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First lady of Massachusetts speaks at Queens College

Photo by Karen Frantz
By Karen Frantz

The first lady of Massachusetts, Diane Patrick, is naturally a private person. She jokingly told a group of Queens College students Monday that if she knew her husband, Gov. Deval Patrick, would have gubernatorial ambitions when she met him, she might not have married him.

But her role as a public figure has prompted her to speak out about an issue that runs deep for her: domestic abuse.

“As long as I’m in a visible role, I want to do what I can to make a difference in the world,” she said.

Patrick was the victim of domestic violence during her first marriage to a man she said was much older and had misrepresented himself to her about various aspects of his background, such as the school he attended.

After the pair moved to Los Angeles and Patrick began law school there, she said little by little he began to become increasingly controlling as she discovered his lies.

“He began to not let me drive,” she said. “I couldn’t have my friends over.”

She said it escalated to the point where he had torn down her self-esteem and she had become isolated in their home.

And then the abuse became violent.

“I just resigned myself to living in that life,” she said.

But she met Deval Patrick through a friend who was one of only two people who knew about the abuse. She and the future Massachusetts governor developed a strong friendship and he helped her build back up her self-worth and find the strength to leave. After a while, the couple married.

“I didn’t talk about [the abuse] for a long, long time,” she said, saying it was not until Deval Patrick began his run for governor that she first began to publicly recount the story.

She said it is important to her to share her tale to help others who are in similar situations who may be too scared or ashamed to reach out and get help, and to shed light on the fact that domestic abuse is not a problem confined to class.

“This doesn’t discriminate,” she said.

Patrick grew up in Brooklyn and studied early childhood education at Queens College. She taught elementary school for five years before the city bankruptcy in 1976-77 resulted in her being laid off, when she decided to go to law school.

She currently is a partner at Ropes & Gray LLP in Boston and has been named as one of the country’s leading business lawyers and one of the most influential black women in business. Her husband has been governor since 2007.

She joined Queens College for a Professionals on Campus presentation held in the college’s Q Side Lounge in the Main Dining Hall. The audience included participants in the school’s Women and Work Program and was moderated by the program’s founder, Carmella Marrone.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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