Each day’s sexual assault headlines are a nightmare, causing me to relive the domestic violence and repeated rape threats I experienced.
The police regularly visited our home, going back as far as 1996. My husband always made excuses for why my son “inadvertently” called them. One time he claimed our young son must have been told by a television show to dial 911, but he had heard me scream “Call 911” as I pleaded for mercy.
Finally, ten years ago, I stuck to my story when the police arrived. That time, my husband had placed me in a choke restraint and hit me in the head with what felt like a flat metal object. He said he either pulled or patted my head in response to my biting his hand, omitting the fact that that the bitten hand had been covering my mouth to prevent me from screaming. He later changed his story to explain the bump on my head; he said I had knocked it in the bathroom.
However, N.Y. State Supreme Court Judge Laura Drager ignored the evidence and inconsistencies, including the deviation from my husband’s taped statement to the district attorney. She also refused to allow prior or subsequent acts to enter the record and denied my request to subpoena my husband’s medical records from Bellevue Hospital, where upon information and belief, the police took him after pulling a knife on me; she deemed that had happened too long ago. He was an attorney at a white-shoe law firm and I was a nobody.
My domestic violence charges shifted from a criminal case to a divorce case, because smart wealthy men file for divorce to change the narrative.
After the criminal court failed me, my pro bono attorney, Michael Dowd arranged an interview with the New York Daily News reporter, Barbara Ross to ensure my safety, as my ex-husband was regularly threatening to burn down our townhouse. Barbara called me while I was at Safe Horizon and asked me to meet with her. However, she failed to disclose that she was married to Robert Tembeckjian, administrator, and counsel for the Commission on Judicial Conduct. The Judge accused me of going to the Press so this conflict of interest seemed particularly critical since Barbara Ross knew Michael Dowd had called her. The court punished me for speaking to the media, saying that I had ruined my ex-husband’s career when it was his behavior. The Judge had even failed to protect me when my ex-husband chest-bumped in front of a hallway full of attorneys in the courthouse. The attorneys and the court were silent.
The New York Post, which now regularly publishes stories lauding well-known women who speak out about sexual harassment, seems to think otherwise when the accuser isn’t a celebrity. The publication went so far as to call me a “big mouth.”
I thought I must not be communicating the issue clearly, so I compiled a list of appropriate quotes from people who were more articulate than I was. But those quotes didn’t help, nor did the witnesses, letters, emails, tapes, or police reports. Whatever I produced was never enough to surmount some moving bar to get an action to occur. Each time there was another incident, I hoped the judge would finally believe me, but I was always wrong. The judge ignored the abuse, and instead, she portrayed me as a hysterical and histrionic woman who solely whined to the tabloids about her divorce.
So I continued to speak out, believing that someone would eventually hear me. As the legendary swimmer, Diana Nyad recently said in recounting her experience, doing this enabled me to “regain my own dignity each time I uttered my truth.”
It is time for the media to hear the voices or ordinary women like me and not just those of celebrities. We shouldn’t have to be famous to have our abuse addressed.