Thursday, May 26, 2016

"The Personal is the Political"

      When mechanisms begin to stop functioning properly they either make a noise that begs attention or they simply shut down and stop working.  It's been proven time and again that the squeaky wheel is usually first in line to get the fix.  Social activism is the squeak that makes the noise that promotes public awareness with the goal of getting the legislative grease it needs. At nearly sixty years old I've witnessed social activism at it's best during the 1960's and '70's with the civil rights movement, protests against the war in Vietnam as well as the women's liberation movement.  These squeaks turned into groundswells and were heard loud and clear across the land. The personal is indeed the political but one must participate to affect change. Heather Booth was a bold, vital and fearless participant in the women's movement and continues to play an important role in social activism. Her quote, "If it's happening to other people it's not a personal problem, it's a social problem,"  inspired this blog piece. 

     Thousands of white collar wives and children around the world are experiencing the confiscation of their homes and belongings and being cruelly stigmatized and humiliated through no fault of their own and with little to no recourse. They are shamed into the dark shadows of their lives where they willingly remain, quivering and paralyzed with the fear of what is to become of them and their children.  Innocent spouses and children are not only experiencing a personal problem but they are in fact also experiencing a social problem because it's happening to so many women around the world on an ongoing basis. Innocent women and their children are being cast out of their homes and out of their lives and left penniless because of the criminal deeds of their husbands.  This should be making headlines but because it is happening to women who formerly led comfortable and some even very comfortable lives in first world countries, it is of no consequence to the general public. In fact the public often takes pleasure from this unique fall from grace unaware or uncaring of the fact that the majority of white collar wives are innocent of any wrongdoing. The only guilt they own is by association. 

     Although white collar criminals come from all socioeconomic backgrounds the mere mention of a white collar criminal congers up visions of bankers, stockbrokers and the like. But the truth is that white collar crime knows no professional or economic boundary. None the less, white collar wives are mostly seen as entitled, spoiled and undeserving of pity and in most cases are not considered victims at all. There is a misconception that all wives are somehow in on the scheme and therefore are deserving of being left with little if anything to survive on. Most wives know nothing of their husband's schemes and those that do have an inkling are powerless to intervene because men who perpetrate these kinds of crimes on an ongoing basis share a clinical personality disorder that is nearly impossible to penetrate with reason and almost always, incurable.   

     Women are losing access to their joint marital assets in legal firestorms which can and too often do end in complete forfeit/seizure.  They are not afforded the courtesy of separating their fair share of marital assets but are instead losing the entirety of their personal assets to fines and victim restitution. These women and children have done nothing wrong but are being punished in the extreme.  Where is their day in court to prove their innocence?  A white collar wife can seldom afford to hire legal counsel to protect her marital assets because of lack of funds, a frozen bank account or because any and all available funds are going toward her husband's legal representation. Essentially, marriage makes a white collar wife a party to her husband's crimes but she has no recourse to protect herself against his actions. Instead of allocating an innocent spouse her portion of her marital assets, most women and children are forced onto welfare because long time stay at home mothers or under-trained older housewives who are suddenly forced into head of household provider status cannot easily find jobs and cannot afford training. Most white collar wives suffer from PTSD and are unable to function effectively. They don't have the medical insurance to help them cope with their trauma. They must do the best they can with what little they have.  White collar wives are at the mercy of the courts to NOT leave them destitute but "the system" makes no provision for these women and children. They are treated like criminals and suffer extreme consequences.  Families are the first victims of white collar crime because of the acute betrayal of a husband and the emotional and financial ruin he has imposed upon them. They are inextricably tied to the   criminal proceedings and ensuing consequences. Where is the due process for women in this scenario? I got out of my marriage early on in my husband's investigation because common sense dictated that I protect myself and my son.  But most wives are inclined to stand by their husband's either because they don't believe things will get as bad as they do or they refuse to believe that their partner and father of their children could be "a bad guy".  These women who do not disengage become forever entangled in their husband's legal snare. I am now past the worst of it but in mentoring so many white collar wives I have come to know that although grim and life altering, my experience was less daunting than others. I am an advocate for white collar families not only because of the devastation it caused my family but because of the gross miscarriage of justice innocent women and children must endure. The damage runs deep for all of us and at times can be utterly debilitating. 

    But change will never come about for the innocent spouse with just one lone voice. White collar wives must withstand embarrassment and public scorn, real or imagined, and come forward and protest on their own behalf if any change is to come about. But where are they? Where is their squeak to gain the grease they so desperately need and deserve? Where are the voices of the victims of this most egregious trespass of rights? White collar wives are hiding in victim status, (and they are indeed victims), working hard at one or more jobs, sometimes menial jobs, to keep a roof over their and their children's heads. They are in shock, they are ashamed, they are mired in fear and anxiety. They are exhausted. They are whispered about, pointed at and humiliated and broken. But they must make some noise to bring about change. I have been victimized. I have been shamed. I have been broken. I have been consumed with fear and anxiety. Yet I speak out for those who were/are too afraid. I can bring awareness but I cannot bring change by myself. I am asking innocent spouses to fight for themselves and others as I have done so that our collective voices can be heard.  I have provided the platform but others must step up now to aid in the cause. 

   I challenge white collar wives or family members or former white collar criminals who read my blog, particularly this post or who participate in our support group or who are still hiding in the shadows to come forward from that hiding place you believe is protecting you but is in fact only hiding you in plain sight and causing you further harm and humiliation, to write a guest blog about your own experience. I cannot continue to advocate on your behalf as just one voice will never affect change. Your silence is not a squeak but rather a roar and tells us just how personal your own experience is. Your collective silence can never be heard and your hiding will only guarantee that others will walk your same path. There will be no change until there is unification and activation.   It's time to make your personal very political. Make your struggle count for something. Stand up and fight for yours and your sister's rights for justice. The only purpose your silent struggle serves is to protect you from the shame of your husband's deeds. The reality is that you are hiding from nobody but yourselves and are helping to create a culture of guilt by association by not promoting your innocence which requires respect and not shame. Stand up and take up your space!!  I remember the hiding from the shame and how that only harmed me further. How is your shame and fear serving you? The worst has already happened. What else is there to fear??? The fear of not knowing where your next dime is coming from or how to keep a roof over yours and your children's heads is all too real. You have lost so much. Isn't it time to gain something back? I cannot present one voice or simply one signature for change. So please squeak ladies. And squeak loudly and often to get the grease you deserve. If you don't ask for the grease you will not get any and simply shut down and stop spinning. It's your choice really. I began this blog three years ago by saying, "I know you're out there." Many have come forward to seek help and I am glad to offer a safe haven in our group. So come out, come out wherever you are and take a stand now with your sisters or forever hold your peace as I will mine.  Unless others are willing to come forward to tell their stories and help change the status quo for white collar wives my lone voice will go silent on this issue.  My voice has squeaked about all it can and what we need now is a chorus. 

   For the past three years my squeaks have reached a wide audience and I hope I have been able to open minds and hearts to the plight of the white collar wife. Many women have found their way to my, (now international), support group because of my writings and I am glad for that and so I consider my time here well spent. I hope others will continue to find this crack in the pavement over time so that they can squeeze through the door of enlightenment and community and get the help and support they so desperately need. 

     To whomever is reading this I hope you will make your personal political. Get involved with a cause that is close to your heart and try to promote justice wherever you can. Do your best always to make this world a better place. To do anything less is a failure of citizenship.