“She deserve it if she stays”
“If she likes it I love it”
“What did she do to make him hit her?”
“She must be with him for the money that’s why she’s staying,”
“She has low self esteem”
“Black women always up in some man face trying to fight, they think they’re men.”
“Women are disrespectful, their attitudes sometimes man….,”
“I’m not saying she deserved that but the way these women act nowadays?”
“She’s mad that he hit her but she still listens to Chris Brown’s music.”
The women that are being condemned today for staying in an abusive relationship can easily turn around and be your sister, mother, daughter tomorrow. Then what? A victim finds herself not only defending herself from her abuser, but sadly enough from his/her loved ones. The same people who are suppose to be there to support, love and not judge are most often the main ones to turn their backs on an abuse victim due to ignorance of the situation or lack of compassion.
Let me rewind. I’m not a spectator or a second hand recipient of this DV thing that so many of us ignore because, “It’s none of our business, she’s gonna go back to him anyway, oh well if she stay that’s on her.” I’m not on some band wagon because its National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. No, I’m a survivor. My story is well documented in my second novel “Full Circle.” I never had self esteem issues, I was always good in the “being loved and liked,” department. I have always been pretty popular, but in hindsight, I see that I was missing something, yearning for something, the love of a father perhaps as mine had been absent physically from me since the age of 6 and though we kept in touch and communicated often up until his death in January 2015, he was missing from my day to day life.
I don’t know if that is why I allowed myself to fall so deep into such a violent relationship, but there was a hole in my heart that only a man’s love could fill but by no means did I ever intend to sell my soul for it. I never did anything to warrant the abuse I endured. I am by no means weak either, but perhaps I had a weak moment back in 1995 when I met this guy, I was fresh out of high school thinking I was grown, ready to conquer the world and within a year after charming me, building what I thought was a close relationship with me, caring about me enough to want to know about my needs, wants and weakness, I mean because no guy I ever dated cared to know about my family life, where my father was, where I was at during certain hours, what time I was going to be home, what I should wear, who I should hang out with…. No guy ever cared that much is what I thought then…
Wanting to know my every move, telling me how I should dress, where I should go, being a bit aggressive and slightly possessive, at 17 years old I took that as a sign that he was looking out for me. I took it as a sign of “his” maturity. I thought he was ready to take on the role of caring for me and loving me the way I yearned to be loved by a man my entire childhood. I did not know that he was just using my vulnerability to reel me in, manipulate me and then later on use my weaknesses and innocence against me to try to destroy me because he hated himself.
After dating just shy of a year, he beat me down for the first time. He had already slapped me once, with cake, right across the face just like how Ike did Tina in, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” and we fought like dogs. I felt satisfied that one and only time having thought that I got the best of him in that fight. I didn’t think of it as abuse. We were from the ghetto and that was how most couples showed love. Not that I ever witnessed it in my own family life but it just didn’t seem like a big deal. Then one day, after a minor argument over something that I can not remember, he beat me down. He threw me across my bed then ran around to the other side and stomped me before I could get up, punched me in my face repeatedly until I was unconscious, then whisked me out of my mother’s apartment, yes my mother’s apartment, while my sister and friend sat in the living room totally oblivious to what was going on, because he shut the door, beat me while covering my mouth, stifling my screams. When he got me outside of the apartment he beat me in the elevator. I buried my face in his chest as people got on, not wanting my neighbors and friends to see what was happening. That was my mistake, hiding…I wasn’t even aware of what was going on.
My boyfriend who I spent every day and night with for almost a year was turning into a monster right in front of my eyes. He got me in his car, continued to fight me until we got to his house. I was so tired I fell asleep once we got inside of his apartment. Thank God he left me alone and let me sleep.
When I woke up, I went to the bathroom to pee, I washed my hands and looked in the mirror like most people do. Oh My God!!!!!!!!!!!!! My face looked like I had two pumpkins for cheeks. My face disfigured, and swollen beyond recognition. I cried as I touched my face. I was in shock, what the hell had happened and why? What did I do to deserve this? Why did I let him do this? Something must be wrong with him!
Being the genuine nurturer at heart that I still am til this very day, I found myself wanting to find out what was wrong with him to make him act out this way, before even asking, what the fuck is wrong with you for allowing this? Ashamed to go home, I stayed at his house for days waiting for the swelling to go down. Once it did, I left, vowing to never see this maniac that I loved again. I was young, smart, attractive, fresh outta high school and the world was mine, I didn’t need this shit! Then a week later he showed up, saying sorry… begged me to forgive him then he got down on one knee, proposed and slid a huge diamond pear shaped ring on my finger. I moved out of my mother’s house indefinitely after that. I don’t even remember saying yes to his proposal. I just remember him begging, crying, apologizing and promising as he slid the huge ring on my finger.
For the next four years I played wife, I was 18 years old, not sure of what my future consisted of. I recall him telling me I didn’t have to work, he was a financially stable guy worth about a quarter million in the 90’s at 18 years old because of a lawsuit. But I never took him up on that offer. Something inside me said “Continue to work, have your own, you can’t depend on a man.” I never seen my mother do it, so honestly it wasn’t even an option for me to do so.
Over the years this man, twice my size, would strike me like I was nothing or a man in the street. He beat me, he raped me, he kicked me under cars, he shot at me, he spit in my face, he knocked me out, he stripped me in public, he threw me out of moving cars, he split my eye on Valentines Day causing me to get stitches, embarrassed me in restaurants and in front of his friends and family. He choked me, he bad mouthed me, he beat me for wearing the wrong color, he beat me for thinking I was too pretty, he beat me for not getting pregnant, he’d beat me for being a minute late home from work, he’d beat me if the food didn’t come out right, for sleeping too long because perhaps I was in bed laying down thinking about another man or even worse, thinking of leaving him. He abused me mentally, emotionally, physically, verbally and sexually.
He killed me.
I remember being dead, walking in the street without looking both ways not caring if a car hit me. I remember becoming addicted to pain killers because I had to constantly take them to help with the headaches that you could imagine I had daily. Every time he and I would leave the house together, I’d look into the eyes of strangers, hoping they’d see the fear in me and ask me, “What’s wrong? Can I help?” I just wanted somebody to know what was happening to me and not talk about me, but help me.
I thought of leaving right?
I knew I didn’t need to be there but my logic was, if this man could do all of these things to me, surely he’d carry through his promise of killing me if I tried to leave. Of course he meant that shit, when he said “try to leave Ayana, go ahead, you’re gonna wish you were dead when I catch you.” After all, didn’t he shoot at me last night, sending me running down the street on a late night because I came home too late from a house party? Did he not just drag me out of a club last week in front of thousands of people who just watched? Didn’t he just knock me out last week in broad daylight? Of course he’d kill me. I’m stuck here for life, I may as well make the best of it, because I don’t want to die… not like this.
I dealt with being ridiculed, I dealt with folks turning their backs on me, I even dealt with people bailing him out of jail after he got arrested for assaulting me once. I’d leave and he’d find me because I never had a place to stay for too long. There was always a slammed door in my face when I cried out for help or someone making me feel as if I didn’t belong in their presence because they didn’t want my drama to spill over into their life.
I wanted somebody to come save me and nobody ever did, so I knew I had to save myself. So I got an order of protection. I gave it to him and told him if he hit me again, he’d go to jail for a long time. He ripped the paper up, threw it in my face, then slapped me for getting him involved with the court system.
He did not give a fuck about me. Not at all.
Mentally I began to plan my escape. Every day I’d say, “leave Ayana leave.” That was my affirmation, my mantra to get closer to that front door, every single day. I had to plan it the right way and be prepared to be out in the street running if I had to. The first thing I did was take a leave of absence from my job. I am forever thankful for my peers at the now defunct Global Japan. My supervisor had just come out of an abusive marriage so she empathized with me and granted me a 3 month leave. That Monday morning I planned on “going to work” and never returning but then Saturday morning happened.
He wanted breakfast, I wanted to read a book in the park so that’s what I did.
I deserved to be able to sit on a bench, read a book and be great. But five minutes later he showed up in the park, slapping my book away, beating me to the ground ripping my weave out my hair, ripping my clothes half way off telling me that I think I’m too pretty, nobody is gonna want me when he’s done with me. Men playing basketball and children riding their bikes all just looked on. Nobody called a cop, yelled for him to stop, nothing, as he kicked me, spit on me and walked out the park freely leaving me there probably for dead, but let me not get dramatic. He wouldn’t kill me right? Not one man helped me. The park was filled with men, bigger than him, stronger than him and if not there could have been strength numbers for them to pull this wild animal off of me. But they did nothing. They just watched a woman get beaten by a man, probably “not wanting to get involved.”
Because she will go back, because she’s stupid, because because because…
So I walked home after gathering myself with only one thing on my mind which was death. I had reached the point, in my mind that I was going to kill this man, enough was enough. He was a lover of guns and I knew where he kept them so as I eyed his favorite piece in the closet, many many thoughts crossed my mind. I wanted to blast his fucking head off but I KNEW in my heart I’d regret it, not because of love, but because it wasn’t my place to take someone’s life.
You see, through it all, I kept God first. I knew he’d save me, him and only him. And at that moment he spoke to me, he said, “don’t do it, just walk away, now is the time you’ve been praying for.” So when he went to bed that night, I simply walked out as if I was going to the store and never looked back.
The monster eventually got murdered a few short years later.
Why hadn’t I done this 4 years ago? Because my mind and soul was paralyzed in fear and humiliation.
I didn’t know which way was up, it’s like you’re on drugs, on another planet because your mind, your senses, your everything gets stripped from you. It’s crazy. But understand something though. You do not deserve to be treated that way because you stay, don’t let anyone make you feel that way. You are not dumb, you are not weak you are simply a victim of circumstance and you deserve another chance at life and at love. Don’t let one bad situation victimize you for life or have you feeling as if you can’t go on, like you can’t love again, like you can’t breathe again, like you can’t be yourself again. You went through something tumultuous… take what you learned from that experience and teach someone else, pull someone else up the way you wish you had been pulled up and out of that situation.
If you’re paying attention to what is going on around you, you will see that the face of violence against black women are usually black men. Mel Gibson, Nicholas Cage just to name a few have abused their wives but unless you google “White men accused of domestic violence,” you won’t see that. But you don’t have to dig too deep to see pictures of Ray Rice, the NFL player who famously knocked his wife out in the elevator then dragged her lifeless body across the floor. You didn’t have to move an inch to see photos of America’s Bad Ass Sweetheart Rihanna being plastered all over our television sets with Chris Brown in the split screen being criminalized for his careless actions. Stories of Christopher Williams, David Justice and Wesley Snipes having beaten Halle Berry causing her to go deaf is legendary. Kci of the famed 90s group Jodeci being accused of brutalizing Mary J. Blige early on in her career, footage of rapper Big Pun chasing his ex wife around the house pistol whipping her, Mac 10 being abusive to T-Boz has also been documented. Even our beloved Christopher Wallace has been accused of abuse against his women.
If known celebrities are abusing our women what do you think is happening behind closed doors in communities where nobody dares to care? Domestic Violence (DV) occurs among all race/ethnicity and socio-economic classes. DV is a pattern of many behaviors directed at achieving and maintaining power and control over an intimate partner, such as physical violence, emotional abuse, isolation of the victim, economic abuse, intimidation, coercion, and threats. But for women of color, high rates of poverty, poor education, limited job resources, language barriers, and fear of deportation increase their difficulty finding help and support services.
Not to mention, a lot of black women suffer from what I call “Delusional Loyalty.” This is the case where a man will guilt a woman into being loyal to him no matter what he does to her based on his economical status. Accusing her of “getting the man involved in their affairs,” so that she won’t call the cops on him when he abuses her, allowing the abused female to have to choose between doing what’s right for herself versus “jeopardizing” her man’s freedom and well being. For this reason alone a lot of black women refuse to get the authorities involved, feeling as if they would be turning their backs on the black community by doing so, considering the relationship between the cops and black men. On the flip side of that, distrust between African-Americans and law enforcement also play a role in African American women not wanting to involve the authorities.
Also, the pressure especially nowadays to be in a relationship or a marriage for the sake of public validity, as silly as it sounds, is why a lot of women are reluctant to not only leave their mates but share with others what they are going through behind close doors.
An estimated 29.1% of African American females are victimized by intimate partner violence in their lifetime (rape, physical assault or stalking). ! African American females experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races. However, they are less likely than white women to use social services, battered women’s programs, or go to the hospital because of domestic violence. According to the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS), African American women experience higher rates of intimate partner homicide when compared to their White counterparts.
-Women of Color Network
Warning Signs that Your Partner May Be Abusive
- INTRUSION: Constantly asks you where you are going, who you are with, etc.
- ISOLATION: Insists that you spend all or most of your time together, cutting you off from friends and family.
- POSSESSION AND JEALOUSY: Accuses you of flirting/having sexual relationships with others; monitors your clothing/make-up.
- NEED FOR CONTROL: Displays extreme anger when things do not go his way; attempts to make all of your decisions.
- UNKNOWN PASTS / NO RESPECT FOR WOMEN: Secretive about past relationships; refers to women with negative remarks, etc.
- Gets very serious with boyfriends/girlfriends very quickly – saying “I love you” very early in the relationship, wanting to move in together or get engaged after only a few months, or pressuring partner for a serious commitment.
- Isolates partner from support systems – wants partner all to themselves, and tries to keep partner from friends, family or outside activities.
- Attempts to control what partner wears, what she/he does or who she/he sees.
- Is abusive toward other people, especially mother or sisters if he is a male.
- Blames others for one’s own misbehavior or failures.
- Is overly sensitive – acts ‘hurt’ when not getting one’s way, takes offense when others disagree with an opinion, gets very upset at small inconveniences that are just a normal part of life.
- Has ever hit a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past.
- Holds partner against his/her will to keep him/her from walking away or leaving the room.
- Embarrasses or belittles you or put you down
- Says hurtful things to you
- Dislikes your friends and family and discourages your relationships with others
- Makes all the decisions in the relationship
- Chastise you after social functions for talking with other people
- Acts jealous of people you talk to
- Blames you for his or her mistakes
- Tries to make you feel worthless or helpless
- Forbids or prevents you from working or going to school
- Keeps money, credit cards, and checking accounts away from you
- Controls access to your medicines or medical devices
- Threatens to have you deported
- Throws dishes or other objects
- Abuses your children or pet when mad at you
- Pushes, slaps, kicks, or otherwise assaults you
- Demands sex, makes you perform sexual acts you are not comfortable with, or sexually assault you
How to leave an abusive partner
Leaving an abuser can be dangerous. In order to do it as safely as possible, you should plan ahead and take the following precautions:
- Pack a bag ahead of time that will be available to take with you when you decide it is the safest time to leave. Include items such as extra clothes, important papers, money, extra keys and prescription medications.
- Know exactly where you will go and how you will get there.
- Notify a loved one of your plans
- Call a local women’s shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline to find out about legal options and resources available to you.
My hope for anyone who is in an abusive relationship, is that you overcome your fear of what may happen if you leave and understand that it can’t be any worse than what will happen if you stay. Abusers never change, only their victims.
National Domestic Violence Hotline