I never thought that writing my story would be so difficult. I am comfortable speaking about my experiences with domestic violence, however, actually putting those times down on paper was a little more daunting than I expected. Looking back at those frightful times I can only thank my higher power that my children and I escaped. I met my abuser when my oldest child was 3 months old. For the first time in my life I was alone and totally broke. I was searching for someone to help me get out of the deep hole that I was in. It was almost as if he could smell my desperation and he took total and complete control. He was handsome and loving until he was not. We were together for almost 5 months before he hit me for the first time. Without even realizing it, he was mentally breaking me down so when that first slap occurred, I was not able to react the way I would have 6 months prior. The reason for the slap, as in most cases was small and insignificant. In a healthy relationship we would have had a discussion or perhaps a small disagreement. I threatened to leave, but I didn’t. I believe that because I stayed he felt that he had permission to do anything he wanted and he believed that he was in control. He did. He had complete and total control.
At this point, he shared some information with me that I had suspected all along but was never 100% sure of. This so-called entrepeneur, was a drug dealer, and now that he had told me, he forced me to be his driver. I was now an accomplice. I was pregnant with his son and was still caring for my other infant son. All day and all night he forced me to drive him around so he could sell drugs, the whole time with my young child in the back seat of the car. If ever refused he would beat me. I would get hit at least once a week. He would hit me in private, he would degrade me in public, and he even beat me in front of his friends who sat there and watched. He would hit me with his hands and he even pistol whipped me, all while I was pregnant. One night, he beat me so hard I lost the hearing in my left ear for about two weeks, all while my 1-year-old son was in my arms. The argument was over Juicy Juice. That was when it clicked. That was when I finally realized that I was not the problem. It was at that point that I realized something crucial. If I stay with this man, three things were going to happen.
- My boys would learn this terrible behavior and become abusers themselves,
- They would get hurt trying to protect me,
- They would start to hate me for staying with this monster.
I could not live with any of these options. As I was plotting my getaway, we got arrested. The drugs caught up with us. This happened on April 9, 2009, 5 days before my second child was born. My abuser had a $200,000.00 bail and I was released so that I could give birth to my second child.
I was free. He was in jail and I was able to start fresh. But as in most domestic violent relationships, I believed his pleas that he was a changed man. I even had my father put a mortgage on his home to bail my abuser out of jail. It only took 3 weeks for the abuse to start all over again. After my abuser had an argument with my father, he beat me for 2 days straight. We were in Staten Island, and I ran out of my van at a gas station and begged the attendant to call the police. I was black and blue. The attendant turned away and not one person in the entire gas station did a thing. They all looked away and sent me back to the man who was beating me. When we got back to the house he locked me inside. I tried to jump out the window and run to the van but he got there first. He kicked me on the ground and dragged me by the hair back into the apartment. 6 of my neighbors called the police. Finally. The police came and after 15 minutes my abuser let them in. He was arrested but even then, I was afraid to file a restraining order. After having a long conversation with a friend, I went back to the police station and filed a restraining order. As I was speaking to the judge, my abuser was once again bailing out of jail.
While I was in the hospital giving birth, DYFS came and turned my life upside down. Because of the drugs and guns the police found in my home, they called DYFS (Division of Youth and Family Services.) My social worker was not trained in the area of domestic violence. For the next year and a half I was blamed for not protecting my children. I was blamed for not “just leaving” my abuser. In court, I was repeatedly called a drug dealer by the DYFS attorney. Amazingly two years after multiple appeals from my abuser, DYFS decided to not press charges of abuse and neglect on HIM, but kept those same charges on me. Wonderful “protection” of my family. The court also decided to remove my no contact order of protection (amazingly the judge was a woman.) This incompetent woman had 1 saving grace. She gave me one good piece of advice. She gave me the phone number to a place called 180 Turning Lives Around.
It took me about 2 weeks to call. I didn’t need this place. I was fine. My abuser was in jail, both his bails were revoked, I was safe. But I called because I wanted DYFS out of my life; I figured this was the fastest way to do it. The first meeting was scary. Here I was surrounded by other women who I thought could not possibly be anything like me. I was a convicted felon thanks to my abuser and I was fighting to keep my children. How could they even begin to understand what I was going through? As they told their stories, and shared their experience’s, with me I was amazed. Were we all with the same man? Although we were all different ages and from different places, our stories were all the same. We were abused. We were victims. We wanted to become survivors. Instead of dreading these weekly meetings, I started to look forward to them. I started to see these women as my friends, and as my family. They understood. They held my hand when I was scared, gave me a shoulder to cry on when I was sad, and picked me up when I fell down. I had no money to pay the weekly fees and I was never charged a dime. I was a faithful attendant to two different support groups and a few one on one counseling sessions for over two years. 180 helped me to express myself through art projects. They made sure my kids had gifts that I could not afford to give them myself during the holidays and for birthdays. They helped me to give me back me. I don’t know where I would be without this organization. With my head held high I can truly say , that I AM A SURVIVOR and 180 was my life boat the entire way through those tough years.