Before you stand next to your attorney behind the bank of microphones on the courthouse steps, drop your daughter off at school. Gather her in your arms; breathe in her scent – baby roses, baby powder, baby toes. Kiss her good-bye, watch until she disappears into the mouth of the stone building, drive away just like any other day.
Before you leave the house that morning, dress in the color of asphalt, a neat white collar peeking from under your jacket, a simple string of pearls, because your attorney says the lively colors you love could send the wrong message. Wonder why you must look repentant for sins committed by another.
Before today, tell your daughter all the things no one told you. Say “No!” Say “Stop!” Scream, kick, punch, gouge. Tell someone. Always tell someone.
He is insulated by position and wealth, with a beautiful wife and children. You’re embarrassed by the cliché, ashamed of your weakness. “No one will believe you,” he says, snaking his hand under your sweater, squeezing your breast until you wince. Swallow your words, your dignity, your fear. You are alone. You have a daughter to support. Smile and say “yes” when he thrusts inside you and asks if it feels good. Shut yourself in a bathroom stall and vomit violently after each time.
Apply for a position in another office. Apply for… Apply for… Apply for… Learn that he has blocked each effort. Learn that you are not the only one. Learn of the suicide of another a decade before.
Step up to the microphone. Hold your head high. Tell someone.