I’d like to take the time to address the “haters” and my thoughts on why it’s important for victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse and child abuse to speak up.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told to stop talking because of my children. For a decade, I’ve heard and felt these same things “for the kids”. Everything I have done in my life has been for my beautiful children. I fight for them every single day in so many ways. They have seen things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. They have heard my cries, our fighting, they have witnessed me being abused and harassed, they have witnessed my ex-husband threaten me and harass my now fiance. They also witnessed my ex-husband getting arrested at their elementary school when he showed up (in violation of a CPO and our shared parenting plan) and tried to take them. For years, he made life hell for all of us and for years I was silent about it for my kids. At this point though, I am completely honest about my experiences with my kids. They see a counselor and I try my best to teach them that abuse in all forms is wrong and I teach them to stand up for themselves. I don’t know where my ex-husband’s path will lead him, I have seen him at his worst and his best. I have been on that roller-coaster for a decade now and I don’t believe that my children and I will ever be free of his issues. Someday my children will be adults and they will have to learn to cope with their father and his choices and they will in turn have to make their own choices. Impact of Domestic Violence on Children
Below you can listen to my estranged mother discuss what my children witnessed during my marriage to my ex-husband and listen to the way my ex-husband would treat me and my now fiance.
Estranged mother Tina tells detective she fears Zach will take a gun to us and take down the whole family.
Tina talks about how Zach would degrade me in front of other people:
Tina discusses my children witnessing Zach’s abusive behavior:
Zach angry I’m in a relationship with someone who is close to my kids. I tell Zach the kids are scared to death of him.
Zach wants to brainwash kids
Zach threatening legal action for me having a relationship. Dennis Horvath is Zach’s attorney.
I’m here to say this though, staying silent for the kids isn’t the best choice and it’s not okay to use their well being as leverage to silence woman from talking about the pain they suffered at the hands of their fathers. Silence only allows men to escape accountability for the things they’ve done and teaches children to endure abuse, not speak up about it and never stand up for themselves. Everyday I have to deal with people who constantly use my children’s well being against me.
After my interview with Brett McMurphy aired, because of fear, I went silent again. I didn’t want to defend myself from the lies being told about me, I didn’t want to talk about what was going on in my life and I wanted to focus on gaining full custody of my children. In that year, I sat back and watched my ex-husband and his network trash me and lie about me, my family and friends. Publicly, he called me horrible names and said terrible things about me as a parent, all while I was working my way through nursing school and shouldering the responsibility of caring for our two children. While he continued on his roller coaster life and indulging in his vices, I was home studying, taking care of my kids and quietly spending time with my fiance and family. Unlike me though, my ex-husband has never had any fear of anyone. His position at Ohio State acted like a shield for him, he thought he was invincible and most likely still does. So much so, that he had no fear of calling up the authorities and mouthing off to them like in the recorded calls below:
Zach’s calls to Powell PD during criminal trespassing incident. PPD previously issued a trespass warning to Zach that he could not go on my property after he showed up to my townhome in Dec 2017 intoxicated at 1am. He looked through my windows then trashed my x-mas decor. In this call he’s being a smart ass to the officer and doesn’t realize he is being recorded and appears to be saying he’s going to fight an officer (part 2 @ 2:26 mark). Local roots is a restaurant in Powell.
Frankly, I have also reached a point where I am fed up with getting bullied for speaking up, being lied about and getting blamed for my ex-husband’s mistakes. He blamed me for the abuse, he blamed me for getting arrested for Criminal Trespass, he blamed me for getting arrested for violating the CPO and he even went as far as blaming me for getting a DUI in 2013. My ex-husband has a long history of blaming everyone else, especially me, for his issues. The people who continue to make excuses for him are equally bothersome, it’s mind boggling and it appears that in their minds, my ex-husband was born coated in Teflon. If people take issue with me speaking up, so be it, I’m doing it anyway. Maybe it’s strange for me to feel this way, but I also feel safer in the public eye. I know I’m always being watched and for whatever reason people watch me, I believe that with the CPO, smart phones and being in the public eye, my ex won’t try to come after me again.
My ex-husband’s texts blaming addiction, chemicals and other people
Every time I put myself out there to talk about what I went through or stand up for myself, I have to deal with people who call me a liar, cunt, drunk, whore, slut, crazy, bat-shit crazy, sex fiend, bitch. I’ve been told to “get fucked” and women like @PJBuckeyefan with her MAGA profile, inflated ego and backwoods grammar – who might very well be the female version of Zach Smith – pander to the misogynist horde, thump their chests all simian like and attempt to bully me with cheap, trashy words and threats of “coming after” me on social media.
I’ve seen and heard people in my community constantly make excuses for my ex-husband’s inexcusable actions, while at the same time bash me relentlessly for feeling the need to open up publicly about what I’ve been through. As far as intelligence goes, I don’t consider myself up there with the likes of Stephen Hawking, but when people constantly accuse me of lying about the abuse, I can’t help but be taken back by their logic. Is it really that difficult for people like @PJbuckeyefan or @cgorange to imagine that a man (and his network of enablers) who would lie about a DUI, a man who would lie to his boss for years, a man who would skip out on rehab and then lie about it, a man who carried on a double-life, a man who would brazenly, publicly lie about having a “mutual CPO” and having “charges dropped” wouldn’t lie about abusing his wife? Why is there is no doubt in my mind that if I did all the things my ex-husband did, that I would lose custody of my kids or at the very least be considered the worst human being on the planet? Why am I being held to a different standard for speaking up, when I have done none of the things he’s done?
The bullying, harassment, double standards and assaults against women have been happening for generations, it’s an epidemic and feels impossible to change. Being silent about it, even for the kids doesn’t help.
There is also this prevailing thought that a woman should stay quiet so as not to risk losing child support or alimony. So basically, stay quiet for “the bag.” The decision to stay in a toxic or violent marriage is a personal one for every woman and I will never cast judgement on the choices victims make. I will say though, this thought process is very dangerous and speaking from experience, staying quiet for money only creates a trap that feels impossible to climb out of. I tried it for many years during my marriage and after the divorce, I didn’t speak up right away so my ex didn’t lose his job. I don’t know the right time to leave a marriage, but I know the right time to start a plan for yourself, so that you can leave if necessary, is right away.
The first time they lay hands on you, start your plan. If that plan is relying on family for support or squirreling away money “just in case” or getting a job, don’t hesitate. There is almost no chance the abuse won’t happen again. I’ve heard from a lot of women who have told me their own stories of abuse, but not once have I read or heard from someone who says their spouse stopped being physical with them or that they moved on with their lives and behaved rationally once they divorced. Those unicorns don’t exist, if you find one, tie it up and bring it to me because I need CSI levels of evidence to believe the “reformed abuser” exists, until then it’s fantasy.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep repeating it, abusers do not just wake up one day and stop being abusers. Speaking from experience, abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum and there are so many ways an abuser can inflict pain on their victims. In my “I’m Not Alone” post, I’m going to talk about the women my ex-husband manipulated, lied to and subsequently threatened. I no longer harbor any ill-will towards the women he had affairs with and I don’t see them as my enemies, I see them as victims. Rest easy ladies, I’m not going to publicly identify any of these women because it’s embarrassing, petty and unnecessary, but I’ll still talk about what some of them went through.
A few emails from one of the women I made contact with
In the past 3 years, I have made contact with several of the women and some of their husbands too. People who had experienced harassment and threats from my ex-husband would track me down and talk to me about what was happening. They would talk about his threats and their fear of him. This is one of the many reasons I’m so angry about everything that has gone down. I’m not just angry for myself, but angry for other people. I wish more people would come forward and talk about what he put them through, I wish they would stand up for themselves and if they did, I would back them every step of the way. I understand their reasons for being silent and wanting to move on with their lives, but I won’t ever stop believing that in some way, my ex-husband should pay for the things he did to me and others. After I finally walked out the door, I spent most of that first year trying to piece together everything that happened and I concluded that it was all connected. The double-life, the substance abuse, the physical abuse and his other addictions. The deeper he got into his toxic lifestyle, the more volatile he became. Yet, through all of his destructiveness and his harassment of me and others, I remained silent.
I get why people are afraid to come forward, why victims remain silent. I get why people are afraid to talk about these issues, even now I still fear talking about it. Even as I type this, I’m still afraid. Sometimes I type something up, panic and then hit the back button to delete. Fear is paralyzing and I know this because I’ve felt it for years. It’s fear that made me second guess myself for calling the police that night in October 2015. Instead of letting the police come straight to my house that night, I told them I would see them in the morning, thinking I might change my mind about reporting it…all because of fear. Had they shown up to my apartment that night, they would have seen the marks on me and my inconsolable 4 -year old daughter. They might have tracked down my ex, who fled the scene with my son, and arrested him. Instead, I lay in bed all night, in fear, second guessing my phone call to the police. Thoughts of “will he lose his job and if he does how will I support the kids on my own” raced through my head. Until I woke up the next day and said “to hell with this crap, I’ve had enough of being silent” and still filled with fear showed up at the Powell Police Station.
A page of the Powell Police report from the October 2015 incident
It was also fear (and a few other people) that caused me to drop the charges in June 2009, when I was 11 weeks pregnant and my husband lifted me by my shirt and threw me into a wall. Why did he do that? Because gosh darn, I had the audacity to be angry and very vocal about him coming home drunk with his arms around the young, attractive and also drunk 23-yr old office assistant. He kept calling her baby and expected me to let her stay the night at our home on our 1st anniversary. Maybe I did “push his buttons” by pulling off the blankets and yelling at his stank, drunk-ass to get out of our bed. Maybe I did push his buttons when he lifted me up by my shirt and I hit his arm to break free from him, but where was his regard for our unborn child? Maybe I should be directing my questions to @PJbuckeyefan or Kyle Lamb, they seem to know everything about domestic abuse. By the way, I don’t recall anyone ever thanking me for putting aside my anger at 3am and driving the boozy 23-yr old assistant home, but you’re welcome anyway!
A page of the Gainesville Police report in June 2009
In spite of my fear, I guess I should have realized back then that what he did that night, years ago, was indicative of the kind of emotional and physical abuse he would inflict on me for years. In hindsight, had I accepted proper counseling and been more open to talking about what I went through and how I felt, maybe I would have chosen differently. Abusers thrive on power and control, they have no boundaries and they feed off fear from others and let me repeat this, because I cannot emphasize it enough – abusers don’t just wake up one day and stop abusing. Too often we read about situations where abuse escalates to the point of murder. We read about authorities who overlook child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and we read about the victims who lived in silence about it for years until it was too late.
No more silence.