Posted by Judge Isaac Borenstein
I write from a perspective of privilege and safety. I am a white male (few people can tell I was born in Havana), having reached a powerful position in our society - Judge - and never victimized by violence. Actually, once, when I was eight years old I was threatened and harassed by a neighborhood bully and the experience remains embedded in my psyche. The terror I felt at the time made me physically ill.
Apart from that "brush" with nastiness, I have been able to "hide" in the shadows of protected status. It's been easy for me to assume a "higher than thou" position of intellectual superiority when it comes to fear, threats, and risk of injury. I was able to legally avoid the draft during the Vietnam War. Terror, fright, hysteria, lack of sleep from their threat - I have never had to personally concern myself about those. These are things that happen to or are experienced by others.
Oh, yes…as a Judge I could protect others. Victims. Did I ever - could I ever - really understand them? Did I ever know what it was like to not know if one step outside my home might be my last? Could I be sure my children would be safe? How do I get food for myself and the kids? Where is the next meal going to come from? Would he hurt me or our children? Would he kill them? He could. I know he could. I have seen it.
As a man of privilege I never, ever had to experience this existence.
Since leaving the bench in the Fall of 2008 I have had to come to terms with the shame of how poorly, still, our legal system addresses victims of violence. I am embarrassed at how, after decades of supposed progress, we still have some Judges who minimize, ignore and reject real fear, threats and the anger of uncontrolled perpetrators. Leaving the bench, a beloved profession for me, has been healthy. It has been of critical importance for me to realize just how far, how protected, how distant from others my position as Judge put me…away from so much of the actual suffering of victims of abuse.
I will never understand how much it means to be so scared that one is prepared to run for one's life. But I know this…it is now part of my responsibility to not stay silent. It is my duty as a man to tell it to the other men. It is of critical importance for me as a former Judge to speak the truth. Domestic violence is real. Women, mothers and those without children suffer it constantly. Men are also victims of domestic abuse by their female or male partners. Given the current state of affairs I believe I am still protected by my "bullet proof" gender and my professional power in this society. The least I can do is tell the truth to others in power. Nothing less.
Isaac Borenstein served as a Judge of the Lawrence District Court for six years and as a Judge of the Superior Court for sixteen years. As a Judge he presided over hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civil and criminal cases, many involving issues of family violence. He has taught part-time as a Lecturer in Law at Northeastern University Law School for over twenty-five years and at Suffolk Law School for about ten years, in the areas of Evidence, Criminal Law and Procedure, and other subjects. He has also been a full time law professor, and prior to teaching in the clinical program at Harvard Law School and at New England School of Law, he had been a public defender in Florida and Massachusetts. Since leaving the bench in 2008 he has been in private practice. He is currently of counsel to Kajko, Weisman, Colasanti, and Stein, LLP in Lexington, MA.