Domestic Violence has always been taboo- that thing that happens, and people know it happens, but no one wants to talk about it, let alone admit they’ve fallen victim to it. I was one of those people. However, I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I have been in a domestic violence relationship. I don’t consider myself a victim. I feel like the conqueror. The insecure men I was with, all tried to break me…to make me feel like my life was useless…but I’m happier than I’ve ever been, so I won.
I have to admit, I’ve been in more than one domestic violence relationship over the years. The first one, I was 17 years old, and had just graduated high school. My aunt had taken it upon herself to ‘hook me up’ with this guy, I’ll call him “Mike” (names changed) she worked with. She showed me his photo, and while I wasn’t initially interested in him- going off looks- I had recently ended a relationship with another guy, so I thought, “What the hell?” Big mistake. Whatever reservations I had about not wanting to get to know him, I should have stuck with that. He started off nice enough…even made me think that perhaps I had wrongfully judged a book by it’s cover without actually reading it. While we were getting to know each other, he’d told me about his family life growing up, and it was quite sad. I remember feeling sorry for him, and also relating, seeing as how I didn’t have the best relationship with my mom, either. As time went on, he’d say little things like, “Your jeans are too tight…they show off your butt too much…wear a longer shirt.” He’d question EVERYTHING I did, or anybody I talked to. For instance, one day, we were at a gas station, and I ran into a male classmate of mine, who had always been a good buddy. I hugged him, and talked with him for a while. I was grilled the entire trip back home as to who he was, had I slept with him, why I’d hugged him? I began to realize that me talking to or being around other guys- even though it was just in a friendly way- was an issue for him. So, I’d watch how I talked to other boys, especially if he was around. Whenever he wasn’t around, he’d ask 21 questions: Where was I? Who all was there? What did I wear? Who tried to talk to me? It was exhausting, honestly. We were hanging out one day, and I was going to run up the street to the store to get something to snack on. He was lying in bed, so I told him I’d go and come right back. He refused to let me go to the store, without him. After I kept telling him that I’d be right back, he got out of bed, grabbed his belt, tied one end around my waist, and the other to the bedpost. As I tried to get myself untied from the bed, he’d gotten dressed, and was ready to go to the store with me. I remember thinking, “Who does that? I was just going to the store, damn!”
As a teenager, I’ll admit, I didn’t take any of those things as seriously as I should have. Back then, it was like, “Aww, how cute…he’s jealous.” Now, at 37, I know that his behavior was far from cute. Very early on, he was displaying some unusual behavior. As time went on, things only got worse. We were in college together, and it was like a living hell, for me. He towered over me so much, I would literally try to hide from him, in any way that I could. Most of my friends and classmates knew what was happening at this point, and they would be on the lookout for me, too. It was nothing for me to come out of class and have someone posted up outside the classroom, waiting to tell me that they’d just spotted him, and I shouldn’t go this way or that way, because I might run into him. He had a very negative attitude, and wasn’t well-liked by most of the people we were in school with, so whenever he’d come in the room, everybody would get quiet…so quiet you could hear a pin drop. They all knew he was about to embarrass me, in some way or another…and he always did.
I stayed with him for over a year, but finally found the strength to call it quits right around the time things started getting physical. We’d had an argument, and he’d balled up his fist, while holding me against the wall, ready to strike…but luckily, someone walked into the room we were in. As my luck would have it, right as I’d finally broken things off with him, I found out I was pregnant with his child, which was funny, because I’d taken extra precautions to give him not one, but two condoms to use on the night my son was conceived…because the absolute LAST thing I wanted was a child by him, and to be stuck with him for at least 18 years. I love my now 16 year old son to death, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world, so one good thing came from that relationship.
After that, it seems like I turned around and got with a guy who was 10 times worse than he was. I’ll call him “D”. We worked at the same job…that’s how we met. Again, he started off being the nicest, kindest guy ever. And he was handsome….that was a bonus. I thought for sure I’d found a good guy. Unfortunately, he started displaying the same characteristics as “Mike”. If I said anything to a guy, he was pissed. He acted like I was his property, and that he owned me. I was his, and if anybody -namely men- had anything to say to me, they had to go through him (he actually said that) Other things he said were, “If I didn’t belong to him, he’d pimp me out to the other guys a work, because he was sure to get paid well…but I was his, and his only.” I remember being so offended, like, “Did he just call me a whore?” I remember thinking that he’d tried to make me feel like I wasn’t worth more than sex. He’d say things like, “Even though we don’t work in the same department, I still have eyes on you..at all times.” I would later find out that the “eyes” that were always on me, belonged to ONE of the chicks he was cheating on me with, who worked directly across from me. He had to know where I was, who I was with, what I had on…As had happened with “Mike”, I was about to go grocery shopping one day, but before I could walk out the door, he looked at what I had on, told me my jeans were too tight, and to either put on a longer shirt, or change pants. If I ‘stepped out of line’, he didn’t hesitate to humiliate and/or embarrass me, and remind me that he owned me. He waited until we had already gotten to know each other to mention to me that he’d been incarcerated before, I remember that after he told me that, and that it was because he’d taken someone’s life, I couldn’t deny it…he scared me.
He fed off of my obvious fear of him. He hated to see me laugh or smile, especially if another man was the reason I was smiling. He literally told me that he owned me, my heart, mind, and vajayjay…it all belonged to him, and that when he told me to do something, “don’t think about it, just do it.” As a headstrong Virgo, I just wasn’t about to do that. I may have been scared of him, but I was never willing to let him have the type of control over me that he wanted. The small part of me that’s stronger than I realize that I am, was like…“Boy, you have lost your damn mind. I think for myself, thank you very much.” He’d often play these mind games, in an attempt to keep me in fear of him. For instance, we were headed to work one day. I was driving. Out of the blue, and in a tone as nonchalant as if he was talking about the weather, he said, “You know, it would be real easy for somebody to kill you one day.” There was no emotion, but I detected a little humor in his voice as he said it. By that time, I knew he got off on having mind control over me, so I tried to remain calm as I asked, “Really? Why do you say that?” He went on to say that “I have the same routine- I go to work everyday at the same time…take the same route; it would be easy for someone to learn my schedule, and follow me.” Point taken. I made sure to change my routes to and from work. I wasn’t sure if that was supposed to had been a warning, but I wasn’t taking chances.
Every time I turned around, I was accused of cheating on him, even though he was the one doing the cheating. The girl he’d had keeping a watch on me…the one he cheated on me with- well, him and her got into a fight- an actual fistfight- because she was tired of playing sideline chick, I guess. They were both fired from the job. Because he was no longer there to watch me like a hawk everyday, I was expected to call him the minute I went on break, or got off work. One night, I made the mistake of not calling him until several hours after I’d gotten off work…because I just didn’t want to. When he found out that I’d been off for hours, he called me every degrading name under the sun, while accusing me of having just finished sleeping with another man, taking a shower, then calling him.(The words he used were much more vulgar and disgusting) I knew it wasn’t true, but I let him think that. I turned my phone off, and went to bed. I woke up the next morning to fifty-eleven text messages and voicemails, all threatening to beat my ass, AFTER he sent his other women to jump me…all because he THOUGHT I’d cheated on him. I can remember actually being a little scared to leave the house that day. I mean, he had killed someone before…who knows what he was capable of. I didn’t get jumped by his other women, but it was just another way for him to instill that fear in me, that at any given moment, someone would jump out from some dark corner and attack me.
As time went on, his verbal, mental, and emotional abuse finally became physical. I’d had enough of his lies, cheating,& threats…I was over it. The final straw was when he’d changed his phone number and had began blocking my calls after he’d “borrowed” $1,500.00 from me, supposedly to get a car. Since I had figured out he was blocking my calls, I decided to go to his house. In hindsight, I realize now that no amount of money is worth losing your life over. For me, it wasn’t even about him ignoring me after I gave him money…it was the cowardly way in which he was doing it. I’m a big girl. You don’t want me, tell me that…and I’ll gladly move on; but don’t just drop me, without an explanation…and I wanted an explanation. Aside from that, I’d planned to tell him- FACE TO FACE- that I was done with him. I was tired of being his doormat. Needless to say, I almost didn’t leave his house alive that day. We ended up in an argument…at first it was just verbal. I’m not a fighter…I’m not going to hit you, but this mouth…it’s lethal when I’m mad. And I was beyond mad. So, I was saying every hurtful, below-the-belt thing I could think of. I obviously hit a nerve, because the next thing I know, he’d thrown me on the bed, wrapped his very strong hands around my throat, and was squeezing the life out of me. (Note to self: don’t call a man a bitch-ass-ni**a…they don’t like it; and certainly don’t call them that a second time, after he’s already told you that if you call him that again, y’all were going to fight)
I thought for sure my life was over. I was kicking and scratching at him, trying to pry his hands off my throat, but he was too strong. He wouldn’t budge. In that moment, while he was sitting on top of me, a minute away from ending my life, I swear I saw the devil in his eyes. I started losing consciousness, everything was going black. I heard a voice say, “Stop trying to fight him, Joyce. The more you struggle with him, the madder he gets.” God had sent his angels into that room to protect me, I truly believe that. That’s the voice I heard. At that point, my arms had fallen limp to the side…I didn’t have anymore fight in me, anyway. I was sure I was about to be gone…for good. It felt like, if you’ve ever been in the hospital for anything, and they put the drugs in the I.V., and you can slowly start to feel the affects of the drug as they start kicking in…you’re almost in a relaxed state, then you’re suddenly out cold. I started feeling an eerie calm as he continued squeezing my throat. I started thinking I wasn’t going to get to see my babies grow up…but mostly, I just remember the calm feeling washing over me as darkness set in. Then, as I closed my eyes, and just waited, he suddenly stopped choking me, but he didn’t get off of me. There were some people outside, and I could hear them talking. I had a thought that maybe if I could somehow scream or make some type of noise, to alert them to help me, I might be okay. It was like he was reading my mind, because he clamped his hands over my mouth and nose, making it impossible for me to breathe and said, “I promise, you’d better not f’ing scream.”
I was at his mercy, so I didn’t make a sound. I just wanted to get out of there. When he got up and left the room, I was both glad, and worried that he may have been going to get a weapon, or something. I looked towards the door, trying to figure out how fast I could run out of his room, and down the stairs, without breaking my neck. To my horror, he came back in the room before I could leave. He sat on the bed beside me. I was beyond scared, shaking, crying, tears and snot running down my face. Then, he did the craziest thing. He’d gone into the bathroom, gotten some tissue, and was now talking about, “Here, baby…let’s clean your face off.” WTF??!! I was thinking, “Fool, you just tried to kill me, now you’re talking about helping me wipe my face.” I knew I was dealing with a true psycho, at that point. He acted like nothing had even happened. Thank God, I left that room alive, but just like most abused women, I found myself calling him three days later. He’d somehow found a way to blame me for the whole thing…even complaining about how I scratched his chest up as he choked me. At least if he had killed me, his DNA would have been under my nails, because I wasn’t going out without a fight.
It wouldn’t be long, before we were right back arguing again. That time, I remember he threatened to hit me or something, and I told him that “while I hadn’t called the police on him for the choking incident ( I should have) that if he ever put his hands on me again, he was going to jail.” I’ll never forget his next words, “If you ever call the police on me, you’d better leave town.” I knew that he was trying to manipulate me again, so I told him “I wasn’t scared of him, and I meant what I said.” He responded, “Don’t be scared of me, be scared of who I send for you.” Throughout the relationship, he’d often made statements like that…that he wouldn’t have to do anything to me, he had ‘people’ who would do it for him…more mind games and manipulation to keep me in check. After that, I told myself that I had to leave him alone. I changed my phone number, in an attempt to keep him from contacting me. A few months later, I was reading about him on the front page of the newspaper. Without going into full detail, the crimes he committed against yet, another woman- which included rape, arson, and kidnapping- earned him a 35 year prison sentence. His victims name was never mentioned in the paper,or on the news, but I felt like even though she had almost lost her life, she’d managed to get justice for all the women he had hurt, or would have hurt.
When I say God delivered his karma, fast….justice was swift. I knew “D” would always end up putting his hands on the wrong woman, and get himself into trouble. I felt like that was God’s way of removing him from my life. But, you know, sometimes, we’re hardheaded. I will admit, I wrote to him while he was in jail awaiting trial- he was considered a flight risk, I guess…either that or else he just couldn’t post the bail. Why I corresponded with him, I have no idea. But, even after what he’d done to me, and what he was in jail for, I still couldn’t bring myself to rub it in his face, tell him that’s what he deserved, like most women probably would have done. As a Criminal Justice major, I believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty, which is why I wrote him letters often, and even accepted his calls, and sent him books and things for him to read when he asked me to. What I’ve learned about most predators, is that no matter how good someone tries to be to them, the evilness and hatred that’s inside them, won’t let them appreciate it. He’d often call me, going off on me about something or another anytime he was having a bad day, with his cellmates in the background laughing, at my expense as he called me all kinds of names. Me– the main person who should have treated him like crap- was the person he still dogged out, any chance that he could. I’m a nice person.. sometimes, too nice. But, even I can and will only take so much. I felt like I was serving his time in jail while he was awaiting trial with him, and this was how he treated me? I don’t think so, not that time. Those were the last words I told him. Soon after that, they had his trial, and he was found guilty….of everything. Being accused is one thing…being convicted and found guilty, was a whole other thing. Knowing that he had, in fact, did all those horrible things to another woman…there was no way I wanted anything to do with him. The final letter that I wrote him basically said to lose my number, forget he knew me, because I definitely planned to forget him, and to have a nice life.
I’ve often been told that I’m “too nice for my own good” sometimes, and for the longest, I didn’t know what people meant when they said that. How can anybody be too nice? Dealing with my exes, I now know what those people meant. I try to see the good in people, even when they’ve showed me- time and time again- that there is no good in them. I knew that “D” had had a rough life, and I somehow thought that if I proved to him that not everybody was out to get him, or hurt him, I could somehow change him. I know now, I was wasting my time, and slowly taking steps, closer and closer to an early death, by continuing to deal with him. For the longest time, I never told anybody what had happened to me. I hate being pitied,or felt sorry for. I knew I never should have stayed with him in the first place. I accepted my responsibility in the whole thing- which was staying with these men after I saw within a few weeks into the relationship what violent tempers, jealousy, and control issues they had…letting them have so much control over me, as if they owned me…I let them do all of that…they were doing what I let them do.
Love is not supposed to hurt. It’s not supposed to make you fearful or scared of the person who’s claiming to love you. Ladies, please know the signs, and don’t ignore those signs when you see them. Don’t write it off as being “cute that he’s jealous”, or thinking that “he really must love you if he’s so controlling and over-protective of you”…that’s not love, that’s the beginning signs of abuse. Abusers get inside your head, first. They will try to make you think nobody but them cares about you, or has your best interest at heart. They have to gain your trust, and make you totally dependent on them, and them only. Next comes the isolation. They will convince you that everyone around you- both male and female- have a hidden agenda. In my case, “D” told me that other men at work only wanted me for sex, and that my female co-workers all tried to get with him behind my back, all the while smiling in my face. By doing that, he’d found a way to make me not trust anybody, but him. Other signs are listed on the chart below.