Her dark hair hung over her face as she furiously took notes. She barely spoke the entire semester. But she heard my “Me too.”
My lecture that week in my Women and the Law course was on domestic violence. I wanted these future lawyers to have an understanding beyond the legal definition of “credible threat” and which documents to file at the courthouse.
I wanted them to see that “Why didn’t she leave?” was the wrong question. I also wanted to answer it.
We argued about the garlic in the guacamole. He backed me up against the kitchen wall. He was furious. I remained calm. He berated. “This is abusive,” I said in my quietest voice, looking into his angry eyes.
He stormed outside. I took off my apron and went upstairs to finish my makeup. We were about to leave for his family reunion. I stood at the bathroom mirror focusing my shaking hand on my mascara when I heard the front door open and his footsteps coming up the stairs. Without warning he punched me squarely in the gut and calmly stated, “Now you can tell your friends I’m abusive.”
How had I been reduced to justifying the purchase of a two-dollar tube of lipstick? Of defending why I wanted to see a movie with a girlfriend? How did I stay with a man who threw the bowl of my freshly made Ocean Garden Pasta against the kitchen wall as I set the table, cracked the windshield with his bare fist as I drove, and smashed the bouquet of mums against the mantle as I wept?
I was a young lawyer and the president of our local chapter of the National Organization for Women when I had found myself joining the millions of women who lived silently and secretly with the unspoken shame of intimate partner abuse.
If it could happen to me, it could happen to you or someone you love.
Fifteen years before the Me Too movement I had my MeToo moment in that classroom. Fifteen years later, I would learn the impact of my story. My student found herself having every hour of her day monitored by her abuser as she struggled to safely escape with three children and her life. My story had mattered. Yours might too.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. 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.
And if you have a story you feel safe to share, share it. It could save a life.
Do you know the signs of intimate partner abuse?
Do you have a survivor story that might support someone to get to safety?
Are you a voice for respect, safety, and dignity in your world?