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My name is Vanessa Dimitropoulos.
Many people know me as Vanessa Cloke, the actress who played the minor recurring role of Anna on The Walking Dead. Never did I imagine that a minor role on one of the most all-time successful TV shows would serve as the channel through which I would land the biggest role of my life; an Advocate for Psychological Abuse Legislative Reform.
In December 2019, I was given a hands on crash course in the topic of narcissistic abuse, which almost led me to suicide. With the support of friends, family, victim forums, and narcissistic abuse experts, and with faith leading the charge of my fluctuating journey to recovery, I chose to lean in to the darkness. I dove deep into the pit of my own trauma, while simultaneously exploring the unaddressed yet dangerous epidemic of narcissistic abuse, a form of psychological abuse. During this exploration, I had two realizations. The first was that, while there were several resources which educated on the topic of narcissistic abuse and coaches to aid in the demanding and taxing efforts of healing the body and mind, there was little to no content on prevention from a legal standpoint. Law enforcement has little awareness of the psychological abuser's tactics, as witnessed in the Gabby Petito case, nor does the legislative system offer laws which protect humanity or punish the abuser. Abuse is a cycle, passed down from one generation to the next. In order to truly see a change, we not only have to heal ourselves and approach life differently than our upbringing exhibited, but we need to impose consequences for abusers. Penalties, such as fines and incarnation, are the only chance to induce remorse, if there can be any at all. In the meantime, allowing these abusers to mentally rape and pillage only causes suffering to innocent people and destroys lives.
The second realization was that my story, which debilitated me in every way imaginable, could and would serve a higher purpose: I would share the humiliating and devastating details of my personal hell with the hopes that it's vulnerability and authenticity would act as a source of inspiration. I will vindicate myself, and the many victims I've met with and read about, by creating a national campaign which will not only encourage discussion and bring about awareness, but ignites change: The Escaped Goat.
It is time for the legal system to not only recognize the physiological and mental damages inflicted upon the estimated 158 million victims of narcissistic abuse, but to pave a path which would allow victims to pursue legal recourse for the chronic and often irreparable damages to their physical, mental, emotional bodies, as well as to their reputation, financial stability, and well-being. This enormous task requires that our legal system criminalize psychological abuse, penalize abusers, and ultimately close out the trauma abuse cycle which has tormented generations for centuries.
Thank you in advance for reading my story. I honor that it is not as horrific as some that I've read, but it was enough to cause damage. I imagine that the damage is far worse for those whose experience with abuse was far more graphic. Sharing has been a source of healing from isolation, from feeling broken and powerless. It has revealed my Purpose. It has given me a sense of closure which I will never receive from those who abused me. My objective is to shed light on the invisible abuse that receives little to no attention from our society, mental health professionals, law enforcement, or communities. My hope is to gain support for all victims, and for change.
On December 14, 2019, I left my apartment at the Nutwood East complex in Fullerton to drive a friend to the airport. As I pulled up to the leasing office, I noticed three Fullerton police officers standing with a group of people including my former live in partner (who I will refer to as Davis for the sake of anonymity), his mother, step-father, sister, brother, and about three to four friends, all standing next to a large U-Haul.
I brought my car to a stop, stepped out, and inquired with Officer Watson as to what was going on. He stated that Davis was there to pick up his things. He said that "they" had receipts. As is often the case when narcissistic abuse is the driving force, the police were misled; they were not informed that the receipts were provided by Davis' mother, who had no legal tenant rights to the apartment. The belongings had been provided and used by Davis and I for the year and a half of our tenancy.
Note: As of this morning, I had hardly eaten or slept for over a month as a result of an ongoing psychological, emotional, and mental inflictions by this same group of people. These attacks entailed intimidation, harassment, disturbance of my peace, gaslighting, bribery, stonewalling, lies, financial hardship and jeopardy of well-being, social media bullying, libel, and slander, spying, cheating, being left to live in the stench of an abandoned and unattended pet cage filled with feces and drenched with urine, and having the police called on me after being verbally assaulted. Needless to say, when the police officer above mentioned the receipts, my body and mind had been in fight or flight for an extended period of time. Being caught off guard, after all of this, by three police officers and a group with malicious intent certainly did not provide for a clear mental space to think rationally. I did not think to mention that the provided receipts belonged to Davis' mother, who again, had no legal tenant rights, as she was simply the Guarantor on the apartment. It is also crucial to note that for the entire of my tenancy, I was not permitted by Davis' mother to pay for rent, the parking permit, and any money I sent to her, she returned to Davis.
Officer Watson stated the Davis had sent me a message that he was going to be picking up everything, yet when I checked my phone, the only message I received from Davis, who had blocked all communication for almost the entire duration of his absence since leaving one month prior, was,
"I'll be at the apartment soon to pick up some belongings."
The three officers forced me to allow Davis to remove our shared furniture, but accepted my objection to having the entire family in my home. Instead, I allowed him and one friend to enter. I sat at our dining room table with three officers hovering above me, watching me sob, disinterested in what a trained eye could see was complete mental anguish. To them, this was a sad and pathetic woman who was taking a break up rather hard.
Davis and his friend began removing all of the furniture.They removed the refrigerator. When I objected, the police noted that the family was nice enough to bring styrofoam coolers for my food.
They removed the couch. The bed. The TV, internet, kitchenware. I grew desperate. My sobs turned to pleas, then to insults towards Davis. He went on, without a care.
A few weeks earlier, he stated to one my closest friends that I
"was no longer human to him anymore."
Note: The previous month, after mocking and verbally attacking me, Davis began a strategic campaign to discredit me by calling the police on me. Davis ensured that the police would see him as the victim when he called on me again in the future. In the month leading up to this event, and for a month after, the police not only refused to listen, they violated my rights during my brief arrest, and later refused to write a police report for a break-in at the apartment. As far as they were concerned, I was "crazy," and an actress, so I was not credible, nor was I worthy of their help. They failed to Protect and Serve.
More on the police encounters during this period can be read in the blog post linked here:
To escape the chaos, I did what I had done during a previous pop-in by Davis and his sister; I left. In the past, I had a friend text me when they were gone.
Five days before the December 14th ambush, I wrote Davis a letter. I asked him to stop intimidating and harassing me. I told him that I was afraid of big families. I asked that he clean his rabbit’s cage. I asked that he open the lines of communication so I could discuss my plans to move. I asked that he relay to his mother my plans to leave the apartment once I received the settlement for the car accident I was in the year before; I wasn’t going to live in the car simply because Davis was not grown up enough to conduct a civil break-up. He knew full well that I had just begun to get on my feet after the accident. When adults break up, they do not jeopardize one another by throwing one another out of their home. At last one party must take time to plan where to go next. They need to figure out where they will work, live, and how they will get there. Two weeks is not a realistic time frame to after having lived with a partner for as long as we did, especially when coupled with the constant intimidation and emotional abuse I endured.
I also asked that he did not bring his sister over.
Note: His sister was an aggressor. She had pushed her way into my apartment once. Neighbors complained about her disturbances, as well as the fact that she had left her toddler children unattended on the third floor stairwell, and in the car. In the time I knew her, I witnessed her instigate fights with her own family members, and watched her drive off drunk with her children in the car. (I'd like to add the picture of my journal somewhere here, noting that Kim was jealous, and to focus on work...only way to survive.)
As I turned the corner to walk down the first set of stairs, his sister stood on the landing, phone in hand, recording me. An officer stood at the top of the steps. I approached the sister. In a video, she can be seen sneaking a U-Haul box up the stairs, most likely because the police had promised me that only Davis and one friend would be allowed. The police though, did nothing to stop her from waiting outside of my door for my exit.
Never in my life have I touched anyone’s personal property, but on this day, after months of psychological abuse, I snapped. I flipped her off, called her a name, took the phone, and threw it over the balcony. Immediately after, I turned to continue walking down the stairs. The officer at the top was not looking in our direction at the exact moment of the incident. I didn’t hear it at the time, but according to audio, my ex’s step-father can be heard announcing,
“There she goes!”
Clearly, their plan to provoke me had worked.
I was handcuffed by an Officer and led down the stairs. The sister excitedly yelled out that she wanted to press charges.
Included in her report was also a false claim that I assaulted her. According to California law, if the police are present when a person claims they have been assaulted, the police must arrest the accused, even if they did not witness the claim. (The entire Oscars audience, including LAPD, witnessed Will Smith strike Chris Rock, yet Smith was not arrested. The DA should have filed charges despite Chris Rock choosing not to, because Rock's charges would have been for a civil suit, where the LAPD's would have been for a state suit, in which the DA would have charged Smith).
I began crying. I had to use the restroom and I wanted to take some feminine products because I was menstruating. I was refused. As I crossed the landing from the first floor to the parking lot steps, I noticed Davis' mother hiding in the hallway, also recording me, as if I were an animal at the zoo.
I was put in the back of the police car as I sobbed. My friend held me until the police shut the door. Officer Watson began to parade me around the parking lot of my complex until I told him not to. As he drove me to the station, the only thing I remember doing besides sobbing was saying over and over, "You don’t know what’s really happening. If only you knew what was really happening.”
"You don’t know what’s really happening. If only you knew what was really happening."
At the station, I was handcuffed to a wall pipe. Officer Watson asked me if I had actually touched the sister, seemingly an admittance that not only did he not witness an assault, but that the timeline of her claim did not add up. How could I have hit her if I turned away immediately after throwing the phone?
A female officer was then introduced as the searching officer, Officer Diaz, badge 0008. I notified her politely that I had been molested as a child, and to please not handle my breasts aggressively. Instantly, she began threatening me. “Do you want to go to County? You know what? We’ll just send her to county!”
I begged for another officer to handle the search, but it was Saturday, and she was the only available female officer.
I was put into the search room. Officer Diaz put me against a wall and, with purely malevolent intent, grabbed and yanked my breasts. I continued to sob. She continued to yank. Hands cuffed behind my back, I could not protect myself. My body went into shock; it flung itself across the room. I landed, face down, between a metal bench and a wall. I begged for help. Diaz said that she would not remove my handcuffs. I cried for help. She said, “You got yourself in there, you can get yourself out.”
I told her that I was stuck.
Finally, I was pulled up, then sat on a bench. Officer Diaz then removed my socks and shoes said, "NOW you can go to the bathroom.".
“NOW you can walk to the restroom.”
I replied that I was not walking to the restroom barefoot, and that she should put my socks and shoes back on. She said she would not, and again told me that she would not remove my handcuffs. I contorted my body and twisted my shoulder; I am 5’ 8.” Reaching my feet while handcuffed with my hands behind my back was almost impossible. After having my shoes partially on, I was led down a hall, up the elevator, down another hall, and into a cell to urinate while a male officer stood with his back to me. I was then taken down for my mug shot. Anyone who looks at this mug shot can see that this moment was belittling and humiliating, and reflects the naturally scared state of a victim.
At the fingerprint station, I had a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe. I verbalized this to the fingerprinting officer. He put me back into the search room. I sat on the bench, my eyes feeling as if they were going to bleed. I smacked my own face out of the frustration that nobody would listen to me. I heard Officer Diaz call me crazy from the room next door...
The fingerprint officer returned. “You’re holding this up.” I told him that I needed a minute, and to Google panic attacks when he got home that night.
He replied, "I'm just trying to help."
He replied, “I’m just trying to help.” This carte blanche statement is a standard phrase to make someone feel guilty about the valid emotions they are experiencing.
My prints were finally complete. A new officer was now in the room. He asked if everything was ok; he seemed to be the only one sensing that something was not right. I was so afraid of speaking up that I nodded. I didn’t know who I could trust. I asked Officer Diaz for her name and badge number. She got in my face, smirked, and spelled out her four letter last name as if I was elderly, deaf, or stupid.
I was released into the rain without a jacket. My phone was dead. I charged it at a liquor store so that I could call a friend for a ride.
Back home, the police were gone. The entire family was now in my apartment, despite the police agreeing to only allow Davis and his one friend.
Upon seeing me, the sister began yelling,. “She’s back!” My ex called the police again. The sister yelled at me,
"You can't afford to live here!"
"You need to leave!"
"This isn't your home!!"
I calmly went inside and collected some binders of evidence that I had been compiling. I messaged a neighbor to let me know when the group had left.
That night, I decided to end my life. I was at the end. If these people could get away with what they did, and had Police support in doing it, then there was no hope of justice ever being served. If my abuser was able to discredit me, how would I ever prove my innocence? My body was stuck in fight or flight. I was terrified to be alone.
I decided yes, I could end my life, but I talked myself into giving it one day. If I still wanted this in the morning, I would end everything. This agreement with myself was enough to get me through the night. In the morning, I called a childhood friend and my therapist. Both advised and assisted me in a plan to leave the apartment and go somewhere safe; somewhere I could calm my nervous system. I made a plan to drive to Oregon to stay with my best friend.
Just as I left Los Angeles, I received a call from Dennis Broad at TMZ. He wanted a statement. I explained that I was suicidal, that I had been psychologically abused for months on top of the violations experienced by this family and the police, and that printing this would inflict further emotional distress. The “journalist” hounded me for a statement for the next couple of days. After settling in Oregon, I sent him the story. He replied, “We don’t have room for all of that.” He wouldn’t print my side of the story. He wouldn't name them in the story. He swore he would not be unkind. I submitted the following comment:
TMZ released my arrest video on Christmas Eve. I went offline. Friends reached out. Fox news left a message. I didn’t want to speak with anyone. I was humiliated. Publicly shamed. I woke up every morning at 5am, drenched from the sweat of another anxiety attack in my sleep. I lost 20 pounds in a month. I lost friends. They saw the TMZ story and decided that I was crazy or a Drama Queen. The only people who truly understood what I had been through were found online; in forums and in YouTube comments. In my desperation, I searched for anything that could help me understand what had happened. What I found were stories characteristically similar, almost identical to mine, told over and over again by so many other victims, and it became very clear that what I experienced was a template. All of the observations and happenings, the people involved, the tactics used…all of them had a name.
Note: My mother passed away in September 2020, three months shy of her favorite holiday. Her last Christmas memory of me was seeing my arrest video circulate the internet the year before, thanks to TMZ.
Everything now made sense. Not only was I not crazy, but I was one of millions of people who had been shamefully discredited and wrongfully accused. As I learned more about narcissistic abuse, I realized how dangerous it's effects were; many of the victims committed suicide. It was awful enough that most victims, including myself, suffered from the ongoing psychical and mental effects such as autoimmune disorders, anxiety attacks, paranoia, looping, nightmares, PTSD, and CPTSD. Many though, after being isolated and living with the demoralizing and invalidating reality that nobody understood what they had been through, and after years without justice nor vindication, many take their own lives.
Further disturbing is that Davis was earning a degree in Counseling. My partner was a future mental health professional, yet used every vulnerability and trauma as weapons. After gaining my trust, I shared significant events from my childhood and adult life. Rather than support me as he did his practicum clients, each and every honest admission, secret, and insecurity was ammunition in his armory. He launched his attack just as I begun piecing myself together after a car accident, entered therapy, and worked painstakingly on a new career (moving in with him severed most of the production work which had kept me busy and stable before meeting him). He slandered me on his social media, sparking cruel and threatening comments, many by family members of his who I had spent time with, helped, and even supported when a relative passed away that year. He edited a video to make it seem as though I told him to "kill himself," and spread rumors that I was under the heavy influence of Xanax while driving he and his friends around. His behavior was anything but that of an advocate for mental health.
I filed a very detailed report with Professors at Davis' academic institutions. No response. Davis had made sure to spin a story months before. I imagine that as far as they were concerned, this charming, intelligent, and top student would never be capable of such heinous acts. Davis, was a Golden Child in the eyes of the public, but behind closed doors, he was sinister, spoke poorly about his classmates, made racially derogatory remarks, stonewalled, blame shifted, and raged with his voice or by throwing objects. He fooled them, just as he had fooled me. It turns out that he was a much better actor than I would ever be. In the end, he allowed December 14th to be one of the most traumatic events in my life, stood by a relative who lied to the police, and watched the person he claimed to love and promised to defend as she was berated, demoralized, and destroyed. He supported, encouraged, plotted the mental destruction of another human being. Remember Davis' belongings that he removed because he had moved out? After I was forced with fear by he and his family to remove myself from the lease, Davis moved these belongings, and himself, back into the apartment. The December 14, 2019 ambush was a tactic used to smoke me out of my home.
I am still facing charges for misdemeanor assault and battery.
At my January 2020 arraignment, I was informed that the DA was "further reviewing" my case. Two months later, the lockdown went into effect. My case has been pushed at least three times. I cannot give details of the case, but as soon as this chapter of my life is closed, I will be updating the site. I have also filed suit against the accuser (Davis' sister) for Defamation of Character, Invasion of Privacy, Loss of Reputation, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. This case is also ongoing, and I will update the outcome on this site.
Pending charges put an enormous wrench in applying for work. Published articles regarding my arrest and including videos and photos obviously create concern in the eyes of potential employers.
If in the past someone had wronged me, I walked away. Whether it was a job or a partner. This time though, I wasn’t going anywhere. It was no mistake that I went through all that I did. The acting career that no longer felt fulfilling was suddenly able to serve an urgent and unaddressed cause, and ultimately, my Purpose: I am here to not only bring awareness to psychological abuse, but to reform laws. The little notoriety I had was used by this family to bring public shame, but I chose to flip the script; I would use my platform to launch a national campaign. One that would not only strive for legislative reform, but also give hope to the many victims of psychological abuse who suffer in silence because they have no bruises or broken bones to prove "damages." This campaign will lead the charge against narcissistic and psychological abuse by giving it the attention necessary in order to ignite change. There is no point in touting #mentalhealthawareness without supporting the movement with action. Publications like TMZ and platforms such as Facebook are legally allowed to provide toxic environments which erode and destroy a person’s mental health. It is no coincidence that suicides have drastically increased since the rise of social media and cyber bullying.
Organizations must be held accountable for their contribution to this tragic fact.
Law enforcement must be educated on the tactics of psychological abusers so they can protect the actual victims.
Legislation must adopt reform so that we can begin to tackle this very covert and
malignant form of psychological abuse.
We must criminalize psychological abuse immediately. It's time to Take Action.
Join The Escaped Goat in reforming psychological abuse laws.
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