t even supporting. He was relentless and tried to call me numerous times, but each time he found a new way to reach me I blocked him and was determined to never look back.

Because I had blocked him and most times kept my phone off, I almost missed my admission to the bar. I had passed my exam and was awaiting admission. It was by a stroke of luck that a friend called me on a Friday evening to ask if I had gotten everything. That’s when I learned that my graduation was on the following Monday. I was two months postpartum.

I didn’t have time to fix my hair. I turned up for my graduation with the help of a really good friend who lent me a gown. I had to make myself fit into an old suit I had, and because I had gained a bit of weight, it was a struggle to fit in. My son attended the day with me because I was breastfeeding. I would have wanted to be admitted to the bar under better terms, but I had to make do.

Since then, Adam has tried to reach back out to me in various ways, sometimes through other people, but as soon as I realize it is him, I end communication. My son doesn’t have a relationship with him. Adam ended up pawning the office laptop he had been given and was being looked for by the firm.

Many people think that I am to blame because they don’t know my side of the story. His family thinks that I am the one who led him down that path. He ended up addicted to alcohol and drugs.

It has taken me time to heal but I was able to meet someone who I am currently with. It was difficult to open up at first given my history, but I’m working through it.

Fortunately, I got a job four months after my son was born and things began to fall into place. I have made peace with what happened and I do not have any resentment towards Adam. I am grateful that my parents never held grudges and supported me endlessly.

What happened to me can happen to anyone regardless of who you are. I advocate for people for a living and yet I found myself in such a terrible situation. Although I am a fierce advocate in court, Adam was still able to manipulate me.

To anyone reading my story, I want to say this: you know when something is not right for you. The moment you find yourself making excuses for somebody, run.

*Name has been changed.

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