As A Victim Of Domestic Abuse, My Story Is Proof That Protecting Black Women's Lives Requires Real Action
Nearly three women are murdered every day by current or former partners.
“I will kill that bitch if she play with me.”
Last week, Pitchfork obtained audio of late rapper XXXTentacion casually threatening to add to the 50 percent of domestic violence cases which end in homicide.
No one wants to have learned the skill set it takes to recognize a domestic abuser -- because it's often first-hand experience that allows you to do so. It's a special discernment one develops over time as a young child, watching your moms get the beats put on her at least once week -- and maybe twice on weekends.
While having witnessed domestic violence can be successful in shaping a young woman to be fierce and ready to defend herself, it can also backfire.
In my tweens, I found myself in a relationship with an insecure, unstable, violent nigga who could have killed me. The signs were there. He was a ticking time bomb the entire relationship. Without rhyme or reason, he eavesdropped on calls, stalked me and accused me of “liking” other guys -- and when he put his hands on me, we slugged it out. This continued several months before I finally called it off.
On a late night, he showed up at my house wanting to discuss getting back together. Against my better judgement, I spoke to him through a slightly cracked door for 15 minutes, denying him the privilege to come in and talk. He became aggressive and forced himself into the apartment. I tried to block him from entering, but his rage was impregnable. He was foaming at the mouth while tearing through the bathroom, bedroom and closets, ranting that he’d seen, with his own eyes, another guy enter my home. It was all in his head. He accessed my answering machine and lost his shit when a series of back-to-back messages from a male caller played back. He hoisted me in the air and slammed my then-135 pound body across the glass dining table, shattering it to pieces.
The voice he heard on the answering machine was his own. He left a total of 47 messages within a six-hour window, begging me to take him back.
In depraved fashion, he put on a pair of black leather gloves and yanked 120 braids from my scalp as he dragged me from the kitchen to the bedroom; he stomped and kicked me on the way. And with a tight fist, he beat my face bloody. I didn’t have it in me to fight, but I do remember screaming for mercy. There was a moment when he turned his back and I fled into the second bedroom and dived beneath the bed in hiding. That turned out to be wishful thinking. My feet betrayed me.
When I grabbed hold of metal rails, he dragged me out by my legs, severing five tendons in my hand. I remember contemplating a jump out of the window and begging for mercy. I recall a long hospital stay and a lengthy road to recovery.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, nearly 25 percent of American women over the age of 18 have been physically violated and/or stalked by an intimate partner in their lifetime. However, based on Department of Justice statistics collected by the Women of Color Network, the rate at which Black women are assaulted by an intimate partner outranks other races.
Black women are victimized 35 percent more than white women and 2.5 times more than other women of color. They are also less likely than white women to report domestic violence or take advantage of social programs that might benefit and protect them. A CDC report reveals for 4.4 out of every 100,000 deaths caused by domestic violence is a Black woman.
Often, the hesitation in reporting and seeking help stem from a range of cultural dynamics such as the myth of the strong Black woman, not wanting to "snitch," a sense of blame and/or shame or a lack of trust in the legal system. In my case, fear that I'd have to jump through hoops for help and a deeply-rooted fear of retaliation prevented me from reporting him.
However, not reporting domestic violence places Black women at an even greater risk. Homicides at the hands of an intimate partner affect Black women the most. The police were called to the hospital upon my arrival. I disclosed my attacker's identity, but I was also clear that I did not want to press charges.
Unbeknownst to me, the district attorney can prosecute without victim participation. The state moved forward with a grand jury indictment without my assistance -- then harassed, subpoenaed and threatened me with an arrest, when I refused to testify. You'd think I was the one who beat myself senseless.
To make matters worse, my attacker, who was 24 years old at the time, was relentless in his obsession with me. While out on bail, under a court-ordered restriction, he took to stalking me. At work, school, stores, and random places, I’d feel a eerie presence surround me and there he was, pretending these encounters coincidental. He even accessed my “new” phone number and called over 5,500 times, according to subpoenaed phone records. The judge ordered him to wear a juris monitor -- an electronic ankle device that alerted police whenever he came in proximity of my “new” home -- and still, this did not stop his fixation.
LaShonda Childs, a 17-year-old Black girl, suffered damn near identical abuse at the hands of her 28-year-old boyfriend -- except she did not make it out alive. He shot and killed her last month; two days before her 18th birthday.
The tenacity in which these lowly men had to pursue us, to menace and cause harm, is the same fervor needed to prevent and protect Black women from such violent circumstance because laws have their limits. The culprit that terrorized me received five years probation under the Federal First offender Act. I received a consolation prize: a five-year order of protection that was violated until I left the state. He has even had the audacity to contact me in more recent years, courtesy of the digital era. Online companies such as Zabasearch, Intelius, Spokeo, Google Earth have made it easier for abusers and stalkers to be malicious, while making it difficult for victims to request and remove themselves permanently from these rosters. I am no longer afraid, but that doesn't make me any less vulnerable.
Laws of the land do very little at securing women’s safety. And that speaks volumes about the extent to which the Department of Justice values us, if at all. The ramifications for their lack of concern are far greater for women of a darker hue. Because we are so vulnerable and so unprotected, at the very least we’ve got to lookout for ourselves -- and others. Not only must we sniff out danger, we must be brave enough to walk away from it when it threatens our lives. We must have zero tolerance for motherf**kers who incite fear and cause us bodily harm. We have to get out. And we have to report them. Period.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a valuable resource for women. Recently, the organization partnered with Suze Orman and Avon to bring awareness to domestic violence that includes financial abuse and shared testimonies of Black women survivors on their journey to breaking free.
Check out the entire #WomenBreakingFree video series for a full overview.