It seems clear at this point that some irreparable damage has been done to Ross Mirkarimi and Eliana Lopez's marriage during this recent domestic violence scandal. But their marriage was likely headed for some difficulty, if not actual divorce, even before that fateful New Year's Day when Lopez went next door to show neighbor Ivory Madison her bruise. But now, via an editorial penned by a friend in the Guardian, Lopez is indirectly speaking out about how incredibly disempowered she's been through this whole process, and how she maintains firmly that the problems with her marriage, and Mirkarimi's temper, were hers to deal with, and should never have been made public.
Myrna Melgar, described as a friend of Lopez and "a Latina survivor of childhood domestic violence" herself, published an editorial in the Guardian this week which is causing a new stir in the Mirkarimi story and in an odd twist, the Chronicle picked up the story and quotes liberally from the Guardian piece, and spoke to Melgar herself.
Melgar is sensitive to both sides of the issue the feminist call of zero tolerance for domestic abuse, as well as the nuanced look within this relationship where, arguably, Lopez knew enough to say whether she was in any real danger. But she comes down strongly on the side of Lopez as victim not just of a little bruising by her husband, but of an invasion of privacy by neighbor Madison, whom she says had no right to go to the police and the press without Lopez's permission.
Unquestionably, there are women in deeply abusive relationships who need assistance getting out, who may not be able to initiate an escape on their own. Eliana's relationship with Ross did not even come close to that standard. Yet in the eyes of Ivory Madison, Phil Bronstein, District Attorney George Gascon, and even the Director of La Casa de las Madres [a domestic violence shelter that has called for Mirkarimi's resignation and attempted to reach out to Lopez], once her husband had grabbed her arm, Eliana was simply no longer competent and her wishes were irrelevant.
Melgar paints a picture of a complicated and not entirely happy marriage in which two strong people came together and had a child, but that Mirkarimi did not "have time for marriage counseling" and had "trouble with the quiet demands of playing a puzzle on the floor with his toddler or having an agenda-less breakfast with his wife."
Now, Lopez is gone for a month to her native Venezuela with their son Theo, and there will be difficult work in her relationship to Mirkarimi once she returns, though Melgar told the Chronicle she wasn't entirely sure if Lopez would be returning (at least to stay?). Lopez herself posted Melgar's editorial on her Facebook page and called it truthful.
The only trouble here is that this once again returns us to the debate about domestic abuse being a "private matter," and whether a victim should be able to decide what degree of it is acceptable and should be kept secret. Had Lopez's video been kept private and used only in the event of a custody battle, the truth of Mirkarimi's treatment of her still might have emerged in some other manner, if not when news of a divorce went public. While it's arguable that Madison betrayed her friend's confidence in some way when she went to the police and Bronstein, we're still treading in dangerous rhetorical territory here when we try to define the abuse as anything other than what it was. Melgar argues that Mirkarimi's trial, and the publicity surrounding this case, only served to destroy a family and "won't help people suffering from violence in their intimate relationships." She's basically saying the same thing that others in the Guardian have implied that this situation wasn't so severe, and she, as a woman and friend, feels comfortable saying that Lopez's bruise didn't require legal intervention.
But come on. Are the old girlfriends just lying and exaggerating for revenge? Doesn't there seem to be a pattern of a temper which Mirkarimi actually does need to work on, and therefore this case coming to light may force at least one person to examine himself and change his ways? Does it not seem clear that the violence, and Mirkarimi's anger, were all due to the threat of Lopez leaving him and possibly trying to take their son away, and isn't that a classic abuse cliché, the "you're not going to leave me" thing?
The fact that this situation is complicated, and that Lopez is sad that it was all made public, doesn't change the facts of the case, and probably won't change the minds of people who think Mirkarimi should be removed from office. Yes, this family seems irreparably damaged, but it wasn't the publicity and the legal circus that did it. The marriage sounds like it was pretty close to breaking before any of this happened, and Lopez is just mad that other people intervened when she believes she could have handled it on her own.