I gave up everything – career, friends, family and identity – to protect my daughters and myself from a sociopath who stalked us for four years and then hired a hit man to kill me.
I’ve watched the movie and, to my surprise, liked it. Veteran movie producer Anne Carlucci, who passionately pitched the movie to networks for more than a dozen years, and writer Benita Garvin skillfully delivered the message I wanted to make: strong, successful, confident women are not immune from spousal abuse.
No More Me
I’m proud that the movie will premiere during National Domestic Violence Awareness month and honored that it is supported by the Joyful Heart Foundation, founded by Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit) and the NO MORE campaign. I hope the movie and the NO MORE PSA that airs before the final credits help debunk the myth that only poor, uneducated and mousy women find themselves trapped in untenable domestic situations. I pray it will help at least one woman leave her abuser.
I don’t identify with Amy Smart’s character (which made the movie much easier to watch). But I also no longer identify with the me I used to be. I am not the woman who was psychologically tortured during her marriage and beaten and tossed into moving traffic after she left. I am not the person who was pummeled by the legal system in two countries nor the woman who literally became a poster child for survivors of domestic violence (an image of my face, swollen beyond recognition, hangs in battered women shelters and district attorneys’ offices under the caption: “Don’t Apply Makeup. Apply the Law. Take the Fight Out of an Abuser by Taking Him to Court.”)
When I chose to disappear, I realized I had another choice to make: I could wallow in despair about all that I had given up or take the opportunity to reinvent myself. I chose the latter. I kept the parts of me that I liked – my sense of humor and gift for storytelling, for instance – and dumped everything I didn’t.
It was the best decision I ever made. Because the decision offered me an unexpected gift: happiness. When I realized that happiness had nothing to do with who I was or what I did, the long-elusive feeling was suddenly attainable. All I had to do was reach out and grab it, stuff it deep inside my soul and never let it go.
Service With a Smirk
Of course I had to figure out how to earn a living, and it turned out I was pretty lousy at most under-the-table jobs available to someone who couldn’t risk a background check. It’s not that I couldn’t train puppies or run errands for their masters – it’s that I couldn’t do it quietly and subserviently. I had opinions and I voiced them! And though it was often the smart-ass maid who got the most laughs on Hollywood sitcoms, in real-life southern California, the smarty-pants servant got the boot.
Fortunately, I was good at something that didn’t require a resume. I could write. And, until digital marketing made all of us public figures, no one cared about a writer’s name or appearance. Pseudonyms, nom de plums – any name would do. It was the substance that counted.
I agree with J.D. Salinger who said, “It is my rather subversive opinion that a writer’s feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second-most valuable property on loan to him during his working years.”
Free from expectations, weekly deadlines and editorial meetings, I had no one to impress but myself.
And that’s how I came to write my memoir Quicksand. I landed a publishing deal without an agent, and critics hailed the book as a “brave,” “honest” and “scary as hell” “story of triumph.” The Globe and Mail, often called the New York Times of Canada, named Quicksand to The Globe Books 100: Best Non-Fiction.
Hollywood came running before I’d written the first chapter, and I turned down three movie producers. I wanted to write my story my way, and I didn’t feel secure enough in my new life to risk the publicity a big-screen theatrical release might bring. After a while, Hollywood pretty much forgot about me. Except for Carlucci, who reached out to me every few years, vowing “to get the movie made if it’s the last thing I do.”
When she called last fall to say that Mariska Hargitay and Lifetime were interested in the movie, I wasn’t sure about my own interest. I had just launched KOTAW, and I didn’t think I wanted to include “movie-of-the-week heroine” as part of my brand. I didn’t want to publicly revisit a past I had shed in private. I didn’t want the old me interfering with the new me I was revealing in social media for the first time.
Then I asked myself, “What are you afraid of?”
That people would judge me harshly for my life choices? Yes. That the movie might rile my ex? Yes. “Are these legitimate fears?” Yes. “Are you going to let these fears stop you?”
This question took longer to answer, and I sat down with my daughters to ponder it. I had a few choices, all of which would affect them. I could pass on the movie entirely, let it run without acknowledging my connection to it or take full ownership. If they were afraid, the decision was made. I’d just say no.
They were excited, almost giddily so. Who would play me? Who would portray them? What would we wear to the premiere? Can we go shopping now?
They knew the risks. They understood the fear. But they chose fearlessness.
And, I’m happy to say, I did, too.
Fearlessness is an integral theme of the Joyful Heart Foundation. Mariska Hargitay talks about it frequently, and the word features prominently on merchandise the organization sells to support its efforts, including the NO MORE campaign to end domestic violence and sexual assault.
Some fears are healthy. They keep us alive. They keep us safe.
Every minute, 24 people are physically abused, raped or stalked by their partners. Every 9 seconds, a woman is beaten. These are scary statistics that have worsened in the 15 years since I wrote Quicksand. Any woman – or man – who is afraid of the person they’re living with should heed the fear.
But fears can also control us. They keep us in bad jobs, relationships and circumstances for far too long. They keep us awake at night and rob us of joy. They take up too much damn time and energy!
What are you afraid of? Please share your thoughts below or reach out to me privately at Katherine@kotawcontentmarketing.com.
Update: A lot of people have reached out, asking where they can purchase Quicksand. I found a seller on Amazon who has first edition copies. This is probably your best bet until HarperCollins prints second editions, which will hopefully be sometime soon! Many thanks for all the support!