Susan Smith Blakely

Protect Yourselves as Women and Protect Your Daughters

I cannot stay out of the discussion any longer.  To do so would be to ignore my status as a woman and would lead to feelings that I had condoned atrocious and injurious behavior.  So, I have to speak out.

The recent focus on domestic violence is shocking.  It is shocking not just because it happens but because it happens with such frequency. We now are seeing celebrities as well as more common folk come forward to say, "Me, too."

Men are still striking out at women, physically and verbally, just because they are women.  Women typically are less powerful and can be easy targets for the frustration that is becoming more and more prevalent in our society.

The insidious pattern of behavior that we are seeing from the world of professional sports is a terrible thing, and, yet, it also presents an opportunity --- an opportunity to raise the visibility of these unacceptable practices and to eliminate them.  We must hope it does not become an opportunity lost.

It all starts with respect.  To be respected, you first must respect yourself.  How many times have I spoken about this to audiences of women lawyers who feel caught in their professional situations and are rendered powerless?  I tell them to respect themselves and to respect their choices.  Just as you have a choice to leave a profession or to perform it in a less conventional way, you have a choice to leave an abuser.

Many of you who listen to my messages about choice within the professional context will also be victims of domestic violence.  That is why I am talking to YOU about this today.  The statistics show that there will be women in every audience where I speak who will become victims of domestic violence at some time in their lifetimes.  Now, as I look out at those audiences of the future, I always will wonder who they are and how I can help them. 

One thing is for sure.  Domestic violence crosses racial, class and income lines with impunity.  Do not assume that it cannot happen to you or to your best friend or your daughter.  We now know that it can and it will.

Last week I wrote a blog that challenged the concept of working women lawyers as "disadvantaged."  I ended that blog by stating that, even though my career had taken many detours because of my need to care for my family, I never felt disadvantaged.  I felt empowered.  I knew I had a choice, and I made it.

Respect, dignity, power.  All women can have them, but they must be brave enough to choose them.  No one is going to give respect, dignity and power to us until we prove that we deserve it and we expect it.  That is just the way it works.

Please talk to your friends about this.  Read my next blog where I will outline some of the ways that you can protect your daughters.  Help each other to be powerful and demand the dignity and the respect that each of you deserves.  Do not become a statistic of domestic violence because you do not want to rock the boat or give up financial security.

Choose to choose.  And choose yourself.

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she taught legal research and writing. She also is a Marshall Goldsmith trained career and leadership coach and a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches.  She also is a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit www.bestfriendsatthebar.com. 

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