This week, my client Carine McCandless was the keynote speaker at an “Empower” lunch to benefit New Beginnings. New Beginnings supports victims of domestic violence, helping them make the hard changes necessary to start a new life. Carine is a beautiful, inspiring speaker, but there are other reasons she was a great choice; she is the sister of Chris McCandless, the subject of Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild. Her book, The Wild Truth, which made the New York Times bestseller list, blew open what was happening behind the closed, upper-class doors of the McCandless home so that Chris’s ultimately fatal decision to go solo into the Alaska wilderness was shown to be the act not of a crazy, selfish person but of a wounded kid searching for answers, and for truth. One of the things Carine’s book did was address how, by not revealing the McCandless family secrets, she felt complicit. It’s a common theme among victims of domestic violence, and The Wild Truth has helped others open up about their stories too—sometimes just to Carine, sometimes to their friends or teachers, sometimes even more publicly.
It continues to inspire me that books like Carine’s can motivate change in others. I am grateful that in today’s “share everything!” world, there is more openness about the issue of domestic violence . But there is still hypocrisy, and there are still those who are quick to blame the victim rather than accept the truth.
Another survivor spoke before Carine did and talked about how, when she told her mother what her father was doing to her at night, she was called a liar. Investigators called her a liar too. She started to believe she wasn’t worth anything. And so when she finally broke free of home, she ran straight into the arms of a man who didn’t think she was worth much either. Carine had similar experiences, hearing things like, “If it’s not visible, it isn’t really abuse,” or having her mother call her a liar when Carine called her for help after an attack by her dad. These are some of the most painful legacies of domestic violence.
Those guilty of domestic violence may well deserve a second chance. They are people, and as Carine always says, “We don’t learn from villains; we learn from humans.” But denying that domestic violence is happening, covering it up for the sake of public relations or to maintain one’s standing in the community, be it in church or on an NFL team, makes us complicit. I’m more than a little excited to see what’s next for Carine as she blows more doors open and encourages people to have the courage to share their truth.