Updated: Oct 30, 2021
That word causes me to respond with a visceral wretch. In fact, writing about it triggers me to visualize words like pain, anguish, deceit, disgust, failure, why, help, drowning, confusion, horror, misery, rage, and bitterness.
Court is foreign and frightening, yet, disturbingly familiar to me. Each time I go, I relive a horror I cannot escape or deny. And each time I go, I’m expected to be the best me I can be.
My future depends on it.
You wake up from a dream and find yourself on a roller coaster seat.
After the safety announcer tells you to keep your hands in your lap, you hear the loud metallic clang of the release of the brakes.
Slowly, very slowly, you feel yourself advancing. As you inch forward, a gentle momentum begins to pick up and you see the massive incline you are about to climb.
“No, no, no, no!”
You do not want to be on this ride. You frantically push the bar pressing your chest in place, hoping there might be a slight chance it will release, and knowing it will not. The more panicked you become, the harder it is to breathe. You fear suffocation.
So, you stop fighting it. And begin to breath.
The carts in front of you begin to ascend, and that clank, clank, clank rings in your ears as each cart is pulled upward-
Towards the top of this first, mountainous peak.
Your heart is beating furiously, and you cannot control it. Every ounce of your body is screaming,
Unfortunately, you must endure the entirety of this journey.
Higher and higher. That repetitive clanking is overtaking anything else your ears seek to hear.
There is a pause as you reach the summit. And just before gravity yanks you plummeting into an unpredictable abyss, your eyes scan the sky. You have less than a second to ask God,
“Why? Why am I here?”
Feeling raw and powerless, you focus on the only thing you can control which, again, is your breath.
As you shoot downward the clanking is replaced by the piercing voices from those who are also on this ride. Stark terror from some and unrestrained laughter from others.
You hope for laughter, but know terror will bubble out of your lungs.
You can’t scream your horror or fear; you can’t plead to get off; you actually can’t do anything sanity is screaming you do.
Stuck helplessness leads to rage.
A rage with no outlet.
A rage crushed as the wind punches into you when you hit the bottom of vertical drop and forces you into the metal side of your cart.
Another turn leads you to a new challenge of self-control.
As you recenter yourself on the seat, you suddenly remember you are next to a person, who seems unbothered and unaware of your inner turmoil.
There is really no time to prepare or anticipate the following twists and turns. It becomes a game of holding on. And breathing. Everything is a blur- back and forth, up and down, pounded and beaten by the frantic speed of the coaster.
And then BRAKES.
You are thrust forward and slammed into the seat for a final stop. Your ears register laughter and chatter from other riders.
You feel the pressure release from your chest as the bar raises.
Again, completely out of your control.
Your hair is windblown, your mouth feels dry and your legs tremble. You timidly stand and accept the hand from the body that sat next to you throughout the ride. It holds yours and gently pulls you from your dream.
All done. For now.
Let’s take that roller coaster ride and put it indoors. Into court.
Imagine sitting in a chair, forced to be in a room with a person who externally looks strikingly familiar, but his insides are all wrong. You try not to stare as your mind attempts to fight the dissonance.
(the coaster exits the landing space, and begins advancing)
Next you move to a different chair, directly across from that person. Again, you try to keep your eyes from the distraction of the dissonance.
(the coaster crawls up the mountain)
Attorneys ask you questions.
(clank, clank, clank)
You stare at your hands and then look up when the judge reminds you to speak clearly.
(the coaster crests the peak).
Attorneys ask you to explain your spending habits, in detail.
(the coaster begins to accelerate down).
“WOULD YOU ADD THESE NUMBERS? WHY DO YOU NEED THIS MONEY?”
(faster and faster)
“WHY DON’T YOU WANT YOUR CHILDREN TO SEE THEIR FATHER?”
(the coaster slams into the bottom of the incline crushing your body into the harness)
“YOU MARRIED HIM. YOU PROCREATED WITH HIM.”
(another turn slams your body into the side of the car)
And the rest, you won’t remember. After hours, your mind goes numb. And yet, this is the only fight that really matters. Strength of mind is imperative.
Partner after partner shuttles through this frantic coaster. Forced to think, to answer questions, to present their best self and to protect their future while their body is screaming
The internal struggle is exhausting.
But each determined partner I meet and work with, accepts this challenge, and walks out of the courtroom, knowing she (or he) fought with tenacity and honor.
Partners need a voice to share their truth and needs, which include:
THE CALL TO ACTION
If you have an experience you would like to share, or just pieces, will you please take the time to fill out this survey? It is anonymous. Feel free to share with your friends.
Please help me give you a voice.
I want to support your bravery and strength.
I want to ride roller coasters again, for the sheer joy of them.
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