Below, I have listed a mere few examples of how my dad has mastered interfering with relationships, and specifically how he has managed to interfere with our relationship with our mother, as well as even between the three of us sisters.
It was obvious to the girls and I that dad sought to isolate us completely by seeking a job in and moving to Kansas. He moved my sisters in the middle of the school year, despite my dad's brother and his wife offering to let my sisters live with them at least until the end of the school year. They offered that to lessen the effects of the girls' traumatic situation, because even my dad's family was aware that those girls had already been through more traumatic, life-changing things than most other 13 and 15 year-olds. It's obvious to me that he didn't want my sisters having freedom to tell on him, or to see our mom more often before he moved them (for the full story leading up to their Kansas move, click here.)
He only allowed Syd and Dani to call Mom (and me) for 15 minutes one time per week, and only if he was there monitoring the call. He insisted they could only use his phone or his Skype account. If they were found to have texted our mom or communicated with her in any way without informing him, even if it was simply telling her how their day had been, he became infuriated with them (of course, our emails and phones were strictly monitored). We had to plug our phones in a separate room every night, where only Dad had access, and we couldn't even text Mom good night.
Once he moved them to Kansas, Dad fought to make Sydney's and Dani's visits back to Mom difficult, expensive, and short. They only got about 4 total days over two visits to Utah between December and their summer visitation to Utah in June (that's four days over the course of six months).
His isolation tactics extended to even the smallest moments at his house both before and after he moved to Kansas. Dad forbade Sydney and Dani from hugging me after family prayers at bedtime, because he believed that they had been giving me longer hugs than they had been giving Angie. All three of us felt this type of controlling behavior was unfair and unreasonable. I can't hug my sisters?
I was not allowed to help my sisters do their hair in the morning. I think Dad was afraid that we would be able to talk to each other if we did this. I would have loved bonding this way with my sisters. :(
Dad wouldn't allow any of us to be alone behind closed doors together. He insisted we keep our bedroom doors open at all times, and he discouraged us from privately communicating anywhere. We could even be somewhere like a fast food restaurant, and if I approached one of the girls to talk to them, we would often times be interrupted or even separated. He was obsessed with every word that was spoken out of his earshot, and he was obsessed with the idea that everyone was always talking about him.
Dad and Angie forbade me from ever going down to the level of the house where Sydney’s and Dani’s bedrooms are. If I ever needed to go get an item from one of them, Dad or Angie would immediately notice and demand to know why I had gone there. When I would answer, I'd be told that they didn't believe me and to "go back upstairs." I think Angie started policing our behavior like Dad did to either gain his favor, or possibly to try to help us avoid punishment by our father. Either way, it was traumatic for us to experience. It directly affected my relationship with my sisters to know that we weren't allowed to have a normal relationship.
Dad would target us one at a time, lecturing often at the kitchen table until whomever it was he was targeting was sobbing. If any of us siblings would appear and look at the one in trouble, he would either say or yell, “You’re not allowed to be up here! Don’t you DARE talk to [whichever sobbing child he was lecturing] about this afterward!”
If my dad's lectures would make one of us cry, he would demand total isolation for that child for the rest of that day if that child acted depressed. The girls and I were given no ability to discuss such things with each other due to the vigilance of Dad and Angie afterward. Our only chance to discuss our trauma and decompress was every other weekend when we got to go to our mom’s house.
Sometimes when Dad would see from his camera surveillance tapes (he had these installed outside the house, to face every direction) that we had talked to each other, he would lecture us that this was not to happen. He would claim that we were telling each other secrets or say/yell, “I know that you’re talking about me behind my back! You’re always making me out to be an awful father!”
This constant isolation and inability to talk to each other or help each other feel better about the trauma of living with Dad was soul-crushing.
Someone left an anonymous comment to my Moving to Kansas post last night, which fits perfectly in this post so I want to share and answer it here as well:
Are the girls not more isolated than ever right now? I hope this situation is resolved soon and that all involved can receive the support needed. Many people go through difficult things, and many people come through them. I can't imagine that the girls in isolation are any safer than they were before all of this happened.Running and hiding from our dad's abuse is absolutely safer for my sisters than staying and facing his wrath after telling on him. Specifically addressing the above comment: running and hiding from our dad's abuse is also absolutely safer for my sisters than if they had continued living with him in Kansas. Living with an abuser can not by any stretch of the imagination be considered "safe." Living in a shelter with my mom when I was young was the strongest taste of actual, real safety I had ever felt in my entire life. Do you know why? Because my dad was not able to get to us there. Think on how detrimental this abuse must have been for my two teenage sisters to choose to live in hiding, away from their friends, family, and loved ones rather than keep enduring his abuse.
Both of the girls confided in me, at the beginning of their summer visit, that they felt they were about to crumble under the weight of his abuse. They felt that if they had to endure one more trip back, they would be emotionally damaged beyond repair. They told me that despite their courage that my dad could possibly get better, life with him had only become more isolated, controlled, and miserable since their move.
Those girls were on the verge of an emotional breakdown, from which there would have been no guarantee of recovery. I know that it took me a full year after moving out of my father's custody to simply to begin to feel like myself again, and with the way the abuse was heightening over the course of that past year, there is no telling how long it would have taken those girls to feel like themselves again.
There is absolutely no reason on this earth that Sydney and Danielle Wolferts should have to continue surviving under my father's pressure until they turn 18. These girls should not be relegated to a life sentence of having to try to fix their psyches that have been damaged by constant abuse at the hands of my father. To suggest that they deserve five and three more years of this abuse is insane to me. Syd and Dani are good, sweet, humble, innocent girls who deserve the help they need now.