As I sit down to write today I can't help but think about the many women who are not only experiencing the extreme financial hardship of being an innocent spouse of a white collar criminal but who are struggling to be seen as something other than that. But how? The stigma runs deep. In the public's eyes if you don't distance yourself from your criminal husband then there must be something wrong with you. The man who promised to protect you and hold family above all else has defaulted on that promise and placed his family in ruins. The public is perplexed by women who stay with their criminal husbands. How can a woman stand by a man like that? What makes her stay? And if a woman divorces her criminal husband then she is seen as either a woman with a cold heart or someone who has walked away from her own obligation to protect and honor her husband for better or worse. The public rages on. Relationships are complex and it has been rightly said time and again that we can never really know what goes on within the sanctity of a marriage but it really is none of our business. I have randomly queried women about whether or not they would stay with a non-violent criminal husband and the answer is usually this: "It depends". And indeed it does.
Moving further into the realm of the complexities of family victims of white collar crimes, I'll never forget when the news of my husband's crime broke in the newspaper. My son and I had moved to another state by then to be near family so friends back home alerted us and told us to prepare for what we were about to read. Since we had no access to a paper copy we had to read this news on-line. As if seeing the indictments in print for the first time wasn't upsetting enough we also had to endure the pain of the masses as they hurled their rocks at us in the comment sections from the safety of their computer screens. My son, although devastated and angered by his father's actions reacted with dutiful and loving support for his father after reading the hurtful commentaries. My heart wrenched for what he was having to experience. "They don't know my dad!" To have to protect his father against the harsh words of people who had never met him and who had no idea of all of the good he had done in his life shamed my son all over again.
I understand that the public has no patience for this kind of criminal activity, nor should they, but where is their humanity when it comes to the innocent victims? There are children who are suffering and I hope that anyone reading this will from this time forward temper their anger with a bit more compassion. The criminals suffer and pay their dues to society and the public gets their pound of flesh and then some. It is a life long sentence for most white collar criminals as they try to find their way back to a life that is sometimes no longer worth living. The same can be said for the wives and children of white collar criminals as in many cases they are shunned, shamed, and shut out of a world that doesn't want them any longer. Guilt by relation means that we are tainted through no fault of our own.
I told my husband, (now ex), when we began down this long road of adversity together not to allow what he had done to define who he was. This helped him a great deal in coping with his own extreme guilt and shame. While it's true that his acts were indeed horrendous and the results catastrophic, he is still a man with goodness in him. But the public will only ever know him as the man who committed a crime against his employer and against the rules of a civil society. But they will rarely see him as a man who committed a crime against his own family. And to the white collar wives who continue to hide in the shadow of crime, I also say: Do not allow this to define you. To the general public I say....walk a mile people. Walk a mile.