The Consequences of Speaking Up About Abuse from a Powerful Man.
If you’ve ever read a story about a victim of abuse and you’ve wondered, “Well, if it was SO bad, why didn’t she/he leave or speak up sooner?” This very personal look into my life after speaking up against my abuser is for you. It is my life as it is today, laid bare.
This is how my life looks after making the decision to speak in the Washington Post, which led to my abusive ex-husband losing his job as a White House speechwriter for President Trump.
February 9, 2018 A White House speechwriter resigned Friday after his former wife claimed that he was violent and…www.washingtonpost.com
Many of you heard parts of my story when my ex-husband, David Sorensen, was forced to resign from the White House after Elise Viebeck from the Washington Post wrote an article describing just a few of the ways I was abused by him during our marriage.
Believe it or not, the story in the paper did not detail some of the most damaging or scarring abuse I have endured. Making the decision to talk publicly wasn’t easy and it still isn’t.
Nothing could have prepared me for the consequences of my decision to come forward.
In the days after the story went public, I found myself in hiding from the members of the media from all over the country who wanted to interview me. When they couldn’t find me, they pursued my family and friends.
Nothing prepared me for staying silent as outright lies were spread about me or watching the people who knew the truth stay silent to protect their own political and self interests.
Making the decision to speak up has cost me everything:
My happily ever after to man I was in love with.
My beloved dog Frank.
My ability to find gainful employment.
My freedom to move through this world as I had always had.
After my divorce, I was lucky to find love and was engaged a couple of months before the story in The Washington Post broke. Within a week after returning to Maine after being in hiding to plan our wedding, I was hit with a 4 million dollar defamation lawsuit.
Unlike other public figures who feel like they have been defamed, who sue the media outlet who published the claims, David chose to sue me, not the Washington Post. Because he knows that the words they printed are TRUE. He knows he doesn’t stand a chance in court against their legal team.
He knows I don’t have the means and resources that the Post has to defend myself.
He isn’t suing for justice.
He is suing me to silence me. He is using the legal system to intimidate me.
This is a pattern we’ve seen taken by many powerful men- Steve Wynn sued Lisa Bloom and in my home state of Maine, Don McClean is suing his ex wife, Patrisha.
David went to law school, so initially he represented himself. As I did not have any legal background, he knew I would be forced to hire an attorney.
As a result of the growing cost of the lawsuit my fiancé and I decided to elope and throw a reception the following year after the dust had settled.
On the day we got our marriage license, I lost my motion to dismiss this lawsuit based on jurisdiction. This meant even more legal bills. My fiance and I were to elope in 3 days, with plans to move to our new home when we returned.
To make matters worse, my fiancé’s mother made it known she was extremely unhappy about our decision to elope. During this time I had also discovered that I would have to face my abusive ex husband in a trial.
My fiancés family and their opposition to our marriage was heartbreaking. I saw my future being crumbling as I stood up to my abusive husband, who had stolen so much from me already.
We called off the wedding., because the thought of getting married with his mother opposed was unbearable.
And then I tried to kill myself.
The night I spent on suicide watch at a hospital in Portland my fiancé stayed with me for a little while. He said he needed to go home and do some things. He told me I was amazing and that he loved me. He kissed me goodbye.
When it was time to be released from the hospital, I was alone.
When I returned to the apartment we were preparing to move out of in 4 days (after the wedding), there was the sound of my dog barking and only one set of bean boots by the door.
When I walked in, his things were gone. There was no note. There was no food. There was no dog food. I basically never heard from him again.
In the days after this, my parents and close friends were worried for me. I assured them that I would be fine, but I knew they had reason to worry. For weeks my friends slept on my couch to check to make sure I was alive in the morning. They had to force me out of bed and bribe me to eat.
For 6 weeks I prayed every single day that I would just die. That a rock would fall out of the sky and kill me. I felt discarded and worthless.
I tried to have the lawsuit dismissed with little fanfare so I could move forward and begin putting my life back together, but eventually I took my attorney’s advice and countersued David for the false claims he made about me.
The fact that our marriage was unhealthy was a closely guarded secret in Maine political circles. I’d taken refuge on at the Governor’s daurgters house. At the House Assistant Republican Leaders’ home.Lauren LePage once drove to Cape Cod to pick me up after emergency surgery and was unable to deliver me to my own home post surgery, because it wasn’t a safe environment. Governor LePage and other elected Maine officials avoided to submit for depositions because it was clear they didn’t want to testify under oath. I even had to listen as Governor Lepage, the Governor whose family I was once very close to, go on the radio and offer my abusive ex his job back.
I was so close to our Governor and his family that when his mother in law, Rita, died, she was holding the charm I made for his daughters’ (my former best friend) wedding bouquet- the same wedding where David got drunk, urinated in the corner of a room at the house the bridal party was staying in, and angrily threw me into a wall and then drove away in my car, leaving the groom to worry about getting me home. I felt so embarassed and ashamed that I was unable to contain his anger and it spilled into the wedding weekend. I apologized to the bride and groom profusely and was reassured that it wasn my fault.
But when I finally discussed with my best friend, Lauren LePage, leaving the marriage, I was told that I needed to do whatever I “needed to do, but to do it quietly. That David was too important to my Dad’s administration.”
I have spent tens of thousands on legal fees, all while trying to hold my life together. I searched for jobs and every person who interviewed me said “are you sure this is the right time? Maybe you want to wait until after the lawsuit…” meanwhile I struggled to survive, getting by by the grace of God and the kindness of my community.
At one point, I ran 3 miles each way in freezing or snowy weather to clean friends houses or flip air b&bs, just to make ends meet. All while legal bills continually piled up, all while I had to silently ignore the smears and lies still being perpetuated about me on the internet. Every step I ran, I reminded myself that God had brought me this far and I couldn’t give up now
I have lost EVERYTHING in choosing to speak the truth. I absolutely not give up now- it’s too important. 3 women have confided in me about their abusive marriages since I came forward. 2 of them have left their abusive partners and have begun to move on. This makes the loss worth it- because I know than in speaking up about abuse, it provides hope for other victims. They know they are not alone.
What has happened to me is why women fear speaking up. It’s why they stay silent about the abuse they’ve endured. It’s hard to understand what it’s like unless you’ve lived it. It was embarrassing for me to admit to myself or anyone else that I was a victim. I felt shame, I blamed myself and feared what every woman fears- that no one would believe her or that her abuser would destroy her life.
My life has been destroyed. I have sacrificed more than I ever imagined. This is why abuse victims stay silent.
But it is for this reason that I now feel an obligation to speak up.
There is a fund for my legal defense. You can contribute to it here.