Last week as I read about Krista Kalmikoff and her trial for participation in her partner’s crimes, it seemed very clear to me (from my experience) that she probably has PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and was quite clearly involved in an abusive relationship with a controlling man whom she was intimidated by and afraid of upsetting.
Now, I don’t know these people and I am not a psychologist, but I do have experience living in a similar situation and feel a ton of empathy for this lady, who is a fellow mother, and have concern for her child(ren). I hope that she is receiving adequate support as she goes through such a trying and stressful time, and I hope that she has counsellors and legal professionals involved who understand the position she was in and the psychology of abuse and trauma.
Consider that she may be telling the truth when she says that she “cannot remember” or “didn’t know” what her partner was doing — she was possibly in a dissociative state and has blocked out many things that she has gone through. These memories may manifest once she is in a safe and supportive environment for a length of time (months not days).
“Seeing” these memories for the first time (despite having lived through them) is an experience that is extremely distressing/frightening for the victim. That is why it is called “post” traumatic stress disorder — the symptoms do not show up until after the onslaught is over. This is how our brains work to preserve us during times of intense and overwhelming stress, such as that caused in an abusive relationship. It allows us to “hold ourselves together” and function during those times when reality is too frightening to bear.
When I was involved in an abusive relationship it was more of a hostage situation than a romantic relationship — though Idid not recognize that until many months after leaving him, with the support and protection of a women’s shelter, very skilled counselling for myself and social workers to help me protect my children. Leaving is not easy when you are heldhostage. Your partner knows what is dear to your heart and uses it against you — and when you have children it becomes very easy for him to control you even further, by implying threat to the child if you do not act in the way that he demands. Amother will do anything to protect her child.
In the case of Krista Kalmikoff I know nothing, and it is up to the honourable judge to decide her fate. But as a survivor and a mother I wish her the very best and hope that her future is one of healing and empowerment and that her relationship with her child(ren) will be supported, protected, and nurtured. She may feel very ashamed and beat herself up mentally and feel like her brain is a tangled mess, full of confusion and distorted reality, and her self esteem may not even exist anymore — or not, but that is what it was like for me.
That is a hard place to be in but healing is possible if one sets her heart on it. I hope that this trial may be a life-changing transition point to set her on a better path, whatever that path looks like for her. Sometimes it takes something huge to wake us up. This holiday season I send out my heartfelt best wishes to every woman living in, trying to escape, or recovering from abusive relationships.
T. Henry, Nelson