At the heart of the victims’ rights movement I was involved in, during the 1980s after my father’s murder, was the concept of judicial justice that would lead to psychological justice. It’s a great concept and, in a perfect world, it would work in all situations. If the pathological person wronged you (physically hurt you, conned you out of money, screwed up custody situations, cheated on you, spiritually abused you, etc.), he would be held accountable in the courts for his behavior and, more importantly, he would be forced into victim restitution in which he would have to repay you for your pain or do something to acknowledge his guilt and assuage your pain.
Of course, restitution in and of itself really doesn’t heal anything. It’s just that the victim or person who was harmed feels like the scales of justice, which were so grossly leaning in the abuser’s direction, got balanced in their direction for once. For a moment in court, and for however long it takes the abuser to pay or make restitution, he is officially ‘guilty’ and everyone knows he was charged as such. He is “paying his price to his victim” for his actions. For a moment in court, a judge believes you! He or she believes the monster really did what you say he did. That, in and of itself, is often the psychological justice that victims really look for and it helps them to heal.
In murder trials that I’ve often attended, the family could obviously not be compensated in any true way that relieved their pain and suffering. Their loved one was murdered. No amount of restitution touches a human life. The best the family can hope for is physical payment, prison, the death sentence, or some other act that the court assigns for the monster to repay the victim’s family.
The judicial system acts as the conscience of this country. Victims seek solace in the courtroom and chambers hoping that justice will alleviate the pain, horror, and stigmatization of being a victim of the monster. But we know that in many cases and, I dare say, in most cases, that’s not what happens. Restraining orders are not granted, arrests are not made for stalking or violence, children are given over to the pathological who is an overtly violent, sick, drug-addicted, or an otherwise inept parent. When the pathological doesn’t pay child support, nothing is done and the child is still sent to him. The thousands of dollars he conned out of you or stole from you is never returned. When alimony isn’t paid, he gets away with it. Repeated visits to the courts do nothing to convince them or to open their eyes to the true nature of his behaviors. Anything that is court-ordered he defies and laughs at. You stand, mouth gaping, and wonder, “Where is the justice? HOW does he get away with this?”
I have repeatedly said that the universe is strangely tilted to the benefit of the pathological. If ANYONE will get away with a con or a criminal act, it will be the pathological. The universal scales of justice are tilted in their favor and, ironically, somehow influence the judicial scales of justice. In the 25+ years of doing this work, I have seen them literally get away with murder, rape, embezzlement, breaking and entering, stalking, domestic violence, child abuse, and more. This ranks as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’—how pathological people can con their way out of the most vicious deeds and often never pay in any way for their behavior.
In these cases, women’s hopes of justice are dashed as it is connected to part of their psychological healing. The scales of justice will never be balanced—they are not vindicated in the way that helps them to heal. Even if he is found guilty of something, he is rarely ever held to the standard of the law it’s connected to. If he is supposed to pay a fine, he doesn’t. If he is supposed to go to jail or prison, it’s postponed or overturned. If custody is denied, he receives it by another judge. If he embezzled, it’s forgiven in exchange for an admission of guilt.
Victims’ rights and their connection to judicial and psychological justice will not often get played out in Pathological Love Relationships. The psychological justice that the victim is counting on in order to validate her—her moment in which the conscience of this country believes her—doesn’t happen. Since we understand that psychological justice is what is most likely to help victims heal, now what?
Sternly, I tell victims of Pathological Love Relationships that they sometimes must recover without justice. We are not discussing ‘what is fair,’ because the pathological has already skirted the issue of ‘fairness.’ He doesn’t live with the concept of fairness and the law doesn’t use it as a concept with him. If you desire to recover, heal and move forward with your life, it will require that you just might have to recover without judicial justice, without victim restitution, and without the conscience of this country validating your story.
You have to recover without a second of judicial support. Women who hinge recovery on judicial justice, or waiting for their day in court, or “when he gets what’s coming to him,” will never recover. Your own recovery must be a daring adventure in the face of a lack of victims’ rights. Sometimes the only personal justice IS recovering and living a great life. What he has done to you doesn’t define you, hold you down, or stop you from succeeding in your own spiritual outlook.
In the end, the only thing you really have control over is how you choose to see your situation. If you see it as a victimization and are unable to move past that view, you won’t recover. If you see it as horrible things that happened to you but those things don’t define or restrain you, you will move forward—with or without justice.
The unfair situation is what you have lived through and the aftermath of the effects of the Pathological Love Relationship. In the face of this grossly dehumanizing experience is the indomitable ability to recover that can guide you, not only to survive, but also to thrive in the face of great pain. I have every confidence you can heal, even without justice.
(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)