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In honor of her mother, Inga Coffee: Ashley Jones

1/16
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Brittanie Renoj

Why are you participating in Unconventional Apology Project?

 

“You can live a good life after having something very horrible happen to you.” 

 

Well it’s because I’ve always wanted to do a similar project just like you wanted to do, as well. Just a little different, but almost the same idea. When I came into terms about what has happened to me in my past…from my past relationship, I just realized that things do happen for a reason. I can’t just sit here and mope around about what has happened before and, you know, let it just ruin everything going on in my present and not be able to live through today. I just think there has to be other people who’ve been through what I’ve been through and maybe the reason I’ve been through this is to help out others. That’s what I always wanted to do and it’s funny how I came into pass with you. I actually saw it as a retweet on Twitter [laughs] and it’s so weird because, like I said, I believe in things happening for a reason, and I was telling my husband, “Oh, I’m one away from 200 people on my Twitter followers.” And I’m starting a blog and everything for my photography. So, I was like man whoever the 200th person is, I’m gonna be so excited and I’m gonna tell them, “You’re my 200th follower!” And out of all people, it was you! And, I couldn’t believe it! I knew it happened for a reason. And I knew…I’ve been praying about this so much lately, and I felt God has been answering my prayers and I just felt that that’s why we’re on the same path and he wants me to get better for this. Especially for my daughter and my husband and to make others feel better…realize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there’s also an afterlife after this. You can live a good life after having something very horrible happen to you. 

 

 

 

Have you ever had the opportunity to discuss the story you are sharing with us today?

 

“It was weird because at this time, I did not know that my last relationship was unhealthy. I had no idea.”

 

I have. I mean, not as in this kind of opportunity. I told my family members…my cousins who I moved in with three years ago when I first moved here to Los Angeles. It was weird because at this time, I did not know that my last relationship was unhealthy. I had no idea. I was a very late bloomer on a lot of things in life, so I was telling my cousins and my cousin’s best friend who is friends with me as well. I was just saying, “Oh, yeah this is what happened in my last relationship. This happened, blah blah blah.” And they’re just sitting there like [widens eyes] “Whaaat?” And I’m just sitting there acting like there’s nothing wrong. And they’re like, “Um, ok” and they just didn’t know how to take it. Honestly, I thought that was normal. I thought it was normal to be in that type of relationship until meeting my husband, who totally is a 180, God. He’s shown me otherwise, you know? So until that time I wasn’t really opening up. I had no idea it was something very unhealthy until I started seeing the true definition of love with my husband. So that was the first time I started telling people without knowing the effects of it…of what has happened before.

 

 

 

What domestic abuse experience do you want to share?

 

“He looked over at me with this anger and everything is so scary and he just took the knife out and he started aiming at me while I’m driving.”

 

I’ll just give a little background about my last relationship. Me and my ex were very close in age. We both had the same zodiac signs—Taurus. I believe that’s why we butted heads so much because we’re both stubborn [laughs]. And, he was my total opposite. Obviously, from where we came from, but personality wise we were almost exactly alike. At the time, I felt like he manipulated me A LOT, especially because I was very vulnerable at that time in my life since I didn’t really have the greatest relationships with men and especially with my parents really holding me and my brother and sister back from a lot of stuff. Like family problems…they didn’t want us to be exposed to a lot of things. So, we were pretty much kept in a mayonnaise jar, until we got older and we all rebelled in our own ways you know [laughs]. I do tell my mom now that I wish she would’ve been a little more open about stuff when we were teenagers…because I always wonder if maybe I wouldn’t have gone through what I did if maybe she would’ve told me about stuff like that you know? But, that’s ok. I came to terms with that.

 

Anyways, me and my ex, oh God, [audible exhale, rolls eyes, shakes head] we lived together in Washington state almost four years…from 20 to 24. So I was very young and really stupid at the time. I’m not gonna lie, I was a very naive person. And he was really sweet and different than all the other guys. I mean of course if he was like he was at the end of our relationship, we never would’ve gone out. But he was so nice and loving and loved me for who I was. Because everyone kept picking on who I was and saying, “You’re different, you’re weird, you’re just ugh” you know? But he liked me for who I was. He thought I was cool and he was like, “Oh you’re into filming, you’re into photography? That’s amazing!” You know? And I’m like, “Awesome! Someone actually appreciates me for who I am” you know? And it was like that for the first year. But there would be little signs where I didn’t know that it was abuse. He was controlling, telling me I can’t be friends with these guys or I can’t be friends with these girls. He has hacked into my email accounts and accused me. “You did this! Who are you talking to? Did you send these pictures to this guy? Who is this guy?” And I’m like, “What are you talking about? I didn’t do anything wrong and how did you get into my email?” It freaked me out! It really scared me and it didn’t really connect in my brain, you know thinking that there was something wrong. I was just like, “Ok, ok. I just won’t be friends with anyone. I’ll just do anything that he says.” I lost a lot of friendships ‘cause of that guy.

 

There was this one time where I was going to school up there and because of my ex, I almost changed my major from photography to the medical field because he said, “You’re not going to be able to do photography.” Just like how my dad would say.

“I pretty much just took it. I believed it. I believed everything he said. I just accepted it. And it’s funny ‘cause, I thought it was a healthy thing…”

 

He’s like, “Why don’t you do something that will make you money?” And I’m like, “Fine! I’ll just go into nursing! I’ve always wanted to help out people.” So I was doing my GE’s for that. While I was in school, I met one of my classmates who was a guy and there was nothing going on. I’m very faithful when it comes to my relationships and stuff because I know what it’s like to be hurt. But, my ex did not…he just had some trust issues. And he got so far where I called him that day and said, “Hey, me and so and so are gonna hang out. It’s my classmate from English class. We just wanna hang out, it’s just gonna be at the park.” And he’s like, “Wait, this is a GUY?” And he’s all yelling at me on the phone and goes back home and he’s like “Oh, so you’re gonna go and hang out with that douche bag?” And I’m like, “Yeah, but nothing’s gonna happen.” “Oh my gosh! Are you gonna go cheat on me?” As soon as my friend came over…it’s so embarrassing, to this day I still get embarrassed about it. My ex literally followed me down the stairs from our apartment all the way to the car to make sure who this guy was. He saw him and he was like, “YOU’RE GONNA GO OUT WITH THIS GUY? HE LOOKS LIKE ONE OF THE GUYS YOU’RE USED TO DATING!” I looked at him like, “Ok, yeah, it’s just a coincidence but don’t think that we’re going out.” It’s like dude, you got my heart. I invested so much time and especially at this time, we were going out for two and a half years. And, he just yelled at me right in front of my friend. It was SO awkward. And I’m sitting there crying my eyes out. I was on the phone calling my mom to calm me down. Since at this time my parents, I have no family or anything, so I was calling her just talking and my classmate’s just sitting there like, “Uh, I don’t know what to do.”  I felt so embarrassed. When I got off the phone, I didn’t know my phone was beeping and it was my ex calling me. So I call him right back and he’s like “Who are you on the phone with? Why aren’t you answering my calls? You must be cheating on me! Oh my gosh, don’t even come back home! Don’t come back!” I was just so embarrassed and so sad. I told my friend I had to go and he was like, “Are you sure? Do you want me to stay nearby?” And I’m like, “No no no no. Everything will be ok, I’ll text you.” You know? It was just so weird and awkward when I got back home. My ex was just yelling at me, tearing me down. Saying I’m gonna cheat on him and he’s gonna cheat on me with someone else and he’s gonna dump me. He was calling me every little name from the book. Oh my God. I pretty much just took it. I believed it. I believed everything he said. I just accepted it. And it’s funny ‘cause, I thought it was a healthy thing…people fight you know?

 

He got to the point of threatening my life when he got to drinking and everything. I don’t drink to get drunk anymore because of him. I don’t really like hanging out with people drinking because I get very nervous. And thinking what if they do something while they’re drunk, you know? Especially like these scenarios, which still stick in my brain. We were going to Seattle, going to a concert and we were drinking and this guy, he just drank SO much. I just got used to him always being drunk and me always having to be the designated driver…always having to be the shoulder to lean on and everything. So I was used to it. But at that time, I was feeling down and so when he would drink, I would start drinking so I can just cope with it. To me, it felt like a bandage, just covering everything so I don’t have to really be there. So I started drinking too…more and more and I would catch up with him. I felt like we were trying to compete with each other or something because the more I drank, the more he would. He got really, like REALLY drunk and right before we even went to the concert and everything. And when we went to the concert, he got in a fight with the lead singer and it was crazy! I was sitting in the corner because I was starting to feel the symptoms of sobering up, so I started to get that hangover feeling and so I’m sitting there like, “Oh my gosh, now I have to get up and get him.” Everyone is staring and I’m just trying to act like I don’t care. I told him we should go to a club and just sit down for a minute. So, we went to this little dive in and he was talking to these black guys and they were trying to take advantage of him because he was drunk. “If you buy us some drinks, we’ll hook you up.” He was like yeah that’s cool and he comes over like, “Guess what, I just bought these guys some drinks and they’re gonna hook me up with some weed!” It turns out they were lying and they just took advantage of him. When he found that out, he got really mad and instead of taking his anger out on them, he took it out on me. I had to drag him out because they almost got into a fight. I said, “Let’s just go right now, let’s just go home.” And he was making this big scene while I was walking and it was very cold outside and cloudy and we were walking and I’m wobbling because I’m trying to hold him…and everyone is watching this. He starts yelling at me, calling me the n word and saying it was my fault because I’m half black that I had something to do with it because of our culture and me being the same race. He said I ruined the night and I just wanted to stay quiet. It was so embarrassing. I just felt so stupid; I just wanted to get out of there.

 

“I had the courage and it was safe enough where I looked over and just punched him really hard in the face and he got knocked out.”

 

So, we were driving on the Interstate-5…oh man I thank God to this day because there were no cars…and it’s very dark. So I’m driving home and he’s like passed out. So he gets up and gets out of his pocket, he has this huge knife and stabs my dashboard in my car and I’m so pissed because I was trying to sell that car. So I looked over at him and I yelled at him like, “What is wrong with you? Why did you do that for?” He looked over at me with this anger and everything is so scary and he just took the knife out and he started aiming at me while I’m driving. I’m trying to duck while I’m driving and we almost swerved and crashed off the freeway. I always thank God every day because he almost got me. He was very close, like right on my right temple. And I always just think, everyday, like thank God he was so drunk that his eye coordination wasn’t exactly there. I was inches away from having…that could’ve been my death right there. It could’ve been a lot worse. I had the courage and it was safe enough where I looked over and just punched him really hard in the face and he got knocked out. I was so upset and I didn’t know what to do. But the first thing I did was I yelled really loud…I’m sorry for my language [laughs] but, I said, “I fuckin’ hate you! I fuckin’ hate you and we’re done! We’re done!” And I was hyperventilating and driving trying to get back home.

 

The next day, he was all hung over going to work and he was wondering why I wasn’t talking to him and everything and he texts me, “You wanna meet up at lunch?” And I’m like, “Yeah, let’s meet up.” Because I wanted to tell him what happened. And he’s like, “Why are you so mad at me?” Like nothing happened last night. Are you serious? He just looked at me all sad like, “Oh my gosh, I really did that? I am so sorry, I am so sorry.” And I’m like “No, no no, it’s ok. But I don’t think we can be together.” And he’s like “Please, please, please, please please!” And I don’t know what was holding me back, I guess it was the fear of being alone...especially because I didn’t have my family or friends and I didn’t think I was gonna be able to be on my own, so I forgave him. And it’s just so crazy ‘cause, I didn’t know what happened so that that wouldn’t happen again.

 

This time was the last incident that I had with him in Washington. It was three years ago...that happened maybe 2 or 3 weeks before I moved here. What was bad about that one is…it was horrible because we weren’t even going out at that time. We had to still keep on good terms because I still had the connection…that love connection with him because I did love him and he was my first love and everything. That night…it just has really changed my whole perspective on relationships and stuff. I remember, it was on a Tuesday night and we went to a bar for a comedy night. It was me, him and his coworker. Since my ex is a narcissist, he was trying…because he knew that I was still in love with him, that even at that time, we weren’t living together because I moved out as soon as we broke up. He knew how to push my buttons, especially because when we were in a relationship, he cheated on me, which is really ironic because he would always call me out, especially for being mixed race. He’d call me a sell out and I can’t really relate to being black because I’m half white and everything you know? He would just call me out for that. I never really understood that until later on in my life. But, he cheated on me with this girl…especially because he would always call me out about my weight saying that I was always too fat. So I’d look in the mirror, and I still do to this day, and it sucks because I’m still trying to get over this. I look at myself and I think, “Am I really that big?” You know? He cheats on me with a girl that’s way bigger than me and she’s white and I was like…really? Wow. Ouch. I was really hurt. And it hurt even more especially during that time. He was texting her, right in front of me. And I was like, really? He’s like, “I still love you and I know you moved to LA, but I still wanna keep something between us.” And, I was still holding on a little bit [deep exhale].

 

So, at that time, they were drinking and they bought this pitcher of beer and he was texting her. I was like you know what? I’m done. I’m gonna be in LA in the next few weeks. I hate my life, I hate where I’m at. I’m just gonna drink and I’m just gonna try to enjoy this night. So I went way over my limit and I got totally wasted. Even though this night, I blacked out a few times, I do remember this night like it was yesterday. I would always remember when I kept going in and out of the bathroom because I was so drunk you know? And my ex was getting more and more intoxicated as well, so we went to another bar. So, he was kind of watching me and another co-worker because  he thought that we were flirting, and we kinda were but it wasn’t like we were gonna do anything. He was getting jealous and everything. I told him I had to go to the bathroom and I did because I was feeling sick and I passed out and didn’t wake up until an hour later. I was still in the bathroom and my coworker and his friend came in and they’re trying to wake me up. And I didn’t know how bad it was until I saw that I was covered in vomit. I was so embarrassed and I told them I was so sorry and I couldn’t get up by myself. So I come out and his friend is helping me and my ex yells at me in front of the whole bar for this...he’s like, “Oh my gosh! You two? Did you two? Did you guys…? [Motions with hands to indicate them being together]” And he goes to his co-worker and he’s like, “Did you do it with my girlfriend?” And I looked at him like, “Girlfriend? We’re not even going out! What are you talking about?” And he’s like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you guys went together! I can’t stand this! You’re not staying at my place, I’m gonna take you home!” I lived like 30 miles away. I was so embarrassed and he was yelling at me and he was yelling at his friend and he’s like, “I’m just gonna take this bitch home right now!” He was pretty much trying to drag me and I’m just following him like a little sad puppy because I had nowhere else to go. I sold my car at this time, I lived 3o miles away, so I’m like I can’t go, I don’t know who else to call, so I just went along with it. I was so pissed and he was just as drunk as me. But he was driving. At that time I wasn’t thinking too clearly, so when we got into the car, I passed out. What was so scary is that when I woke up, I look over and I see my ex is passed out and the car is moving and we’re still driving. I thank God every day that that pothole woke me up, because I couldn’t believe we were one turn away from the freeway. We could’ve got killed. And I couldn’t believe that that happened. I’m surprised there weren’t any cars out. And I woke him up and I said, “Get up! Get up! Get up!” And he was like, “What?” I told him “You passed out! You passed out!” And he blames me and said that it was my fault. It was my fault. He told me it was my fault that the tire got messed up; it was my fault that night got ruined. He told me that pretty much everything was my fault. It was like the same old song, that’s what he would always say to me. That hurt me more because we weren’t even going out and he was still trying to get control of me. And I just always remember that night and how lucky I am to be alive today and especially not hurting anyone. And how I could’ve easily got a DUI for that.

 

“There are times when I would get flashbacks or if something triggers me to remember my past of why I didn't press charges or why didn't I leave sooner which leads me feeling even worse on myself and puts this umbrella of shame over me.”

 

During this time in my life, we weren't even together; yet he had the nerve to still treat me like shit even on the friendship level that he so wanted to continue…like if the past 4 years of abuse and violence was nothing. At this time, mind you, I was not exactly aware that I was in an abusive relationship until after going out with my current husband (that happened about a year after the incident) but I just had enough of the put downs and the controlling environment. There are times when I would get flashbacks or if something triggers me to remember my past of why I didn't press charges or why didn't I leave sooner which leads me feeling even worse on myself and puts this umbrella of shame over me.

 

“I’m not gonna let it identify me. I’m not a victim you know? I’m a warrior. I’m a survivor. And I wanna move on.”

 

I’m still recovering from it, I’m not gonna lie, it’s still hard. It’s still fresh to me [tears]. I never really understood about how my ex felt until really seeing where he came from and everything. And when I was exposed to that, it kinda felt like it drew some…it got me into a deeper hole and made me really depressed. It made me push people away because I thought no one would understand. I hate when people hear my story and they tell me “I know how you feel” I’m not gonna let it identify me. I’m not a victim you know? I’m a warrior. I’m a survivor. And I wanna move on. And I want to tell my dad that. I do want him to know. I want him to know that.

 

 

 

What no longer lingers in your heart and mind about your experience? What has opened up for you as a result?

 

“Finally this year, I finally forgave myself.”

 

Finally this year, I finally forgave myself. I forgave myself for what has happened. I’ve been so harsh on myself lately, especially with my pregnancy last year, it really triggered my hormones [laughs] so a lot of emotions came out. My demons came in a lot, especially last year. And, it took me a while, but I finally forgave myself.  I finally told myself, “You are forgiven. It happened. Move on.” You know? I don’t want my ex to know this, but I have forgiven him. That is another change I have made. Just for my sake, and my moving on, I have forgiven him for what he has done. Since forgiving myself, it has made me feel a little more stronger to move on and be able to talk a little bit more about it to be able to educate others. Especially seeing a lot of young people go through it and seeing others who are still going through it, where I could have been. I just feel like this year, just a lot of changes…being a new mom and being a new wife. I just realized that I need to be a strong person, especially for my daughter. I just want to show her that just because something bad has happened to me it doesn’t mean that you have to give up on life and just mope around you know? It’s ok to mourn and stuff, but you have to get up one day and just dust yourself off and say you now what? It’s over. It was the past, now I’m living in the present and let’s look forward to the future. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do so far in the future.

 

 

 

What is your definition of love and how does that love feel?

 

“Violence and verbal abuse? That’s not love. If someone really loves you, they wouldn’t hurt you. They don’t want to see you in pain.”

 

Now I know the definition of love thanks to my husband. I tell him every day that I feel that he is an angel and God has sent me to him…we met for a reason. I feel that the definition of love is that it shouldn’t be a one way road. Both people should be putting work in it and putting effort. Mean what you say too. Violence and verbal abuse? That’s not love. If someone really loves you, they wouldn’t hurt you. They don’t want to see you in pain. They don’t want you to be feeling down and make you cry on your birthdays, and ruin your days, making you feel bad about yourself and making your life a living hell. Someone who loves you wants to see you succeed and wants you to reach for the stars and wants to see you be successful as you can. They care about you…they care if you’re gone, they care if you’re here, you know? They care about your presence and they just love you for who you are and they accept you for who you are. They don’t ask you to change. I thank God every day for meeting my husband. He’s living proof that there are good guys out there. Not all guys are bad. There are people who treat people like they love them and really mean it. I am so happy for that. I’m so happy to be exposed to the real definition of love.

 

 

 

What does leaving a Trail of Existence mean to you?

 

“All these doubts and stuff, I just wanna show my Trail of Existence to show people that I’m still here. I’m still alive and I’m happy. I still have my downs, but I’m moving on and I may be under reconstruction, [rooms erupts with laughter] but the new Brittanie is gonna be here!”

 

To me, it shows I’m not a victim. I want people to know my story and see where I’m coming from and why I act the way I do...there’s reason behind it. I also want to show and prove to people that, especially men, women, abusers…anyone, that just because you beat someone down or you blew their flame away doesn’t mean it’s gonna make yours better or make us disappear. No. It’s not gonna make us weak, it’s just gonna make us stronger. I just wanna show people that you can be strong after this and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there is a life after this. To this day, three and a half years ago, I never thought I would be here in Los Angeles living my dream, because I’ve always told everyone I’m coming here. And a lot of people never believed me…my ex didn’t believe me. And now look at him, he’s still in Washington and I’m here [big smile]. And I have a kid AND a husband who really loves me. It’s amazing you know? All these doubts and stuff, I just wanna show my Trail of Existence to show people that I’m still here. I’m still alive and I’m happy. I still have my downs, but I’m moving on and I may be under reconstruction, [rooms erupts with laughter] but the new Brittanie is gonna be here! It’s so important to show women and men that you can’t put people down and love shouldn’t be from hurt and it shouldn’t be complicated. Love should be giving you good feelings, not bad feelings. That’s what love is and that’s why people wanna be in love. If it was so bad, no one would wanna be married. I may have been put down and my ex may have felt like he had control over me but he doesn’t, so I just wanna show him that he doesn’t. No one should be telling you what to do; it’s up to you to decide what you wanna do with your life.

 

 

 

Do you have any parting thoughts?

 

“…just because you went through something bad doesn’t mean that you’re gonna have a horrible life. You still have the rest of your life to live; a beautiful life and it’s up to you to make that life, not anybody else. It’s only you that can make that change.”

 

I just want people to know that…especially with my experiences, because I’m really shy…and I became more shy because of what has happened…it has put up a lot of walls and everything, especially when people call me cold and I’m really not, I’m just really trying to protect myself. I just really want people to know that…don’t judge a book by its cover. You never know what kind of life battles they’ve gone through.

 

I also wanna say that just because you went through something bad doesn’t mean that you’re gonna have a horrible life. You still have the rest of your life to live; a beautiful life and it’s up to you to make that life, not anybody else. It’s only you that can make that change. It took me a long time to realize that but now that I know, I just want others to know that. There’s always light after…when something horrible has happened…something dark, there’s always gonna be light right after. So I just wanna let people know that. It’s gonna be ok like, even if you just got out of it and you’re scared, and you feel so depressed and horrible and sad about what has happened, that it’s not gonna last forever and you will move on. Try to think positive. Surround yourself with positive people who love you…the REAL definition of love. It will just help a lot to make yourself feel better and get to that better path and also not just for you but it will help out everyone else, especially other people in that position [big smile, laughter].

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WARNING: this website contains accounts of domestic and sexual violence that some may find graphic or triggering and not appropriate for all ages.

 

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Domestic Violence Stories