How I Made My Mess into a Message

You don’t have to be silent about domestic abuseIn honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and for anyone who has been affected by domestic violence, I dedicate this blog to you. I was a pretty confident teenage girl, despite growing up in a time when the crack epidemic era practically wiped out neighborhoods and childhood dreams. My parents did their best to raise me and sent me to private school. My daddy was the best father in the world and always told me how much he loved me. He was sure to reiterate that the man I’d marry one day had to treat me like a queen.

I was never exposed to violence in my home.

It was my junior year, and things were going quite well—I was captain of my softball team and made Principal Honor’s Roll as I did in the past. Then I met “the guy” as I will refer to him so as not to defame his character. Not only did I meet this guy, but I also fell hard in love with him. He was my first love as a teenager, and you know how it is when a teenager falls in love—it can be a bit dramatic.

I remember the first time like it was yesterday. We were in front of my parents’ apartment door in the hallway, and we were having a heated discussion when, out of nowhere, I was struck in the face so hard I went numb. “The guy” was a 5’10” a construction worker. His hands were like sandpaper, and the slap was so intense that I felt like it traveled from down south, through the East Coast, all across the boroughs onto my face. I didn’t cry. I couldn’t cry. I was completely shocked and could not believe what had just happened.

The slap was only the beginning of three-and-a-half years of physical and emotional violence. I never disclosed the violence to anyone because I was too ashamed, scared, embarrassed. No woman in her right state of mind wakes up one day and says she wants to be with someone who is going to humiliate and abuse her. I never ever thought I would fall in love with an abuser.

Things progressively worsened, and the physical and emotional abuse became more frequent. By that time, I had no idea how I was going to leave the relationship. Then came the night that I truly believed would be my last day on earth. As a teenager, I was supposed to be excited about graduating and going to college, but I was only thinking about my survival at this point.

It was a hot night in the Bronx, and I was hanging with my girlfriends when I saw “the guy” walking toward me, holding hands with another girl. I didn’t want to make a scene because I was afraid he would hit me in front of everyone. So I stayed quiet. We went to his apartment and fought for hours. He tried to force himself on me sexually and became enraged when I did not allow it to happen. The beating lasted through the night, until dawn. My white shirt was now red. I was broken beyond repair. When the fighting finally stopped, he simply found a first-aid kit, pulled out an alcohol pad, and started to clean me up. He apologized and could not believe what he had done to me. I looked at him and asked him to finish me off and end my life. Mentally, emotionally and spiritually, I was already dead.

Twelve years later, I’m proud to say I’m here to tell the story.

Abuse does not have to stop you from dreaming and believing that God has more in store for you. I decided to start talking about my abuse three years ago because I knew I had to make my mess into a message. Being a survivor was not enough for me—I did not want to speak from a place of pain, but of power. So many women will never have the opportunity to share their stories.

Have you shared your story? I challenge you to do so. You might just save a life.

If you or anyone you know is in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (www.thehotline.org) at 1–800–787–3224.

Yours truly, Activist and Survivor April