“I have a black eye.”
“He was raging at me.”
“He threw me up against the bathroom door with his hands around my throat and another hand over my mouth.”
“He pushed me over our kitchen counter, holding his hands over my mouth and throat.”
“I was in my car trying to leave and he came out and dragged me out of it and threw my things all over the street.”
“My dad came trying to help me. He punched my dad. He has multiple bruises and possibly a broken nose.”
I can’t show you a picture of our client who swore and attested to these facts on her Petition and Affidavit to Obtain Domestic Abuse Protection Order. It would be ugly with her dark black eye looking out at you. Instead, I post a pleasant photo of my in purple hoping that people will click and read her story. Because the story ends like this: Protection Order Denied.
I was inspired toward my legal career when I started volunteering at a women’s shelter in college. In law school I became an employee and worked the overnight shifts in the shelter that housed women and children who were fleeing abuse. I will never forget seeing women and their children arriving at shelter disheveled and wide-eyed with fear.
In those days, before I was a mom myself, I did not appreciate what it took for her to take her children from their home in the very moments when what they craved most was safety and bring them to a strange place to all sleep in one room with another family. I had no idea the strength she was wielding in that fragile space.
I was naive in thinking that in my lifetime I would see domestic abuse lessen. Instead, not a month goes by that I don’t hear another heartbreaking story of abuse from a client. The words spill out in all forms – emotional, financial, psychological, and physical. My co-workers and I have cried over their hurt and our helplessness.
Every year in October we attempt to educate and raise awareness and I start to worry it has become white noise. I wish everyone could experience having to memorize a face because that face could come into your workplace and make good on his promise to kill her and her lawyer. (My employees bravely stay in the face of these threats every single year and more than enough times my attorneys and I had to seek sheriff escorts at the courthouse.)
Our judiciary is woefully apathetic. Some judges declare they “just don’t sign Protection Orders.” Others must not be reading the statements of the victims – it’s the only way I can explain when my clients ask why the judge didn’t care. The judges often comment, “the system is abused by women.” They say this without so much of a flinch toward the irony.
I fought a hard battle in the last legislative session to convince my fellow attorneys that legislation preventing the weaponization of a family pet was necessary. I was dumbfounded it was met with so much resistance. No one wanted to believe that a family pet would be killed as warning.
As a culture, we are too tolerant, or worse, too dismissive of domestic abuse. The issue is minimized – the victims marginalized. We can and must do better.
So, we persist, and we do find our victories. Survivors – you must keep telling your stories, shedding light, and seeking support. Your advocates are out there and believe me, we believe you.