Everything looked rosy for Jessica Corbett last July. She thought she would soon marry a man she adored, a welcome change after the messy and bitter divorce that ultimately cost her former husband his job as a speechwriter for President Trump.

Jessica Corbett is putting her life back together with help from friends in Portland after a defamation lawsuit ripped apart her looming marriage last summer. Sun Journal photo by SteveCollins

Then some unwelcome news arrived from a courtroom on Cape Cod: A Massachusetts judge had ruled a $4 million defamation lawsuit filed against her last April by her ex-husband, David Sorensen, would be allowed to go to trial.

With a court battle looming, Corbett said, her fiance’s family wanted the couple to hit the brakes on the wedding. Feeling awful, she agreed.

Soon after, Corbett climbed into the bathtub in the Portland apartment she and her fiance shared and came down with what she called a panic attack.

“It all came to a head and I snapped,” Corbett said Monday. “I tried to kill myself. I took a whole lot of pills.”

For Corbett, 33, it was just one more moment in her long odyssey to escape a bad marriage and slip away from Sorensen for good. Had she followed the “silent underground railroad” that many women in her shoes take, she said, perhaps it would have gone better.

But when she chose to tell The Washington Post a year ago about her life with Sorensen, he quickly lost his White House position and began a public effort to clear his name by accusing Corbett of lying about their 2½-year marriage. During their time together, Sorensen served as a top aide to former Gov. Paul LePage while Corbett held a series of political positions.

Sorensen has repeatedly – and steadfastly – denied he was ever violent toward Corbett. Their rocky marriage, which included her throwing a diamond ring at him, ended in divorce in 2016.

“I have never been violent in any way toward any woman in my entire life,” Sorensen said Monday. “The thought of it disgusts me.”

For both of them, though, the trauma continues. Sorensen apparently hopes winning a defamation lawsuit will clear his name, while Corbett insists she already has lost everything but will not renounce the truth of their relationship.

Their split, Corbett said, “forced me to give up my life as I knew it,” leaving behind the political world in Augusta and most of the mutual friends she and Sorensen shared.

But when she found new love and got engaged at Christmas 2017, she thought she had moved past the trauma and hurt – until she had to call off wedding last July.

When Corbett gulped down pills three days before she had planned to wed, her fiance called 911 and sent her off to the hospital, where doctors kept her on a suicide watch and made sure she pulled through.

In the morning, physicians said she could go home. She phoned her fiance, who had promised to return to bring her home.

“I gotta go,” he told her before hanging up.

When the hospital released Corbett, she was surprised he was not there. So she took her purse, “just reeling and stunned,” and began walking home. Before too long, she thought to call an Uber.

When she arrived at their apartment, she immediately noticed that only one of two pairs of Bean boots sat outside the door. Inside, one dog barked – hers.

At that moment, “my heart shattered,” Corbett said.

“It was like the glass slipper broke,” Corbett said, her Cinderella period shattered for good.

When she finally got inside, she found he had taken all of his stuff and left. She never heard from him directly again.

Sorensen said he is “glad to learn her fiance escaped before she inflicted permanent damage on his life like she did on mine.

“Her life will improve only when she gets the help even her best friends say she needs, and when she stops seeking the attention she craves,” he said.

Corbett said that after the wedding fell through, she felt alone, but soon realized she was not.

Corbett said her friends in the neighborhood rallied to help, making sure she did not just spend her days crying. They got her food. They got her moving.

They helped find her a new apartment that turned out to be on her favorite block along Morning Street, where she had always hoped to live. They hired her to clean houses and Airbnb apartments.

“This community has been very kind to me,” Corbett said, reeling off the names of at least a dozen people who went out of their way to provide support when she was “hanging by a thread.”

But she had seen many others in far worse shape when she was volunteering at The Root Cellar, a privately funded community center that lends a hand to people in the area surrounding it on Washington Avenue. It helped her find perspective on her own woes.

Since last spring, Corbett has tried to stay out of the public eye, not venturing onto social media because she was sick of dealing with the trolls and feeling rattled from the constant pressure.

Then she learned Patrisha McLean, former wife of famed singer Don McLean, was creating an exhibition about domestic violence.

Inspired my McLean and fueled by “a puddle of tears,” Corbett said she decided to write up a brief account of her “life as it is today, laid bare” in a series of comments on Twitter last week.

At the end of that thread, she invited readers to donate to her legal defense fund, hoping she might raise a couple thousand dollars to fight Sorensen’s lawsuit.

Sorensen said Corbett “is turning to political activist strangers for help because people who know her don’t believe her. She is the female Jussie Smollett,” the actor who allegedly faked a racial attack in Chicago recently.

Corbett’s fundraiser did better than she expected.

By Monday afternoon, her post had been retweeted almost 5,000 times, including by some celebrities, and more than 700 people had chipped in more than $27,000, including Patrisha McLean.

Now, she said, she can defend herself in court and, with luck, fend off Sorensen’s case.

“He’s taken so much from me,” Corbett said. “He cannot take the truth.”

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