Good afternoon, from tLoft on State Line Road in Kansas City, Missouri.
On Thursday, September 05th, 2019, at 6:00 p.m., I will stand in front of several score friends and invite them to join me in raising funds for survivors of family violence. It seems as though I have been doing this for decades, and in truth, I have.
You might not know this history. In 1977, I got a job as the assistant to the lobbyist for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri in St. Louis. Our mission was to secure passage of the Adult Abuse Remedies Act, which we did in the spring of 1980, just before I started law school. That legislation gave Missouri victims of violence and stalking, the remedy which they needed to get a civil restraining order with criminal penalties for violation.
During my time at LSEMo, I was privileged to help form the Missouri Domestic Violence Coalition and author its newsletter for two years.
In 1983, as a young attorney, I volunteered at the original Rose Brooks Center. I taught a workshop to its clients on “Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence”. From that day forward, I’ve done what I can to help survivors, both adults and children, including serving as a guardian ad litem for children in foster care due to abuse or neglect.
From 2013 – 2017, my cohorts and I hosted an annual fundraiser in the public art space that was “Art @ Suite 100”. Our principal charities were SAFE HOME in Kansas and Rose Brooks Center in Missouri. Last year, from California, I did a Facebook fundraiser for Rose Brooks Center.
This year, my friends offered to help me reprise the benefit for Rose Brooks Center. Will Leathem at Prospero’s gave me the venue. Karla Hull, who had run the raffle for the last few years, promptly volunteered to do so again. Poet and therapist Sara Minges swiftly started gathering donated wine. My eternally optimistic friend Cindy Cieplik joined the crew, as did Kimberley Kellogg.
I’m here, now; in Kansas City. Sitting at my old table at tLoft. I’ve eaten an over-priced but tasty gluten-free vegetarian “bowl” and I’m drinking chilled water. I feel “of this place”, yet not really a part of it any more. I drive the streets and everything seems familiar, and yet, I’m clearly a stranger. My rental car has Iowa plates, which I find somewhat ironic.
But I’m here. Tomorrow I will stand in front of everyone who attends the “Birthday Bash & Benefit“, and I’ll ask them to buy raffle tickets and throw coins in the mason jars scattered throughout the room. The lovely Angela Garrett-Carmack and her handsome husband Jake Carmack will entertain us. The Hon. Martina Peterson will share views from the bench as she has done the last several years. We’ll pour wine, lay out the cheese & crackers, and remind everyone how blessed we are if we do not live in fear. We’ll raise money, but we’ll also raise awareness, I hope. Katy McCoy from Rose Brooks Center will be there with information about their programs.
At past events, we’ve seen powerful connections. Victims have sought solace and advice. Widowers have donated their wives’ clothing for the clients of Rose Brooks. Tears have been shed, including mine.
My siblings, my mother, and I, experienced the terror of domestic violence before it had a name or an industry. No social worker came to call. The police did not arrest my father, because they could not make a warrantless arrest on a misdemeanor and they could not get a felony warrant. They “talked” to my father; they encouraged him to “sleep it off”. Once they took my mother away in an ambulance, while we children stood frozen amid the shattered glass of the French doors through which my father had thrown her. I was five years old. I have never forgotten that evening. It was my parents’ wedding anniversary.
Somebody once told me that he assumed that I had exaggerated the stories of my childhood, if not completely fabricated them. I could only stare at him, dazed, confused. I did not. I think only someone who has experienced family violence can believe its contours, its devastating impact, its complexity. I turned away from his disbelief. I continued with my life, with the healing that only time and distance can bring.
When I first started working in the field of domestic violence, one of the few books about the subject was titled, “Scream quietly or the neighbors will hear”. I completely get that. Those years of silence nearly destroyed me. For the latest forty years, I have been searching for my voice. I have found it. I will be silent no more.
I ask you to join me in supporting this important cause. Give to Rose Brooks Center; or to a domestic violence agency of your choice. If you need help, remember, there is a way. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. Help is near.
I hope to see some of you tomorrow evening. Thank you for your patience in reading this long missive. Be well.