A frightening story I hear over and over is that of a narcissistic ex-partner abusing the legal system to abuse and bully their former partner. The narcissist will claim their former partner was or is abusive to him/herself and/or their pets or children. This form of abuse is costly to the victim, as the victim needs to hire a lawyer to defend themselves and may miss time away from work to deal with any legal proceedings or legal meetings. In addition, legal abuse can be extremely emotionally draining, as there is nothing the victim can do to prevent this from happening and they often have to face the consequences of being slandered in their communities. The narcissist will take the following predictable steps when engaging in legal abuse:
- File false police reports: The narcissist will file false reports with the police by either completely lying about your behavior, or magnifying any event that occurred. For instance one woman’s husband refused to speak to her via phone regarding their pending divorce. The woman was then forced to email and text the husband about logistics regarding obtaining her belongings (since the husband changed the locks on their home…also illegal on his part) and care for their pets and children. After two months of this he then cried to the police that he was being harassed by his wife via email and text (even though he was the one requesting they communicate this way, and he responded in this way). He insisted the police file harassment charges against her.
- What to do: Police have to take every report. A report is not a civil or criminal charge. Make sure to get a copy of these false reports for documentation of this pattern and give them to your lawyer. In the example above, the police did not file a harassment charge because it was not harassment. Again, a narcissist can claim anything they want…it does not mean their allegations are real.
- File “bad faith” Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders: Narcissists will often file a Protection From Abuse order based on complete lies. Although not evident to the narcissist, usually others can tell their case is not well founded. In one case an ex-husband filed a PFA against his ex-wife claiming she was stalking him (to her knowledge she had not seen him in months…although he was apparently tracking her). Hilariously despite pages of madman scribble of the alleged stalking and threats, he could not provide an accurate physical description of her on the PFA. Once questioned by the judge, his accusations had little stand on.
- What to do: The courts have to accept any initial petition for a PFA (obviously to protect real victims from abuse). You will have the opportunity to overturn this PFA at a trial about two weeks later. If you are in a career where having a PFA would impact your professional licensure, you must consult with a lawyer. One doctor was banned from leaving the state after receiving a job offer because his ex-wife had obtained a PFA against him based on false allegations. Although she claimed she was afraid of him…she ironically prevented him from being able to relocate. Remember, an allegation is just an allegation. Proof will be need to substantiate a PFA claim…false police reports don’t count!
- File false child abuse reports (or allege abuse of pets): No bar is too low for a narcissist. Some will even go as far as to file false child abuse reports in order to gain an upper hand in a custody battle. One narcissist filed numerous reports accusing her husband of child abuse. None of them were found to have evidence to support these claims. She filed so many reports, the county eventually told her they would not accept anymore reports from her.
- What to do: The system is designed to protect children and any report about child abuse will be taken, and usually investigated. Consult with your lawyer. The narcissist may try this tactic numerous times, but if their claims continue to come up as unfounded many counties will flag the individual as a person who makes false reports. Again, this pattern will be revealed to others for what it is: abusive, manipulative and disgusting. Once a pattern of false reports is established, judges will note this.
- Reveal a false PFA or false police reports to others: The narcissist may use the documentation of the reports to show to others. One narcissist went as far as contacting an organization for which his ex-wife volunteered for to reveal the PFA he had against her (which had been dismissed at trail). He presented the document to his family, mutual friends and even those in her professional circle in an attempt to slander her. Another had his narcissist mail the false child abuse reports to his place of employment. Unfortunately many people do not know the difference between an initial PFA (which is always granted), and a permanent PFA (which is given only if evidence of the claims is shown to be true). People who know your true character will not believe the narcissist (even if they have to put on an act for the narcissist that they do believe him/her) and will likely be left feeling unsettled about the narcissist.
- What to do: Contact your lawyer immediately if you find out your narcissist is presenting these dismissed documents and false police reports to others. A legal intervention will likely be needed.
- Make contact with you through third parties: Because the narcissist has to maintain that it is you abusing them (and not the other way around) they will usually only make contact with you through third parties. For instance, one woman’s ex-husband sent bizarre mail detailing the alleged abuse to the veterinary doctor, her place of employment, her parents, a domestic violence center etc. but never to her. Unfortunately if this is happening you cannot even file harassment charges because the mailings are not directly to you, but rather to others. As the police explained to her, the narcissist knew exactly where the legal boundaries were and was using the legal system to abuse her. Only your lawyer can determine whether there is a substantial enough evidence to pursue a slander case against your narcissist.
- What to do: Other than document with your lawyer, there is not much you can do about this. Just document to build your bigger case against the narcissist with your lawyer. Do your best to not waste too much emotional energy on these pathetic actions. Again, people who know your true character will not believe these claims. Even those who aren’t sure what to believe at best feel uncomfortable with the narcissists obsessive behavior.
If your narcissist is engaging legal abuse take the following steps:
- Hire a lawyer: Do not just hire a good lawyer…hire a great lawyer! Legal abuse is difficult to prove and documentation over time is needed. If your lawyer does not believe you, find one that does.
- Never make contact with your narcissist: Any contact will result in more false reports. In addition you do not want to give the narcissist any behavior they can magnify into some sort of “proof” of your abuse. Remember, it is the lawyers job to handle any contact that may be needed regarding your narcissists behavior.
- Move: Get off the narcissists’ radar. If they do not see you around, they cannot report that you are stalking them, trying to kill them, are obsessed with them, etc. It is okay to disappear for a while. Even moving locally may be a big help. Some victims go even as far as changing their cars, appearances and sometimes even names.
- Get support: Tell those closest to you what is happening in order to get social support. Because legal abuse is largely unpreventable (and often even happens once a relationship is over) you may find yourself needing therapy to deal with the emotional distress.
- Step back and let your narcissist self-destruct: The only thing you can do is disengage and let the narcissist continue to “dig their own grave.” It may take months…even years, but eventually the pattern emerges to others that there is no basis to their claims.
- Focus on enjoying your life: Sadly, legal abuse usually unfolds over years and its generally unpreventable. Do your best to build a good life and enjoy this life in the meantime. Again, if you have a good lawyer by your side who can help you with any resulting legal matters, this will help you to focus on what is most important—getting on with your life now that you’re out of an abusive relationship.