Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I was asked to speak at a WEAVE fundraiser. Here's what I said:

Here is how I knew I wasn’t a victim of domestic violence:
  • I’m educated on the topic. In college, I studied domestic violence and raised thousands of dollars for WEAVE, My Sister’s Place, and House of Ruth.
  • I am physically and emotionally very strong.
  • I have a PhD and a successful career.
  • After my husband threw a Brita pitcher full of water at my head, he told me it was no big deal.After my husband threatened to kill me, we went to a therapist and he explained to her and me that he’d never hurt me and never would.
  • When my husband had a fit of rage at another therapists office, our therapist told me it was time to leave because he had another couple coming in, but if I felt unsafe I should wait a few minutes in the bathroom for my husband to calm down.
  • When my husband slammed me against the wall, wouldn’t let me move, and yelled “Call the f’ing police you manipulative bitch”, our nanny and her husband were right there. (How bad could it have been?)
  • When I’d tell people I fear for my safety and that’s why I asked my husband to move out they would say (and I’m not kidding) “but you are so much bigger than him, you could just sit on him.” (I got that on at least 3 occasions).
  • When I went a lawyer about what to do next and she told me to go home and make nice because I didn’t really have a very good case. She said the best thing I could do was provoke him to hit me again and then call the police to improve my chances.

I knew I wasn’t a victim of domestic violence, but I started checking terms on google like “How do I know if I am a victim of domestic violence” and “Signs of domestic violence.”

I knew I wasn’t a victim of domestic violence, but one cold, January day about a year ago, I dropped my son at daycare, pulled into a CVS parking lot and made a call that would change my life. I called WEAVE.

“I have a crazy question,” I said, hearing the jangling in my voice as my vocal chords shattered like breakaway glass with every word. “I just, I’m not sure who to ask for, I just want to know if my, um, my situation qualifies… qualifies as domestic violence. I don’t think my situation counts but I’d just like to check, in case I’m missing something. Is there someone I could talk to?”

And there was.

Later that night, I went to a free legal clinic. In the lobby there was a Japanese mother and daughter. The daughter was 9, very precocious and chatty. Her mom was beautifully dressed in designer clothes, didn’t speak a word of English, and didn’t have a US passport. Her daughter told me she went to boarding school in California. I wondered what might have brought them to this legal clinic. Next to me was a woman who reminded me of my mother. She had a wedding ring, short, salt and pepper hair, and looked like she worked on 17th and K.

“This is who comes to a free legal clinic?” I thought. My laptop, blackberry and I somehow fit in.

I waited a few minutes and then met with a lawyer named Tracy. I told her my situation and then asked my question… “Do I qualify? Does this count as domestic violence? I’ve talked to a lot of people and the jury is split but I’m sure I don’t I mean I’m sorry to have wasted your – ”

She cut me off. “This is a guy that is all about control. Have you seen the cycle of violence?” I hadn’t and she showed me. “With guys like this, the good times can be good, and that’s why it’s easy to get confused.” She pulled out a huge photocopied book and plunked it on the crowded desk. “Here’s the statute she said. Read it yourself.”

How had I missed it?

5 ½ years after he threw the pitcher. 2 ½ years after he threatened to tie me up, cover me with lighter fluid and set me and our house on fire. 3 months after he first physically hurt me. I was scooped up in the arms of WEAVE and carried to the starting line of my journey to wholeness. A journey in which I’ve had to give up everything I thought I knew about domestic violence and start over. The first step was letting go of the idea domestic violence happens to other people. The second, was fully accepting it happened to me. And if WEAVE weren’t around, I believe it would have escalated even further.

And that’s why I’m here tonight, to share my story and to help make sure WEAVE will be there to give someone else the support and confidence they need to let go of what they know and start accepting what is.

I am a victim of domestic violence, but I am not weak. WEAVE just helped me connect to my strength, get safe, and move on. I can’t imagine how much longer that would have taken without them and every day I look in my little boys eyes and know we are safe, I am grateful to all WEAVE has done for us.