Diane Patrick: Face Up to Domestic Violence

Beatrice Bell
Spare Change News

First Lady Diane Patrick was at the Tip O’Neill Federal Building in Boston recently to discuss her experiences living in an abusive first marriage for seven years. She managed to move on and today is married to Gov. Deval Patrick. This is her talk as recorded and transcribed by Beatrice Bell, a Spare Change News writer and vendor who is also a survivor of domestic abuse.

“Thank you for organizing this event. Thank you for pulling this together, thank you panelists and especially thank you to the people who chose to be here today.

“I think this is a critically important undertaking today and hopefully there’ll be more throughout the Commonwealth. I am glad that you asked me to be here today because it is something that I feel quite passionate about.

“I’m using the privilege of the honor of being the first lady of Massachusetts to speak out loudly as often as I can. I think that we all know that domestic violence can no longer be something that can be swept under the rug or kept behind closed doors. It’s no longer viewed as a private matter — a matter to be kept in a household — domestic violence is a major problem in our country, in our Commonwealth, in our communities and even in our homes. All one has to do is to take a look at the daily newspaper.

“For those of you who work in this field, domestic violence is all too familiar because you see it every day. You recognize it before you see it but for those of you who have never experienced or witnessed domestic violence, it may be harder to see and harder yet to understand. You may see it as a problem that touches only certain people, certain classes of people in certain communities.

“You may see it as something that doesn’t personally affect you or your friends and your family. However, as many of us know, domestic violence touches every single one of us. Domestic violence affects women from all racial and cultural groups and it crosses all social and economic statuses.

“Victims of domestic violence don’t always openly and readily speak about what they experience and that silence is very understandable; it’s seen as something that is private and so it often goes unreported or the victims are embarrassed — embarrassed that these things are happening to them. They’re humiliated because they don’t seem to know how to stop the abuse. They’re afraid of the consequences of reporting what’s happening to them and they can’t help it. So what do they do? They remain silent.

“I can attest that abuse doesn’t just happen to people who are less economically stable. Being a smart capable person doesn’t protect you from abuse. Having supportive friends and a strong family doesn’t mean that you won’t face an abusive partner. Abuse doesn’t discriminate against somebody because of their age, race or sexual orientation. It can happen and it does happen to many of us. Many of you already know this. I don’t just stand here today as a mother and a lawyer, as a wife, as a daughter and as first lady of the Commonwealth but also as a victim and a survivor of domestic abuse.

“When I met Deval I was 31 years old. I had come from a close and supportive family. I never had to worry about where my next meal was going to come from. When I met Deval I had just finished a five-year stint as a New York City school teacher and I’d gone on to law school and by then I was three years into practicing law at a very distinguished firm in Los Angeles. So by all outward appearances I was doing fine, but I wasn’t. I was in a very, very difficult process of trying to get out of a horrific and abusive marriage.

“By the time I met Deval I was damaged goods in every way one could imagine; physically, mentally and emotionally. I had left my then husband twice because of his abuse but twice I went back. I went back to apologies and promises that he would be better, that he would get better, before I realized that his apologies and promises were empty.

“My self-esteem was totally gone by this time. Completely, slowly, and systematically it was all taken away from me. I was immobilized with fear and I felt humiliated and embarrassed. So I pretended to everyone — to colleagues, to neighbors, my parents even — everyone except my sister and a couple of good friends. I pretended that everything was just fine but despite their pleadings and my sister and my friends pleadings with me to leave this marriage for the final time; I stayed because I was too afraid and I simply resigned myself to play the cards which I’d got. I gave up.

“I spent my days looking over my shoulders and not looking in the mirror. I spent my days going to work and pretending that everything was fine and doing a good job but my life after I left work was completely falling apart and it felt hopeless.

“Then I met Deval. A friend told me that he’d just graduated from law school and she thought he was perfect for me. She came to me and said that she’d met this guy who would be perfect for me and I said: “Debbie, you forget that I’m married. If I ever finish this marriage, I never want to see another man in my life.”

“No, no, really, I promise you that this is going to be OK, we’ll just meet in a crowd”, she said. And we did. He didn’t know anything about how broken I was, but he was just a good ear and he was a good shoulder and after a while of having lunch with him at our offices, he just kept listening and allowing me to talk. He let me pour out my feelings, and I don’t know to this date why he did, but he just let me pour out my pain to him. Then he offered me his incredible wisdom and strength and he told me not to be afraid. Truly amazing words; “Don’t be afraid.” He told me to believe in myself and he just helped me to heal back slowly just like my husband had slowly and systematically broken me down.

“Deval slowly and systematically helped me to build it back up and he stood by me and he never let me give up on myself. He reminded me that I had a voice and that I had the power to make a decision and I finally learned how to use that voice. I finally learned how to make a decision and I finally got out of that marriage but I must tell you I am and I was one of the blessed few. We know what happens to so many others; some never find their voice before it’s too late. Some suffer for longer than I did.

“Domestic violence is a challenge to the whole community and it demands a response from the community. It’s not an issue that’s confined to the privacy of one people’s homes. To confront the reality of the confinement and isolation that so many victims experience we need the resources of the community; the entire community for every individual to act to their fullness to support every individual whether her or him to find their voice and their strength.”

BEATRICE BELL is a Spare Change News writer and vendor. She recently found housing.

PHOTO: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST

Beatrice Bell is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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