Why are you participating in Unconventional Apology Project?
“When I told my story to some people, they said, ‘Oh. Well you don’t look like domestic violence.’ What does it look like? It doesn’t have an age requirement, skin tone, an intellectual requirement…at all. ”
The reason I’m participating is your grandmother’s story hit me from Twitter. Just wanted to put a face to domestic violence. Not only when it comes to the media’s attention. When I told my story to some people, they were all like, “Oh. Well you don’t look like a domestic violence survivor.” What does it look like? It doesn’t have an age requirement, skin tone, an intellectual requirement at all.
Have you ever had the opportunity to discuss the story you are sharing with us today? What impact did it have on you?
“Sharing it made me feel strong again. I didn’t feel worthless after that.”
I have. Well, first I told my parents, the first time I left. And I went back [rolls eyes, shakes head], thinking things were gonna change, but it never did. And the second time I left, it was almost a near death experience, so I had to go to court in a room full of strangers, and my mom and my grandparents and just tell the last account of what happened. And that was an empowerment moment for me.
Sharing it made me feel strong again. I didn’t feel worthless after that. Regaining my strength back from that.
What domestic abuse experience do you want to share?
“The last experience that I had was him holding his hands around my neck, looking me in my face, with a whole bunch of rage and anger telling me, ‘You’re gonna die today.’”
The last experience that I had was him holding his hands around my neck, looking me in my face, with a whole bunch of rage and anger telling me, “You’re gonna die today.”
I was working at a health department and he was a very, very jealous person. Always accusing me of having a boyfriend wherever I worked at when I was staying there. One day, after I got the kids from daycare, he calls, telling me, “I need to know everything you talked about during your whole shift.” And it just really bothered me. He said, “If you don’t tell me now, you’re gonna get it when you get home!” So, that was the longest drive back home after work. After I got the kids in the house…and no greeting…anything, he told me to sit down on the couch and barely got the kids in the door, asking me about my day, talking to this guy and the conversation. I was telling him nothing was going on. And he said, “I don’t believe you.” Grabbed me [deep sigh] by my arm while they kids were watching [tears] (they were only 1 and 2 at the time), and dragged me to our bedroom and he then grabbed his hand around my neck and just started slamming my head against the mirror. Telling me, “All you wanna do is look in the mirror! You wanna look good for somebody else!” Which I was telling him is not true. And he got a pillow off the bed and tried to smother my face. And I was just fighting him, trying to get him to stop. And then he took the pillow off of me, grabbed his hands around my neck, and I was just pleading with him, “Just please…stop!” And the kids were in the other room. When he did let go, I asked him, “Do you want to have the boys see you doing this?” And I guess that’s when he just snapped out of it. And I just remember crying. I knew then it was time for me to go, or I wouldn’t survive. I wanted to see my kids graduate from high school. I didn’t want them around that anymore; before they got old enough to realize what was really going on. It was just time for me to go. And, that was the last time I experienced that.
“So it was me packing everything I could in this little Mazda Protégé, with kids and trying to get all our possessions in this car in a matter of 15, 20 minutes. I looked at them and told them [cries, but continues to speak], ‘When I held you, I told you I was gonna protect you. That’s what I’m gonna do.’”
After that incident, I decided that I needed to have some kind of game plan to get out of that situation and not come back. It scared me more than anything, because he knew where I would go, and it would be my mom’s house. That weekend, I was just trying to make peace…not to have any arguments or anything. I knew that I had to pretend to basically act like I was gonna be late for work so I could leave…so WE could leave. And that’s what I did. I put on my scrubs like I was going to work, and pretended to oversleep. I knew he had to be at work before me. What made it more scary is that his mother stayed across the street from us. So it was me packing everything I could in this little Mazda Protégé, with kids and trying to get all our possessions in this car in a matter of 15, 20 minutes. I looked at them and told them [cries, but continues to speak], “When I held you, I told you I was gonna protect you. That’s what I’m gonna do.” [Short break to collect herself].
So we did leave. It took about an hour and a half from where we stayed at to my mother’s house. Once he did realize I wasn’t at work, he came to my mother’s house. I just started…when I saw him and it was somebody else I didn’t know with him…some other guy. I just started shaking and called 911. And nobody answered the door. By the time the police came, he was gone with the car and the kids’ car seats in it. Which…I thought was really idiotic and him still trying to control the situation. From that point on, I just had to fight…getting a domestic order of protection against him. Trying to get the little things that I did have. Even though I paid for the car, I just told him, “You can have it. I just want my life. I just wanna live. WE just wanna live. We deserve that.”
After that incident that really scared me, to the point where I got every little piece of money that I did have…which was a fight because we had a joint account and even though it was technically my money, he tried to beat me to the bank! And this is money to help us, but he still wanted to have control over everything. So I took the money that I did have, talked to my uncle and stayed outside of Austin and said, “Can I stay with you and your wife for like a week or two?:” And he was like, “Yeah, just come on.” I bought us a plane ticket and we was there, came back and I still didn’t feel safe and that’s when we were staying in a shelter for 10 months and pretty much had to build everything back up from the bottom.
“…nothing…no one is worth going through hell with. Nobody. Especially when it comes to somebody trying to threaten you, or your family, or even your kids. It’s not worth it.”
On a good note, going through something for so long…I was just always been a person of faith—even when he had his hands around my neck. I just remember, even though I was…I thought I was [cries] gonna die, I was reciting the 23rd Psalms in my head. Just praying. Just being a person of strong faith even though going through a hell of a lot of adversity…even after surviving that and being in a shelter for 10 months. I always knew that things would get better and, eventually it did. Even though domestic violence is a hard subject to talk about, nothing…no one is worth going through hell with. Nobody. Especially when it comes to somebody trying to threaten you, or your family, or even your kids. It’s not worth it.
What no longer lingers in your heart and mind about your experience? What has opened up for you as a result?
“It’s opened me up to speak candidly and encourage other women or men that’s going through that to be stronger than that. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim.”
What no longer lingers is the fear. Constantly looking out the window. Freezing up every time I would see the same kind of car that he drove. Eventually, with time, that stopped.
What has opened up as a result is me being strong enough to say, “Yeah, I went through some mess, like everybody else do, but I’m confident to say that it happens. Things happen. But it’s not the end of the world. It’s opened me up to speak candidly and encourage other women or men that’s going through that to be stronger than that. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim.
What is your definition of love and how does that love feel?
“Just like the Jill Scott song is, ‘When somebody love you, they love you from your hair follicle to your toe nails’ and that’s what love means!”
My definition of love is…it doesn’t control. It’s every GOOD thing about love. Especially when, my first remembered attack was on Valentine’s Day. So, love is everything that that wasn’t. It’s not controlling. It’s being excited to see that person. It’s talking to them about your day. Laughing and joking; something that I enjoy doing that couldn’t do with him because I was in a miserable state. Just like the Jill Scott song is, “When somebody love you, they love you from your hair follicle to your toe nails” and that’s what love means! To have somebody to love you like that [laughs]!
Love conquers all. Especially when you’re coming from a hatred type of relationship. That’s what we all want is to have somebody to love. Whether it’s a pet, a child...JOY is love.
What does leaving a Trail of Existence mean to you?
“It means that my voice mattered to someone.”
It means that my voice mattered to someone. It means that what I have to say will make a difference to somebody. My Trail of Existence, when I see my kids smiling…like “Oh, you have great cooking skills!” or “I love you!” And to see their proud achievement that they have when they’re doing their karate. That’s what I want it to be...peaceful. Without being stressed or being fearful. Just about being empowered and empowering other people.
Do you have any parting thoughts?
“A lot of people like to say that love is blind. But, you have to pay attention to signs because they’re always there. You just can’t be blind to say, ‘Oh, well maybe he just like me a lot.’ Or, ‘Maybe he’s just popping up at my job because he likes me!’ Or, ‘He’s looking through my phone ‘cause he’s concerned!’ Those are signs.”
Kind of going back about that loooove thing [laughs]. A lot of people like to say that love is blind. But, you have to pay attention to signs because they’re always there. You just can’t be blind to say, “Oh, well maybe he just like me a lot.” Or, “Maybe he’s just popping up at my job because he likes me!” Or, “He’s looking through my phone ‘cause he’s concerned!” Those are signs. Early on of controlling nature than could lead to domestic violence. Anyone that is going through it…man or female…I would say that you cannot change another human being. Even though we like to, especially women, we like to get into relationships and say, “Well, maybe he can change if I do this or that.” You know? When it comes to something as serious as domestic violence, nothing is worth sacrificing your life or children, if you have any. Love is not worth that…at all.
If you haven’t found your voice yet to get away from domestic violence, just think about the people that do love you. Even when somebody is talking down and saying “You’re worthless. You’re a piece of shit” or whatever. You’re worth something to somebody. So, you just have to gather your strength. And there are gonna be people that may judge you. But as long as you know in your heart of hearts that you’re doing the right for yourself first and foremost, that makes a difference. Being confident after feeling worthless is a great feeling [big smile].