TIME’S UP ON SILENCE: 

My #MeToo Story and How Domestic Violence Victims Are Left Behind

By Dovie Yoana King


I am encouraged by survivors of sexual abuse and harassment that have stepped forward to share their courageous #MeToo stories in recent months. The cases are largely linked to celebrity and/or the workplace, however, and stop short of empowering domestic violence victims facing oppression in our homes. Many survivors of domestic violence continue to wait patiently on the sidelines for the spotlight to shine on us, but the clock has run out. #TimesUp. It is time do something about it. This is my personal #MeToo story and how domestic violence victims are left behind.


I am a public interest attorney and I work at Harvard Law School. In 2015, I ended my abusive marriage and obtained a domestic violence restraining order against my then-spouse, Ricardo Ochoa, who is also an attorney. For years I had endured severe psychological, emotional and verbal abuse, among other forms of coercive control. I lived in terror that one day Ricardo’s violent explosions might result in serious injury or death. As a result, I filed for divorce and was awarded sole legal and physical custody of our young child. Though I suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result of the abuse, I am gradually recovering and rebuilding my life in a new city.


In stark contrast to Ricardo’s reign of terror behind closed doors, he has a “stellar” public persona. At times, he appears on the local news as a legal expert and works at California Western School of Law. While the law school’s top administrators are aware of the restraining order, they have turned a blind eye to Ricardo’s domestic violence. Worse, some of his closest allies, including activists, women and community leaders, have joined him in victim-blaming and discrediting me on social media. In survivor circles we call this loathsome conduct “domestic violence by proxy.”


Ricardo’s ties to the progressive community have inured to his benefit. He is capitalizing on his public reputation and #MeToo to reinvent himself as a champion of victim’s rights. This is deeply hypocritical and needs to be called-out. As an example, Ricardo is part of a sect that has aggressively campaigned against a local leader accused of sexual misconduct. This is the pot calling the kettle black, but the strategy has been politically expedient for Ricardo, who is moving up the ranks of the Democratic Party as an elected member of the San Diego Democratic Central Committee and delegate to the California Democratic Party. By deflecting attention from his own abusiveness and aligning himself with victims in this matter, Ricardo is advancing his personal interests. This is disingenuous and deeply problematic.


The fact that respected leaders have tolerated Ricardo’s abusiveness, on the one hand, while villainizing a local leader accused of sexual misconduct, on the other, is bewildering and speaks volumes about how domestic violence victims are falling by the wayside while elites jump on the popular #MeToo bandwagon. I say this not to minimize #MeToo or fellow women’s experiences, but to point out that more must be done to push forward a victim’s agenda that is all-inclusive, free of politics and geared towards bringing perpetrators to justice.


As I reflect upon my difficult journey to escape the abuse, sadly I am unable to say that I had broad community support. I was shunned by many of my professional colleagues — even by people who were aware that Ricardo had unfairly locked me out of our joint husband-wife law practice on the day he was served with the restraining order and divorce papers. The betrayal was palpable, but I was fortunate to find help and a new community of support at the Family Justice Center, a local organization that assists victims of domestic violence. There, I befriended other survivors and learned that social isolation is a common barrier to breaking the cycle of abuse.


After two difficult years of defending myself in family court against continuous litigation initiated by Ricardo, I made the difficult decision in 2017 to drop my restraining order as part of a divorce settlement. Having incurred nearly $100,000 in legal fees, I had reached the end of the road. I was bankrupt — both financially and emotionally. Moreover, I had been ousted from my law firm and left unemployed, so I lacked the financial means to support myself and was beholden to my abuser. Thus, I did what was necessary to end the ordeal. I dismissed the restraining order which had gone uncontested for 20 continuous months. I then enlisted in the movement for family court justice to help bring an end to the legal atrocities survivors face in divorce and custody battles.


For some, the fact that I dropped the restraining order may place in doubt the veracity of my allegations of domestic violence, but to be clear, I am fearful of Ricardo and I continue to suffer from the aftermath of his abuse. Ricardo is currently under court order to stay 100 yards away from me at all times and refrain from contacting me by phone, email or any other means through the year 2022, or else face contempt charges. This gives me some measure of security, but I am nonetheless fearful that he will retaliate against me for truthfully speaking out.


In early-January 2018, my divorce was fortunately finalized. By stepping forward to share my story now, I hope that other survivors will be empowered to do the same and give greater visibility to the epidemic of domestic violence. Regrettably, there are many people who, like me, have faced vicious smear campaigns, triangulation and re-traumatization at the hands of our abusers and the people and institutions that enable their violence. Until we insist that perpetrators face justice, our children will likely inherit a world in which men continue to hold primary power and dominate in roles of political leadership, authority, privilege and wealth. We can, and should, do more to smash the patriarchy.


As the founder and director of SOAR for Justice, I am committed to using my personal experience to educate the public about the dangers of domestic violence, the failings of the family court system and to provide survivors a stronger voice for change. Since its inception in 2017, SOAR for Justice has awarded 13 educational scholarships to law students and a bar exam applicant who have overcome domestic violence and/or demonstrate a commitment to helping victims with their legal needs as a future career path.


Please join SOAR for Justice and 100+ respected community members who stand in solidarity with survivors of domestic violence and are taking action. To join the petition, contact SOAR for Justice at [email protected].

www.soarforjustice.org


www.soarforjustice.org


STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH SURVIVORS


We, the undersigned, representing a diverse group of survivors, attorneys, activists, students, Democrats and concerned citizens, united in our belief that together we can push forward an inclusive #MeToo movement that encompasses victims of domestic violence, and with the goal of ending the culture of victim blaming and misogyny that currently exists at all levels of society, do hereby declare:


1. All adults and children have the right to live free from abuse. Domestic violence is a violation of basic human rights.


2. Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, education, income level, religion, sexual orientation, immigration status, sex and gender identity.


3. Domestic violence is never the victim’s fault. The batterer chooses to abuse ano

ther and therefore bears full responsibility for the violence.


4. Victims have the right to be believed and supported. In stepping forward to seek help and/or expose the abuse, victims should not be shunned, smeared, isolated or placed at greater risk of harm.


5. Children must be protected from direct violence and witnessing violence. When one parent is violent towards another, the child is being harmed.


6. Perpetrators of abuse must be made to face justice for their behavior regardless of public reputation, wealth, charm, manners, articulateness, education, political ties, etc.


7. Domestic violence is not a private matter and affects society at large. Both government and community have a responsibility to intervene to prevent domestic violence and communicate that it will not be tolerated.


8. Early education is essential in challenging stereotypes about masculinity and femininity. Young people should be taught about respectful relationships and that domestic violence is unacceptable.


9. Well-paying jobs, access to adequate housing and childcare enhance women’s capacity to leave a violent partner. Increasing women’s financial independence and available legal remedies are effective means of addressing domestic violence.


10. There is a national crisis in our family law courts affirmed by experts and leaders in the women’s movement, and by survivors in every state who are trying to safeguard their children from abusive fathers. Abusers must be prevented from using the family courts to stalk, harass, punish and impoverish survivors.


Signatories (alphabetically):

Rosie Aiello, Survivor

Tanya Akl, Survivor

Sabrina Andres, Law Student

Gabrielle Attig, Law Student

Shanty Sigrah Asher, Law Student

Christina Babin, Law Student

Kimberly Robb Baker, Survivor

Lundy Bancroft, Best Selling Author on Domestic Violence

Caitlyn Banegas, Law Student

Dale Kelly Bankhead, Union Member and Political Activist

Ludovic Blain, Activist

Leah Bloom, Democrat

Joylyn Boggs, Concerned Citizen

Julie Boroughs, Concerned Citizen

Cassi Cain, Domestic Violence Activist

Jana Arlis Cupp Cain, Survivor

Alor Calderon, Labor & Immigrants’ Rights Activist

Marcella Calderon, Labor & Immigrants’ Rights Activist

Sheba Candor, Community College Graduate

Roxana Cardenas, Certified Court Interpreter

Ernesto Veliz Carrola, Law Student

Coleen Chin, Education Attorney

Priyanka Chirimar, Human Rights Attorney

Jillian Connery, Law Student

Anna Crow, Human Rights Clinical Instructor

Valerie Leon Cuadrado, Housing Development Director

Jessica Dance, Law Student

Pearl De La Torre, Survivor

Rachel Dimitruk, Attorney

Errin Douglas, Democrat

Crystal Dumbleton, Law Student

Tabitha Esposito, Survivor

Emily Farrer, Democrat

Judy Feltmann, Survivor

Daniella Ferioli, Union Member & Political Activist

Lupe Flores, Democrat and Art-ivist

Christina Fondue-Abuelo, Concerned Citizen

Christina Frantom, Domestic Violence Advocate

Adriana Gomez, Law Graduate

Olga B. Gonzalez, Law Student

Tisha Gordon, Survivor

Greg Grusecki, Law Student

Nydia Gutierrez, Law Student & SOAR for Justice Scholar

Stassi Gutierrez, Law Student

Justine Harkness, Survivor

Kristy Heiskala, Certified Victim Advocate

Xiomara Hernandez, Criminal Appeals Attorney

Yee Htun, Human Rights Clinical Instructor

Stephanie Huang, Law Student & SOAR for Justice Scholar

Chaumtoli Huq, Human Rights Attorney

Ginger Jacobs, Democrat & Immigration Attorney

Stacy James, Law Student President

Vianey Juarez, Criminal Defense Attorney

Aliza Kaplan, Law Professor & Criminal Justice Advocate

Kaleena Kei, Pro Bono Victim’s Rights Attorney

Lori Kern, Survivor & Labor Activist

Amna Khawaja, Law Student

Jacqueline Khong, Law Student & SOAR for Justice Scholar

Dovie Yoana King, Survivor

Aimee Kitchen, Survivor

Tom Landry, Labor & Employment Attorney

May Larosa, Law Student

Maurice Martin, College Student

Sindy Martinez Lewis, Democrat

Anne McKibbon, Concerned Citizen

Claudia Melo, Law School Professional

Marquez Meraz, Law Student

Alberto Mondoza, Law Student

Cassandra Mitchel, Law Student

Cindy Muro, Law Student & SOAR for Justice Scholar

Wendy Musell, Labor & Employment Attorney

Ogor Winnie Okoye, Democrat

Alana Olsen, Democrat

Gustavo Ordonez, Higher Education Attorney

Stephanie Orr, Concerned Citizen

Chuck Padget, Community College Student

Wendy Patrizio, Survivor

Tricia Perkins, Survivor

Roza Petrosyan, Law Student & SOAR for Justice Scholar

Dianne Francisco Quindigan, Law Student

Karla Vianney Montes de Oca Ramirez, Survivor

Bree Romero, Batterer/Men’s Intervention Specialist

Sara Rosales, Law Student

Jessica Dixon Ryan, Survivor

Cheri Sallee, Survivor

Jorge Sanchez, Labor & Employment Attorney

Melanie Sattler, Survivor

Sam Sednek, Democrat

Ragini Shah, Immigration Law Professor

Tobe Shanok, Concerned Citizen

Caitlin Shortell, Civil Rights Attorney

Marianne Soohoo, Attorney & Education Consultant

Smith Surasmith, Concerned Citizen

Ana Raya, Law Student & SOAR for Justice Scholar

Batool Raza, Democrat

Jordan Robertson, Law Student

Angelique Rogers, Community College Graduate

Eva Rummel, Survivor & Community College Graduate

Kathleen Russell, Domestic Violence Activist

Sarah Saez, Survivor & Labor Activist

April Selenskikh, Survivor

Vered Tsarfaty, Democrat

Dee Villareal, Survivor

Katrina Wagoner, Law Student & SOAR for Justice Scholar

Jean Walkens-Merrilen, Law Student

Malcom Warren, Law Student President

Veronica Williams, Attorney

Tim Wilson, Concerned Citizen

Fara Wolfson, Activist

Clara Yonca Yalcinkaya, Survivor & Attorney

Katayoon Zandvakili, Survivor

Nicole Christine Zell, Survivor

www.soarforjustice.org