To suffer in silence is a very difficult cross to bear. When people come to my office to talk about their marital issues, very often they will admit to me that this is the first time they have told anyone there are any problems at home. Many times, people shed their first public tears, as they recount the series of events that has led them to my door. Men and women both choke up– especially when talking about their kids–as they ask with uncertainty about what the future will look like.
It is an incredibly personal part of their lives that people share with me each and every day. That moment when they first break their silence, especially if there has been significant verbal or physical abuse, is a powerful one. At first, there is often shame involved– but I try to nip that in the bud. The one who should be ashamed is the abuser– the moron that seeks power through threats. Luckily, in my legal world power is measured based on intellect and ability to influence– so, I don’t have to be built like a Sumo wrestler to pack a good punch!
After the feelings of shame have subsided, there is a period of time where a person may feel stupid– because now they are able to look back and piece together the signs. Hind-sight is 20/20, but no one should be faulted for trying to remain optimistic, for holding out hope that things will get better, for trying to rationalize certain incidents as related to stressful moments in a couples’ life. The key question is when you finally had the a-ha moment, did you stay or did you flee? If you bailed and managed to survive, then you are NOT stupid.
Once people have established their own safe haven, an amazing transformation begins to occur– with each day these survivors grow stronger. There is a beautiful, generous side to most individuals within our community, and as friends and family rally to a person’s side, I see them restore one’s faith in humanity.
Since the beginning of time, evil has always lurked around every corner. If you believe in the Bible, just look at all the examples in there, starting with the Fallen Angel, the Garden of Eden, and of course ending with the crucification of a wise, innocent man, who many consider to be the son of God. This point is a critical one, for many often feel like God has forsaken them in their time of suffering, but let me ask you this– he did not even save his own son from death, what is it that you expect God to do? If you want to survive in life, you have to save yourself.
My role in this whole process is easy– especially in that initial consult, for my job is simply to (1) explain the law, (2) give clients their options, and (3) issue my recommendation. The law is after all pretty cut and dry, while we try to be objective and strip legal arrangements of any emotions. However, throughout the last decade, it has become impossible for me to ignore the sea of emotions that surrounds my lovely little legal island. My clients are surrounded by shark infested waters, and sadly they cannot stay on dry land forever. Eventually, they have to get back out there and either sink or swim. Therefore, the sooner they learn to fight their own battles, the better– but this I did not learn in law school, this lesson came through 15 years of experience handling some of the worst legal battles imaginable– the War of the Roses actually seems tame compared to what I’ve seen.
In the end, the main point I want to make is that breaking the silence is a critical first step to gaining freedom, but be prepared for a battle. Oppressors will not make the exit that easy, and you may have to involve the authorities. Thankfully, the criminal laws are being updated to keep up with modern technology, and the definition of harrassment keeps expanding. Phone carriers and internet providers are also doing their best to protect their customers and preserve the peace. Attorneys are trained to play the role of gladiators in courtrooms, and meanwhile there are countless mental health professionals trained to assist those in need of emotional support. I can not emphasize enough the importance of those counselors– for they are the ones that will help build up the skills you need so you can swim, and not sink, when swimming along those shark infested waters.
Break the silence, and stay strong!
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.