Rated: E for every protective parent loses.
Warning: MA. May contain sexual violence; violence; adult situations; the physical, sexual, mental, and psychological abuse of children; human trafficking; human rights violations; and adult language.
This game is action packed, with out of this world bosses and twists you never saw coming. Just as you make it past the inciting incident, you’re confronted with the complexities of what you assumed would be a quick and easy play. Looks can be deceiving and this game is full of deceptive logic that will leave you feeling down the rabbit hole.
Objective: to protect your children. A multiplayer RPG that allows you to be both the good guy and the bad guy! Forget about winning. This game is unbeatable unless you have a certain gamer profile. Protective parent is not that profile.
Inciting Incident. Gameplay begins on a Friday night. Your character has just been served an epic beat-down and you wake in a hospital suffering from a miscarriage, broken nose, missing clumps of hair, multiple contusions, gashes and scratches, and a busted lip that requires stitches. Lose health and life before the game even starts. Recoup these by using the phone in your hospital room to contact the Women’s Shelter. Increase XP in counseling and stress management as this will make your health and life last longer, a necessity if you want to beat the game.
Your allies: shelters, friends and family, church leaders, therapists, and cops.
Level 1: Restraining Order. File an RO. Increase knowledge, confidence, and skill XP, which you’ll need in order to kill bosses. Level by killing bosses, which increases XP. Note: killing bosses is really fucking hard. After filing the RO, your abuser is still allowed visitation. Shock and anger over the rendered judgment zap your health, life, and XP. Vent to family and release stress. Best friend cooks you dinner. Health and life are restored. XP leveled in knowledge, confidence, and skill.
Level 1 Boss: Criminal Case Judge. Press charges against your abuser. Prove your case with certified hospital records and police reports. Your abuser is found guilty and is convicted of assault, and though he nearly killed you and did kill your fetus, he is punished with probation and anger management classes. In addition, your abuser can no longer have guns, but this isn’t enforced. Beware.
Next Mission: Contact CPS and Therapist. Report child abuse to CPS. Hire a counselor for your children after overhearing them say that daddy’s penis looks like a worm. The therapist diagnoses your abuser as a Narcissist with homicidal tendencies and prepares to ask the court to stop the abuser’s access to children. Earn XP in knowledge, confidence, and skill. Advance.
Level 2: Stalking. This level is daunting and unremitting. Your abuser mounts attacks from this point on until the end of the game. He calls you, your friends, and your family some fifty or more times a day. He repeatedly breaks into your home and beats you for which you call the police (your allies) but they do nothing because your abuser fled the scene and they didn’t witness the crime, nevermind the fact that your face is red from fresh blows and the house is in disarray from the struggle. Next, your abuser follows you through town, runs your car off the road, and follows you to the job interview that was hard to get after being a SAHM for so long. This results in lost employment. Lose XP. Your abuser cuts your cable and electricity, hacks your social networking accounts, spray paints graffiti on your fence and leaves hundreds of letters in your home. He then requests daily welfare checks from the police (your allies). You carefully print out your cell phone records to prove to the police (your allies) that you did call your ex and he didn’t answer just so he could ask for a welfare check. Show the cops your RO, hospital records, pictures of abuse, and ex’s conviction to remind them that you’re the victim. The cops shrug their shoulders and say they’re sorry but policy and all. Watch in horror as they drag your children from the bed and the bathtub to check for signs of abuse. Tires are slashed at court hearing awarding you temporary custody. You suffer health and life damage due to stress. Lose XP.
Level 2 Cutscene. You and your children flee your home for a safe haven after your abuser tells townspeople that he’s had premonitions that you all die in a fire. Contact abuser’s insurance benefit’s customer service. Reel at the fact that the insurance payout he would receive in the event of your deaths is over 300k. Receive a warning call from your church leader who is worried after your abuser informed him that you would die in a fire. Urge the church leader to testify on your behalf but he refuses for ethical reasons. Boil with rage when the holy man then tells you that by leaving your husband, you place the dickhole’s soul in danger of eternal damnation. You realize this leader cares nothing for you or your children because if he supports your case, it could influence more women to leave abusive marriages, and the men of his flock would lose power and privilege. Pack only necessary items and say a tearful goodbye to your dog because the shelter won’t let you bring him then disappear with your children to a new town. No access to finances means you must swipe a credit card for food. Suffer a breakdown as you realize your abuser has maxed out your cards to limit your freedom. Resigned, you look at the hungry, confused, and frightened children in the back seat and reluctantly swipe your debit card with a sick feeling because now your abuser knows your location. Lose skill XP. Advance to Level 3 with low health and life.
Level 3 Cutscene: You are served court papers by your abuser who wants sole, physical custody of your children. You laugh because there’s no way in hell the court will give an abusive, homicidal, dickhole custody of your children. Confidence XP receives a boost. Knowledge XP takes a hit because little do you know. . . .
Level 3: Magistrate Court and Gaslighting. Your abuser increases his legal harassment strategy designed to break you mentally, physically, and financially, a strategy hand fed to him by his female lawyer (female because what battering misogynist would hire female counsel? Strategy!). The purpose of this level is for your abuser to have you arrested for any charge he can throw at the wall and amazingly, though you have no criminal record and you have documented proof that your abuser has expressed a desire to and has actually gone through with, efforts to end your life, you now find yourself in the position of offender. This is where the intricate feature of the dual RPG player mode comes in. Depending on the situation, you are now the good guy and bad guy. Beat several magistrate minigames. XP increases, but only slightly as your health and life are still low from a now permanent state of fight or flight. You are beginning to show signs of severe anxiety, lack of sleep, and poor diet.
Level 3 Boss: Temporary Custody Hearing Judge. There are cheats in this game but not for the protective parent. This level begins with a cutscene and a twist you never saw coming when you witness opposing counsel paying off your therapist. Realize in horror that you didn’t follow your gut instinct to record the therapy sessions. Watch as the therapist takes the stand. She has switched the roles of you and your abuser in the report she filed with the court. You’re amazed by how smugly the opposing lawyer smiled at you as she handed the gift to your therapist and how the therapist calculatedly lies with no concern at all for the children she has counseled for months. Wonder how much that fucking check was worth and how in the hell your abuser can afford to pay for motions, subpoenas, and bribes when he isn’t even paying child support. Shock sets in, followed by disbelief, and finally, panic which triggers more of the fight or flight response. Take damages of tachycardia and severe anxiety disorder. Lose skill and knowledge XP. Health and life levels are low. Win temporary custody by the skin of your teeth. Receive a boost in confidence XP from the hope that the judge will see that the seemingly charming man – the one sitting on the bench with his arm around his lawyer, the one who winked at you throughout your therapist’s testimony – is actually a diabolical maniac.
NOTE: Difficulty levels begin to increase here, but you can’t change them back to easy in Options. Difficulty level will continue to increase from this point on. Your best friend returns now to give you a gift of nerve pills for future court hearings. You thank her and tell her you love her on social media. You rest and receive an antibiotic due to bacterial pneumonia incurred from stress in level 2. Health and life levels are restored. Earn XP.
Level 4 Boss: CPS Officer. Meet with CPS. Twist, she’s arrived at your home but not to discuss the allegations of abuse against your abuser as you expected, but to discuss accusations your abuser has leveled at you. Laugh incredulously because you have documented proof of his abuse. Confidence XP gets a boost only to immediately plummet as the CPS worker informs you that she spoke with your abuser who provided a report from a therapist (why that duplicitous, greedy ass, money grubbing bitch!), citing how you abused your children. Vehemently declare, “I hired her for Christ’s sake! What the bloody fucking hell kind of game is this?!” Cringe as your house is searched by CPS. Try to explain that groceries are only low because you had to pay the rent and retain a lawyer and explain how your abuser is withholding child support. Cringe again as you inform the CPS worker that your food stamps won’t be in for another week. She frowns and writes in her file. Lose XP in skill, knowledge, and confidence. Life and health are red-zoned.
Level 5: Retain Lawyer. This drains your finances. Lawyer wins the first Hearing, but a second hearing is scheduled because that’s how family court works. Your lawyer informs you that opposing counsel is fully aware that your abuser is a dickhole. Nevertheless, she intends to milk this for all the money it’s worth and will continue filing one motion after another until you break. Your lawyer asks how much your children are worth, explaining that the parent with the most money wins. Realize you have no allies at all now. Lose all confidence XP.
Level 6: Self-Representation. Lose your lawyer. Spend ten hours a day researching state and case law. Spend hours writing a trial brief because that’s what your lawyer did in the first hearing. Marvel at the beauty of it. Sink into your chair in court as the brief is tossed out after opposing counsel calls it a high school essay. Mentally thank your best friend for the nerve pill because otherwise you’d be ripping the hair from the opposing attorney’s head as she’s just accused you of being a lesbian because you told your best friend you loved her on social media. Due to your new lesbian status, you’re an unfit parent, nevermind that your abuser damn near killed you and did kill his unborn child. Yes, you read that right, in family court, a homicidal, abusive dickhole is considered a better parent than a lesbian. Next, opposing counsel will throw in that you’re a slut, a drug user, a child abuser, did she mention you were a slut? Oh, she did, but who cares? She’ll say it again and again and again. You’re a dirty whore with a dirty house, and oh look, your kids just returned from visitation with your abuser. They have bruises and head lice, but in court, opposing counsel will blame this on you.
Level 6 Cutscene: Subpoenaed. Watch in horror as friends, family, church members, and police officers show up to testify against you. Wonder what the fuck you ever did to deserve their hatred and betrayal. Wonder how they could sit on the stand and lie so callously knowing that doing so places your children in danger, a danger they’re well aware of as they’ve had to rescue you in the past. Wonder how they sleep at night with the betrayal of innocent children on their conscience. Receive a letter from your abuser apologizing for blackmailing your family and friends. No longer give a fuck about XP (which is zero for confidence, skill, and knowledge) because this game is fucking unbelievable. Sit in shock after hearing is over. Once the shock wears off stumble to your car in a daze. Call a friend to borrow money for a tow because your tires have been slashed. Again.
Allies: Your allies are now your enemies because you are now the bad guy. At first, you may think this is a glitch. It’s not a glitch. It’s a cash cow. A broken system. A legal form of child trafficking. A breach of human rights. And let’s face it, no one in power would profit from family court reform. Now, where were we? Ah, enemies. Yes, everyone is your enemy now. Friends and family, the church, CPS, law enforcement, judges, therapists, FOC, GALs, hell, even the school staff members are giving you dirty looks. You discover that your abuser contacts school faculty daily telling them what a dirty, abusive whore you are. You wonder where your abuser gets the energy to carry out his obsessive stalking and phone calling. Also, that bastard still hasn’t paid child support.
Level 7 Cutscene: Aftermath. Arrive home after a grueling day of court, and take in the scene before you. Laptop and printer left on the coffee table with website permanently set to your cell phone account so you can print copies for police when they arrive to do welfare checks. Recorder next to phone for hours of recorded phone calls, all of which were inadmissible as evidence but hearsay was okay and didn’t have to be substantiated in accordance with the Federal Rules of Evidence. Stacked on the floor beside the sofa are files filled with evidence of domestic violence. However, this evidence was ruled inadmissible since the abuse occurred prior to the divorce even though state law says a judge must consider DV in custody cases. Empty cereal boxes line the top of the refrigerator and you hope CPS workers won’t open them. A copy of your lapsed RO is stuffed in your purse, another copy is hanging on the wall next to the door, yet another copy is in your car, and there’s even one on file at the school. Lament the fact that you couldn’t get a new RO in this town because they cost $500, not that it matters because your abuser’s lawyer expunged his criminal record eliminating your proof of his conviction for family violence. Baskets of unfolded but clean laundry dot the den, the trash is overflowing, and the sink is full of dirty dishes, all of which attest to the fact that you’re a dirty whore, but not because you are screwing johns all night, but because you spent ten hours a day for months trying to memorize state and federal law whereas lawyers spend years studying and preparing for court. Also, lament the fact that though the housework is untouched, no one verified that the kids never failed a test and their homework was always turned in on time and accurate. They were honor roll students. You somehow managed to attend every school program. Your kids never missed a meal. You purchased your children nice clothes. You tried to keep the nightmare in which you all lived concealed in shadow, and they seemed okay and resilient in spite of everything. You read to them. Played with them. Took them to the park. They never missed a doctor or dentist visit. You were a loving and protective parent, but no one ever asked about that.
Level 7: On The Run. Realizing you have somehow managed to lose what was supposed to be an open and shut custody case, you once again pack necessary items. You withdraw your children from school while the principal and staff watch you with odd looks on their faces. You leave and later receive a warning phone call that police have been alerted to your activities and are waiting at the county line to arrest you for kidnapping. You’re told to hand your children over at the police station, whereupon your children are told that you have abandoned them. The court declares that you are both unfit and a flight risk. You are given supervised visitation that must be followed in your abuser’s city of residence. In a twist, the judge decrees that your abuser can stipulate the details of your visitation. Your abuser cunningly sets your visitation outside the city limit so that if you engage visitation rights you will be arrested for kidnapping. In the event that you’re unhappy with this arrangement, he says you may visit your children in his home, the home he forced you to abandon out of fear of death. Listen as your abuser laughs when he says he couldn’t kill you and get away with it so having you arrested is the next best thing.
Time progresses. You have not seen your children in years and wonder what they look like and wonder if they think of you. No best friend comes over to make you feel better because you haven’t spoken to her since she refused to testify on your behalf after your abuser blackmailed her, using the affair she had with a married cop as leverage. Sink into depression. Suffer devastating health setbacks caused by stress and damage from a continual state of fight or flight that lasted four years, the duration of your family court saga. Hate everyone. Trust no one. Go into hiding. Tell no one of the outcome of your case because who would believe you anyway? Moms who lose custody are unfit mothers, the scourge of society, some of the worst people on the planet, right? Lie when people ask if you have children because you haven’t got the energy to even try to make this story make sense. Even if you had the energy to tell your story, you’ve been gaslighted and there’s no way anyone is going to believe you. You hear from old acquaintances from time to time who can’t believe the crackhead whore you’ve become and this wouldn’t have happened if you had trusted in Jesus and it’s all your fault because you’re a gay lesbian who didn’t go to church and how in the world will your kids ever forgive you for abandoning them? You consider going to the press but realize you can’t because the judge presiding over your case – the same one who issued your RO, the same one who listened to the recorded phone call of your husband telling someone he was going to kill you and your children, that same judge, who gave your abuser sole, physical custody of your precious children – issued a gag order.
You slump into the chair at the kitchen table, stare at the knives on the counter and contemplate suicide but swallow the antidepressant anyway. You consider changing out of your pajamas, dismiss the notion, and return to bed. Fuck. It. All.
Final Game Stats: Confidence XP= 0, skill XP = 0. Note sardonically that your knowledge XP =100 for all the good it will do you now.
Health = 0
Life = 0