I lied more than a little during my marriage.
I lied that everything was okay. I lied by accepting words of denigration and acts of humiliation. I lied because I lacked the courage to tell the truth.
To tell the truth meant that I would be giving up on my wedding vows. And as anyone who knows me can attest, giving up is not Susan’s strong suit. I once was convinced a job was meant for me, and it took six rejected applications before I finally surrendered.
To tell the truth about the abusive aspects of my marriage meant that I would have to end years of comparing my marriage to my mother’s and others. My mom with her eighth grade education raised eight children never knowing whether my father’s paycheck would buy his buddies’ booze at the bar on Friday night or food for the family for the week. My marriage was a marvel compared to hers.
To tell the truth about violence in my marriage meant that I would have to stop using my lawyerly logic to rationalize how the dark side of my life wasn’t that bad. As a young divorce lawyer, I developed an increasing reputation for being a fierce advocate for the victims of broken bones and battered faces who managed to make it to my office, often having planned weeks in advance simply to escape for a consultation, let alone plan to escape for their lives. I lied by telling myself that I should just be grateful.
To tell the truth about my relationship demanded that I admit that I was in a relationship where my spirit was being crushed and my heart was being broken even if my collar bone wasn’t.
I was lucky. Oh I was lucky. My friends were brave enough to help me look at my reality simply by sharing their own observations about my life, showing huge compassion and setting aside any judgment. “I’m concerned for you.” “Have you ever considered yourself abused?” “Where do you see yourself in the future if you stay?” “Do you ever think about how this is impacting your children?”
My injuries were ones that could heal. Not every survivor is so fortunate. Not every victim survives. I’m lucky enough to celebrate each October— Domestic Violence Awareness Month—by shining a bit of light so that others may see the next small step forward on what can be a long journey.
Last October my law partner Angela and I were in the Mediterranean when we donned our purple in recognition of this important time of year. Today I continue to wear the smile you see above because others helped.
I was lucky. I had the help I needed. You or someone you love may not be so fortunate. If you or someone you know is experiencing the warning signs of domestic abuse, let in support now. Call the 24 hour domestic violence hotline at (800)799-SAFE (7233). Develop a safety plan. Call an attorney knowledgeable about protection orders. Don’t wait.