After being thoroughly questioned for my nefarious skills at reading words on paper and having a father who likes to look at gay porn, my ex’s Bitch Lawyer seemed to have lost a grip on her plan of attack. Her entire paycheque depended on her ability to somehow make it my fault that my abusive ex had sent my naked photos to our coworkers and gotten fired for it. She left the room to speak with him in the hallway, where he’d been banished because of the restraining order.
I could hear his urgent whispers and the sound of him rustling through his notes. It was such an awkward sort of anticipation, waiting for her to come back and hit me with her best shot. As the hours passed, it just got more and more bizarre.
“Ms. Lorens, is it true that after September 11th…”
Her voice trailed off for a moment as she flipped through her notes, leaving me to wonder whether she was actually about to accuse me of being one of the 9/11 hijackers. It didn’t seem that unlikely, given the inane line of questioning she’d just put me through.
“…is it true that you ignored the State Department’s warnings after September 11th and traveled alone in places that are dangerous for women?”
“I was 14 years old on September 11th, and the first time I ever left the states was when I was 21. I went on an African safari so… no.”
“But you have traveled to places the State Department considers dangerous?”
“I really don’t know. If you can list these countries I’ll let you know if I’ve been to them.”
She stepped out from behind the table where she’d been standing all morning and closed the gap between us. The witness stand was on a platform so I was still at eye level with her.
“You’re not easily intimidated, are you?”
“I don’t understand the question.”
“It takes a lot for you to be intimidated. Are you intimidated by me?”
It felt like an elementary school blinking contest, and I was prepared to let my eyes shrivel up like raisins and fall out of my face before I’d lose to this biatch.
“Nope,” I said slowly.
I knew this would only help her make whatever idiotic point she was gunning for, but I couldn’t help it.
“Ms. Lorens, you’re someone that people call when they’re in trouble, aren’t you?”
“Can you clarify what you mean by people?”
“At the hospital, you are someone that they call when a patient is getting violent, is that right?”
“Uh, no. I’m in executive management, I don’t have anything to do with responding to panic alarms.”
“But when you and Mr. Psycho Ex were dating, you worked on the wards, is that right?”
“And when there was a violent altercation, didn’t they call on you to come and handle the situation?”
“No, definitely not.”
“Ms. Lorens, my client tells me that you are known for being able to wrestle patients to the ground and that there was one incident in particular where you took on an ex-con all by yourself and everyone just stood back while you protected the other patients.”
My jaw was to the floor. How did this woman make it through law school if she was stupid enough to believe the paranoid and delusional ramblings of my ex?
“First of all, we don’t wrestle patients to the ground. We’re a trauma-informed facility that will do practically anything to avoid putting our hands on another person. We use verbal intervention and redirection. If someone were so violent that they had to be ‘wrestled’ I wouldn’t be anywhere near that situation. My role in any sort of escalation was to offer someone an oreo or tell them I’d bring a new DVD with me the next day. “
I paused to take a breath, but just couldn’t stop.
“And for what it’s worth, ex-cons don’t necessarily look like what you see on TV, our hospital is full of people who are just like you and me.”
“That may be so, but Ms. Lorens, wouldn’t you consider yourself to be fearless?”
A Taylor Swift song began playing in my mind, but I don’t think that’s what she meant.
“You claim to be afraid of Mr. Psycho Ex and yet you willingly work in a dangerous place and have traveled as a single woman all over the world. Does that make sense to you?”
“Yes, it makes sense because I experienced his behavior while we were dating.”
“And yet you stayed with him for almost an entire year?”
“Ms. Lorens, I’m going to need you to answer me with a yes or no.”
“Why would you stay with someone you’re afraid of? You’ve made some very bold claims about his behavior—that he talked about killing your male coworkers or killing you, and yet you stayed. Why is that?”
If I could have transported us to a dark alley, I’d have given her a more extensive answer with my fists.
“I don’t know. I can’t speak to the psychology of why women stay in abusive relationships.”
“You’re an educated woman who seems to do whatever she wants, yet you claim to have let him treat you so badly without doing anything about it?”
“I did do something about it. I told the police and I told my employers.”
“A year later. Why’d you wait so long?”
“I kept hoping it was over, but he just kept coming back and things kept getting worse.”
“Ms. Lorens, are you claiming to be afraid of him so that you can have revenge against him?”
“Why would you have even sent such personal photos to someone who you claim was so unstable? You seem smarter than that.”
“I sent the photos at a point in our relationship where things weren’t so bad. I never imagined he would use them against me.”
I’d spent the last year of my life trying to convince myself that I wasn’t a “victim”—that I was strong and that I shouldn’t believe the shitty thoughts that threatened my brain, telling me I deserved what he’d done to me and that I was worthless. Yet here I was, having to argue with someone about the fact I was a victim. My blood was boiling but I had to remember my rules of cross-examination:
Goal #1: Keep your shit together.
Goal #2: Be as unhelpful as possible.
Goal #3: Destroy him.
After extensively judging me for allowing a man to treat me so badly, she told me to open the evidence binder in front of me and turn to Exhibit C-12.
It was a copy of the Virgin Mobile phone records I’d printed after being able to access the account he’d set up with my personal information. She spent a fair amount of time questioning me about how I’d gotten these records.
“I right clicked and hit print.”
She asked a thousand variations of “how do we know you didn’t forge these documents?” and “how do we know you didn’t send those photos yourself” and “did you actually see Mr. Psycho ex purchase the pre-paid phone?”
After thoroughly establishing just how fake and unreliable she considered my records to be, she had me flip to Exhibit C-13. These were the Virgin Mobile records that she’d subpoenaed from Sprint, their parent company.
This was the first I’d seen of them and they were a mess of numbers and codes in a non-descript excel file. My employer’s attorney immediately objected to having these records entered as evidence and while they debated it out with the judge I flipped back and forth between the two sets of records. At first look, they seemed completely inconsistent but as someone who has a knack for identifying century-old burial patterns, I began to identify various places where the information lined up.
The judge eventually allowed the records into evidence and Bitch Lawyer proceeded to begin her line of questioning. I was still staring at the numbers and didn’t look up when she began to speak. This did not sit well with her and she bobbed her head, enunciating my name like it was an insult.
She pursed her lips, waiting for me to look up.
“What are you looking at?”
Her tone was full of accusation.
“… the records you just told me to turn to… and it’s interesting because these completely confirm my records, which you claim were forged.”
She began to panic.
“Judge, I can’t have her flipping through and looking at things she’s not supposed to be looking at, this is the exact sort of behavior I’ve been trying to demonstrate—“
“Counsel,” the judge interrupted, “You just instructed the witnes to turn to the exhibit. Do you or do you not want her to look at them?”
She told me to shut the binder and not to look at another thing.
“I’m going to subpoena an expert witness from Sprint to come and testify about these records, I’ll suspend this line of questioning until then.”
I was finally released for the remainder of that day. I’d have to come back multiple times but I wouldn’t have to talk about the records until after a Sprint expert was found. I met with my employer’s attorney a few days later and when she left the room to find a stapler, I flipped through the binder and took photos of the Sprint records—sure, not the most ethical move but I had to be ready for the performance of my life.
If You Missed It: Cross Examination: HACKER
Have you ever had to defend some aspect of your personality as though it were a flaw? What’s the most absurd lie someone has told about you? Would you bend the rules of ethics if you knew it would help the right side win?
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