Collin Slattery recounts his mother and sisters, their vicious plan to ruin his life, and the invaluable price of what he gained in order to replace what they took.
My older sister (we’ll call her “Janet”) is abusive, verbally and physically, and has been since childhood. After our father died, she was abusive to our mother and younger sister. The two of us did not get along, partly because she was unable to abuse me, and resented that I chose to stand up and defend my mother and younger sister from her cruelty.
In the middle of February 2008, shortly before my 19th birthday, my mother told me that she was being evicted from our apartment and that she was going to live with Janet. I would not be afforded the same opportunity, and I had two weeks to find a place to live.
I was not in college at the time because my mother had chosen to use my identity to borrow over $10,000 without my knowledge in order to delay her inevitable financial collapse. I lived on my own for the next few years.
In early 2010, I began to speak with my mother again in an attempt to work past the things she had done to me and to have some sort of relationship with her. In August, I was thinking of moving, and she suggested that I move in with her, since she was having trouble paying rent. (Though my older sister had moved out, she kept the apartment where my mother subletted and hid from her creditors.)
In hindsight, this was clearly a bad idea, but I had missed all the things I had grown up with, including my dog, and, sharing rent, I would be able to save a couple hundred dollars a month. Despite the fact that I was moving back to the ghetto, it seemed like a reasonable idea.
By November, things were strained. I was growing frustrated with her continuous refusal to do anything to fix the problems she had caused for me, including the complete destruction of my credit score, which prevented me from qualifying for credit cards and student loans, and making it nearly impossible to get a lease. One evening, after an argument about this very subject, I left to go relax and calm down. A few hours later I received a text message from my mother saying, “Don’t come home.” I was to “find somewhere else to sleep,” though she knew full well I had no where else to sleep and no money to pay for a hotel—I had invested all of my spare cash in the company I founded back in August.
I came home that evening to find the chain on the door, with my mother telling me to go sleep on the street since I had nowhere to go. Since I was paying rent, I was not going to put up with that nonsense, so I broke the chain, came into the apartment, brushed my teeth, and went to sleep. We did not even speak. The next morning she was gone, and she was gone for the next four days. I did not hear from her, I was not given any information from my younger sister, and I had to take care of our ancient dog while also going to work.
It turns out that my older sister has been orchestrating a plan to destroy my life. She strolled into the apartment four days later with a giant grin. My mother followed behind her like some abused animal. She handed me some papers, which I read with growing astonishment and fury. It was a list of accusations that read like something out of Law and Order, and not a single word of it was true: forcible touching, sexual abuse in the second or third degree, menacing in the second or third degree, criminal mischief, sexual misconduct, disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment, stalking, harassment in the first or second degree, aggravated harassment in the second degree, assault in the second or third degree.
Charges against me—someone so terrified of making a woman uncomfortable that I never make the first move, go in for a kiss, or try to initiate physical contact. Someone so concerned about not being pushy and aggressive that the one and only time I had sex was when a woman literally grabbed my arm and dragged me to her apartment.
“None of this is true,” I said. “How could you do this to me? How could you fucking accuse me of this?”
The grin widened. I was livid, shaking with rage. I had never understood how it was possible to become so enraged that you could want to kill another human being, but in that moment I understood.
“You should be thanking me,” my sister said, knowing she had an opening to provoke me further. “I could have had this delivered to you at your office.”
I went into lockdown. I became silent and still. As I had done so many times before, with the sadness and misery that were constant companions during my childhood, I was waging an internal war to choke down an uncontrollable rage that was dangerously close to exploding. My mother knew what was happening, and she grabbed my sister’s arm and started pleading.
“Can we go now? Please! Let’s go! You’ve had your fun! Can’t we leave?”
I spent the whole night reading the list over and over, reading the anecdotes that painted me as a monster. I held our dog and cried. This dog had been the only source of affection I had known for a decade, and she snuggled up next to me on the couch as I cried uncontrollably into her fur. I stood in the shower letting scalding water burn my entire body. I didn’t sleep that night.
Before going into work the next morning, I forced myself from despair, knowing I had concrete, immutable proof that multiple of these statements were lies. I believed then that the justice system would rule on the side of truth.
Over the two-week period before the court date, I built my case. I gathered evidence. I could not disprove the charges, but I could prove many of the “facts” that my mother, older sister, and younger sister had concocted and sworn were true under oath were in fact completely fabricated. The claim that I had assaulted my sister when she had told me to “get a job or get out” while we were living together in April 2008, for example, was easily disproven by copies of checks for rent—copies from my bank, not checkbook negatives—which were dated and cashed in the months of March, April, and May of that year.
By the time the court date arrived, I was incredibly confident that everything would be thrown out because I would be able to prove a concerted pattern of lies used to construct a story—the one that painted me as this monster.
All parties were sworn in. The judge—a woman—read the charges against me, and both myself and my mother were provided with court appointed attorneys.
“These are very serious charges, Mr. Slattery,” the judge said. I told her that I understood, but that they were completely untrue. Proceedings were adjourned until the next day. The next morning before proceedings, I sat with my lawyer to go over my documents, the case, and what I wanted to do. As soon as we started talking, I knew I was in trouble.
She read the charges, and told me how serious they were and asked me what I did. I told her that I hadn’t done anything, that the charges were completely absurd, and that I could prove numerous of their statements to be lies.
“You must have done something, Mr. Slattery,” she told me. “No one would make these things up.” My attorney believed I was guilty.
I took out the copies of the checks provided to me by the bank and showed her how they proved that they completely made up the story about me assaulting my sister.
“These prove that they are lying about that whole story. If I can prove that they’ve already lied under oath, then the rest of their claims will be compromised.”
She looked at me and replied, “We are not dealing with financial matters, Mr. Slattery.” I sat there shocked.
“This has nothing to do with financial matters!” I said, exasperated. “This is just about proving that they have lied under oath! Doesn’t that matter?”
“No, Mr. Slattery, it doesn’t. There are lots of claims here you can’t disprove.”
We talked for another 30 minutes or so until we were scheduled to go into the courtroom. My confidence was steadily sinking. The proceedings started with my mother and two sisters doubling down on their lies. Their attorney tried to illustrate me as unstable and violent, and my attorney was not trying very hard to defend me.
When I stood up to speak in my defense, I said, “Your honor, they are not telling the truth. I have checks here that …” My attorney cut me off, saying, “My client understands that this is not about financial matters.” I said, “I know it isn’t, but these checks prove …” She cut me off again, saying, “This court does not deal with financial matters.” I started to argue with her and she cut me off, yet again, and told me to be silent.
I felt completely powerless. Here I was with concrete proof about the lies against me, and I was barred from bringing up my evidence. The attorney for my mother requested that I be removed from the apartment—the one where I was paying rent—that day because I was, according to my family’s complaint, a violent monster. I wanted 30 days—that is standard procedure, and I had already paid for the month of December.
Both parties went outside to try to negotiate a settlement, and our attorneys sat down to discuss things. My attorney came back and said, “They are willing to give you three days.”
“Three days! How am I supposed to find a place to live in three days? I have no savings, I have nowhere to go, even temporarily, and I already paid for December. Can I at least get two weeks?”
“I’ll try, Mr. Slattery, but they want you out, and they have a case.”
“They don’t have any case at all!” I said, “Show these to their attorney and show him that they are clearly lying.”
“How many times do I have to tell you that this has nothing to do with financial matters?”
They continued “negotiations” and each time the answer was the same. Three days. My requests got more feeble and pathetic: 10 days, seven days, five days, but the response was always the same.
I felt disillusioned. I had always believed that we had a justice system, a system that valued truth and facts—one in which false accusations would be disregarded as just that, where false accusers would be punished for wasting time and resources, and for inflicting harm on the accused. That belief died.
I had two options: accept the “deal,” or take the case to trial. I couldn’t afford to miss more work—I had already used three of my five combined sick and vacation days for the year—and, honestly, I had lost all faith in the system to believe that a trial would result in a better outcome. I agreed to take the deal.
Back in the courtroom, the deal was presented and agreed to. I stood there stooped, unable to speak, and simply nodded my head. In addition to being forcibly removed from my home in three days, I had a restraining order placed against me for two years. My permanent record would be forever tarnished with heinous lies.
When I returned home, my mother was already there.
“How could you do this to me?” I asked. “How could you accuse of me these things, and sign your name to it! You know none of this is true! This has always been one of my greatest fears, and the three of you were the ones to make it a reality! I knew Janet was capable of doing something like this, but I never could have imagined that she would get you two to go along with it.”
She looked at me and said, “I know none of it is true, but we want to teach you a lesson. We want to ruin you.”
Somehow, I managed to find a place and move in three days. I had no money, and thankfully I had a good friend who was willing to lend me $1,000 in order to help me cover my security deposit. That friend literally saved my life, because I think I would have taken it had I not been able to find somewhere to go.
I had to leave a lot of my stuff behind. I had to pick up my life and flee. That holiday season was an immense struggle, and this one has been too. The holidays have a way of making the pain of chronic loneliness all the more acute.
Despite the fact that there is no restraining order with my younger sister, the one I used to protect and care for growing up, I have not spoken with her since. I don’t know if I can ever forgive such a betrayal. I expected it from Janet, and I expected her to be able to terrorize my mother into going along with it, but I never would have imagined that they would be able to corrupt my younger sister. Sometimes, I wonder how they did it.
The only contact I have had was a brief chain of e-mails started by my older sister a week after my birthday this past February:
Janet: You are a shithead. Fucking worthless piece of shit.
Myself: Stay classy. In rehab yet?
Janet: Are you for your clepto problem? Where is her shit?
Myself: I have zero idea what you’re talking about. Don’t email me again. Ever. Enjoy your miserable lives without me.
Janet: Fuck you. You know exactly. I hope you rot in hell you stealing thriving piece of shit. The universe will curse you and daddy will make sure you’re never getting anywhere or anything because you are a sorry excuse for a son. He’ll make sure you get the punishment you deserve.
Myself: No, I really don’t. With that said, I do appreciate this e-mail chain as it will further reinforce the kind of people you all are in the closing chapters of my book, as if we needed more proof. I’m sure he’d consider giving you three a round of applause for the crimes you have committed against me.
Janet: Ha. Perhaps you can find some proper medication to help you with your delusional ways.
In a way, she was right. I was blind but now I see. I see that my family died 12 years ago with my father, and that someone had to be the target for all the anger. That someone was me. I see that I am not the terrible, worthless person I was routinely told I was as a child, not the weak, pathetic loser that I was raised to believe I was, not one to be ashamed of the things that were done to me because they were never my fault.
And yet I don’t. Every day I struggle with the scars that are left behind. Every day I wage a battle with the chorus of negative voices seeking to drag me down.
My family may be out of my life, but their words and actions are forever whispers in my mind.