Danika's Story

Many people can relate to a tragic situation. A car accident, a

serious illness, or even death. Feeling shock, denial, an out-of-body

experience as bystanders watching events unfold nearby.

Her insides were discarded, like a jack o’lantern on Halloween.

She was no longer fulfilled as the woman she once was. Danika

was left hollow. Now, she wants moms who face custody loss,

like she did, to know there is hope in the darkest and most

difficult times.

She was a stay-at-home mom. Her children were her world.

Danika has always been a great mother and a great person. She

thought that was all she needed to prevail in life. But it wasn’t


She discovered she married the wrong man. A man who

believed morals and values didn’t matter. Winning did.

If you’ve met her, you’ve never seen her as weak, which is a

stereotype of abused women. She was outspoken, she was a

tomboy and she stood up to bullies. Perhaps those are qualities

abusive, narcissistic individuals seek when looking for a partner.

They emulate the empathy, the strength and the courage of their

partner because their own is nonexistent. And when she chose to

end the relationship — he went after the element that was the

oxygen to her. He sought and won custody of the two children.

He regained power over her, just like he had in their marriage.

She felt ashamed and blamed by others, as if she did something

to be labeled as an “incompetent mother.'' But to the thousands

of loving mothers who lose custody in family court everyday —

understand there are situations when it is a legal and financial

game. It’s not about honesty or morals. Nor is it in the “best

interests of the children.”

When she reached the point when she was ready to come to

terms with the fact that she was in an abusive marriage, she

knew she had to get out. The threats, forcing sex, feeling the

panic of his hands around her neck — how could she let this

happen, she asked herself? It wasn’t always that way, she

rationalized. The well-being of the kids, keeping her family in

tact, that was her priority. At the time, she was doing the best

she could.

She recalls when she finally mustered up the courage to discuss

divorce. His immediate response scared her more than anything.

He was holding their oldest in his arms and he responded, “If

you leave me, I will make sure you don’t see the boys and you

end up in a cardboard box.” She remembers her son saying,

“Daddy, I want mommy.... Daddy, put me down.”

But her fear was fuel to him. Her abusive ex was awarded full

custody and she was granted the leftovers. From stay-at-home

mom to every other weekend visitation. The goal was to break

her. But he didn’t get the memo that she was unbreakable.

There has been a pattern of frenzy in our society where abusive

men, who thrive off of power and control, use their children to

get “even” with their former wives for leaving them. It’s not

about the kids. It’s about the WIN. It’s a game to them and the

winner gets power.

Her four-year-old son was sitting on his father’s new wife’s lap

at a baseball game. Normally her kids would run to see her. This

time her son did not. She asked to give her son a hug and his

father replied, “No, he can’t. He’s on restriction.”

Restricted from his mom? Every single thing was a struggle.

From which doctor and dentist, sports or music lessons, to after school

programs — he dictated power over her. Throughout the

following seven years of the father having sole legal custody of

her two sons, they suffered from physical punishment, verbal

abuse, emotional abuse, significant trauma and a divorce with

their father’s second wife. To this day, her son remembers

dropping the ball in baseball and his dad screaming at him

during the ride home, calling him an “idiot.” Danika watched

her sons internalize their feelings, express angry outbursts and

punch things. She felt nauseated being unable to help her own

children. Abusive dads need to know the moms — they are

unbreakable — the kids are not. The kids are left with extensive

hurt they cannot articulate.

The turning point occurred when she filed for full custody of

both sons through representation of herself. She knew the truth

of his abusive and manipulative ways would eventually reveal

itself. From her past experiences, she learned what to say and

what not to say in a court of law. It wasn’t helpful to say he was

a danger, he was crazy or he was violent. She had to use

statements such as, “in the best interests of the children”, “his

current emotional well being”, and “here is a harassment claim

filed by his second wife”. She had to dissect emotions and only

state the facts of her case. Then she was believed. Throughout

the process, she remained resilient, she was strong and she

stayed close to the light of supporters surrounding her. The

recipe for weaponry.

As a result, she triumphed with custody of both sons. The

wounds they endured measured as deep as when she first lost

custody. Choosing love for her kids as the path to walk dissolved

the fear of losing them. Her medicine to the shame and blame

from others was self love. Her strong sense of yoga was her

prevention from spiraling into despair. To know self love is to be

the healer of one’s afflictions. Love always wins.

Danika recently graduated from the University of Montana. She

teaches yoga and helps others facing similar realities through her

wisdom and experiences.

She is unbreakable.

Written by Alisa Divine, Author of #SheWins and Killing Kate