All Articles Tagged "domestic violence"
— Maya Schenwar (@MayaSchenwar) December 8, 2015
This past summer, in the early morning hours of July 5, 23-year-old Naomi Freeman was pulled from her car by her hair before being punched 25 times by her boyfriend John Perry.
According to the Chicago Tribune, another person had to separate Perry from Freeman. When she got up, she got back into her 1999 Dodge Caravan minivan. She pulled into a parking spot and then made a U-turn.
She drove toward her boyfriend, who was still on the sidewalk. He moved out of the way and Freeman hit a wrought-iron fence.
She reversed the van back onto the street. Perry jumped in front of the van, daring him to try and run him over again.
Freeman drove toward Perry, striking him before continuing to drive on the sidewalk. She eventually drove through a fence and into a yard.
Freeman left the van and fled from the scene on foot. Perry was still stuck under the vehicle.
People tried, unsuccessfully, to remove him from underneath the vehicle. Later, he died at Mount Sinai Hospital from mechanical asphyxiation from being struck and pinned under the van.
And the whole incident was caught on video.
According to Freeman’s attorney, Steve Pick, this was not the first time Perry had hit his girlfriend. He argued that based on Perry’s history of abuse, she didn’t have a choice when she ran over her boyfriend.
He said, “This person didn’t go to that address with the intent to hurt anybody. She was in fear for her life and her safety.”
Prosecutors argue that Freeman simply could have driven away.
Pick also asked that her $500,000 bail be lowered. It was reduced to $350,000 but Freeman didn’t have anyone who could pay the $35,000.
In an attempt to get Freeman released in time to spend Christmas with her one and two-year-old children, ChicagoBond.org has started a fundraiser to raise the $35,000 bond.
They included this letter from Freeman herself.
Someday I will need to explain to my kids why they don’t have their father. I never meant to hurt him that day, I only acted in fear for my life. I have to forgive myself, but not for surviving, and I don’t think I should be punished for defending my life. I have to get home to my kids as soon as I can and be the best mother I can be. I need a second chance at life for them and for myself.
— Naomi Freeman, 12/6/2015, Cook County Jail
The ChicagoBond said that not only was Freeman pregnant at the time, she was also suffering from chronic autoimmune disease that affects her joints.
Freeman, who has been in jail for the past 6 months, is also living with Lupus and the stress of pre-trial detention.
$35,000 would mean she would be reunited with her family and have proper maternal health care.
The ChicagoBond org argues:
“Naomi chose to survive an attack by an abusive partner. We know from Naomi and other eyewitnesses that Naomi was pulled from a vehicle by her hair and slammed to the ground. Once on the ground, Naomi was beaten and punched in the face no fewer than 20 times. During this assault, Naomi was in the early stages of pregnancy and suffering a chronic autoimmune disease that affects her joints. Sadly, this was not the first time Naomi had been assaulted by this man. Had Naomi not acted in self-defense, it is likely that she would be dead. Instead, like many other women and girls incarcerated right now, who are disproportionately Black, she survived and was punished for it.”
They are comparing Freeman to women like Marissa Alexander, Cierra Finkley, Eisha Low, and Paris Knox saying that Freeman killed Perry as a way to escape her abuser and survive.
Aside from the fact that both women were involved in abusive relationships and decided to take a stand, there seem to be few similarities. Alexander only fired a warning show and no one was injured during the process. Freeman struck Perry with her car after immediate danger had subsided.
Still, with that being sad, no one knows what the nature of her relationship with Perry was. I highly doubt this was the first time Perry hit Freeman. We can’t be sure but the fact that he felt so comfortable brutalizing her in public leads me to believe it wasn’t the first time. And if this is what he did in public, it’s not hard to believe that her life was threatened.
There’s also the fact that she’s spent a majority of her pregnancy incarcerated when it is likely that she’s not a danger to her children.
Furthermore, it’s time that the justice system stops criminalizing women, particularly Black women who defend themselves against their abusers.
If you’re interested in donating to help her make bail, you can donate here.
Daily Show Staff Upset Over Chris Brown Appearance Due To Abusive Past, But Should They Be 6 Years Later?
In case you haven’t heard, Chris Brown is set to be a guest on The Daily Show tonight–whether certain staff members like it or not.
According to The Daily Beast, his booking was something staff was split over due to Brown’s violent past. Several Daily Show staff members actually reached out to The Daily Beast to say that they were concerned about giving Brown a platform as an abuser. But they were told by the host, Trevor Noah, whose own mother was a victim of domestic abuse and was even shot in the face by her ex-husband, that a part of the interview would be used to bring light to domestic violence issues. And that’s the part of the article where I rolled my eyes.
I don’t want to hear Chris Brown apologize for his 2009 assault on Rihanna again. My ears can’t take it.
Not only because we’ve heard it time and time again; not only because it still won’t be enough to please people; not only because it will be weird to have such a serious discussion on a news satire comedy show; but because he’s the only famous person out here still apologizing for his past.
(And before you R. Kelly fans try to come at my head asking, “What makes Chris Brown different from R. Kelly?” know that Brown actually has taken responsibility for his actions. He dealt with the punishment for his decisions, both in the courtroom and in the public eye. We saw the evidence, and he admitted to his abuse. We saw the evidence for R. Kelly–the sex tape and the marriage to Aaliyah when she was 15, and he was 28 alone–and he still has nothing to say.)
I’m honestly a little disappointed to know that not only will his episode focus on those past decisions he’s atoned for, but that many of the staff reportedly were opposed to allowing him to sit across from Noah for what, 10 minutes?
Don’t get me wrong. I do know that these are some of the consequences that come with doing terrible things in the public eye. Particularly in the digital age when images of a battered Rihanna were passed around, as well as the stomach-turning police report. I do know that for years, Brown continued to behave poorly, getting in scuffles and Twitter beef with every Tom, Dick and Frank Ocean. And I do know that if you’ve ever been a victim of domestic abuse, or had loved ones who have been, seeing Brown get to continue with his success knowing the pain he inflicted is probably disgusting.
But I do wonder what it is that will make people happy when it comes to Brown.
It can’t be an apology. He’s apologized more than once. In articles, in interviews and more. And each time his apologies have been picked apart and dubbed as insincere.
It can’t be for him to struggle in his career, because for a time there, he did. There were radio stations that refused to play his music at one point, and when he released his album Graffiti in 2009, stores like Walmart weren’t even stocking it.
And it can’t be for him to be genuinely remorseful for his actions, because who is to say that he hasn’t been? And how remorseful is just the right amount of remorse? Do you need to pull a Robin Thicke and make an apologetic album that no one will buy? Do you need to get on stage and make a public decree? Do you need to be seen in public in tears for weeks on end? Well, that doesn’t work either, because when Brown did break down in an ugly cry at the BET Awards while performing “Man in the Mirror” a year after the assault, people claimed he was just putting on a show.
So I have questions. I guess I’m just trying to figure out the endgame here. Is it that we want to see this young man fall under the weight of his past mistakes to the point where he can no longer sing or dance in public? Do we want him to become a hermit? Do we want him not to grow as a person and father and just be a constant pariah? Are we going to keep forcing Rihanna to talk about that man and that situation until she meets and marries someone else? I’m genuinely interested in figuring out what it is people want to see happen to Brown, a man diagnosed with Bipolar II, over a mistake made when he was 19.
Are we all expected to pay for the mistakes we made for the rest of our lives? And not to get too preachy on you, but as long as Brown has repented to the people who matter in this situation, Rihanna, and God, do the rest of us really matter? Do our gripes with him really matter? Does our decision to look at him as the abuser who hurt us, or our friends or our loved ones really matter?
It’s not something he can run from. And here’s to hoping that one day he will be mature enough to say calmly, “Yeah, it’s something I truly regret. However, it’s something I learned and grew from, and as the father of a daughter, I hope to work to help prevent such abuse from happening to other women.” But to say all that on The Daily Show? On Comedy Central? Please. That’s not the place for it. Especially not when the host of the show whose staff is riled up about your appearance deemed your domestic episode comical enough to joke about years ago on Twitter (“I woke up and my face was puffy and swollen- I looked like I was in the car with chris brown.”). Not when that same show allowed Charlie Sheen to be a guest in 2003, despite him already having about three domestic violence incidents under his belt at that time, including shooting former fiancée Kelly Preston. And especially not on a comedy show with a group of people who don’t stand up for abused women, let alone abused Black women, any other time.
Glory Johnson is one step closer to putting her tumultuous relationship with fellow WNBA star Brittney Griner behind her. TMZ reports the estranged wife of Griner has a struck a plea deal in her domestic violence case.
In exchange for pleading guilty to disorderly contact, assault chargers were dropped against Johnson, who, as part of her sentence, has been ordered to complete a six-month domestic violence program. The pro athlete is also forbidden from owning a firearm and has been ordered not to harass Griner, who also struck a plea deal in her domestic violence case.
In April, both Griner and Johnson were arrested after the sister of the latter called 911 because of a domestic disturbance. As we reported at the time, “Cops who responded to the call say that both parties had ‘minor physical injures’ when they arrived. Griner had multiple cuts and a bite wound while Johnson was bleeding from a lip injury. A police report from the incident reveals that Griner and Johnson had been fighting for a few days and had been experiencing serious ‘relationship issues.'”
Despite this ruling, pair still isn’t completely done with one another, at least in the legal sense. A judge denied a request for an annulment 28 days after the couple walked down the aisle, stating “the case shall proceed on the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Minor Children.” Johnson gave birth to twin girls last month and the divorce proceeding is currently ongoing.
It’s likely that the daughter of Nelson Mandela’s third wife Graça Machel will never use her right eye again, and she says that her boyfriend is to blame. In a telling interview with City Press, Josina Machel recalled the October 17 incident that changed her life forever.
The trouble began the night before her mother’s 70th birthday. Graça was in South Africa attending to other commitments. The family had plans to reunite and celebrate the following day. However, Josina desired to feel close to her mother that evening and decided that she would spend the night at her mom’s house. She desired to sleep in her bed.
“I wanted to be with my mother; I wanted to experience my mother. I was missing her. We were going to celebrate her birthday the following day and so I just wanted to feel my mum around me. That is why I was so adamant about going home,” she said.
Josina’s partner, however, couldn’t understand her decision and allegedly berated her because of it.
“There were just insults, just bad words. He expressed his unhappiness about me wanting to go home. I have blocked them out of my mind somehow emotionally. They are just not words that I expected to hear from anyone. They were demeaning of any woman and of me,” she explained.
Josina went on to say that the insults continued, and things eventually took a violent turn when her boyfriend proceeded to pummel her.
“I was so shocked that I did what everybody does when something happens to you. You don’t turn towards your aggressor. You protect yourself, and you try to protect your face, but to my surprise, I actually turned towards him and I asked ‘WHAT?!’ she shared. “That is how I got the second jab that blinded me, which ruptured the eye almost immediately. I felt the third one coming, and that’s when I ran out of the car, ran away from him.”
The couple was passing through a suburban neighborhood at the time. She recalled running through the streets crying for help.
“My eye was leaking so much that I was asking for help while covering the other eye because I thought [it] was actually falling out,” she said. “No one helped me.”
Josina suspects that she tripped on something in the road and blacked out because she recalls waking up in a hospital with no recollection of how she got there. She was later diagnosed with “eruption and displacement of the retina, which meant I could not see light … and, therefore, lost the ability to see.” After four weeks of testing and treatment, doctors informed her that she will probably never regain vision in her right eye.
“I’m still going through myriad feelings. To be honest, I have not been able to grieve, I have not been able to cry, I have not been angry, I have not been able to feel all those emotions that happened because I’ve been concentrating on my eye, and that delayed the pain,” she said.
She hopes that by sharing her story, she will help to spread awareness about violence against women and children.
“I also felt that not standing up in this fight will be an indictment on the legacy of my parents. Papa Madiba has always defended women’s rights, and my mum is the epitome of the significance of fights against injustice against women. So at this point, I have no right to be quiet and not to stand up.”
Josina’s boyfriend—a popular, “politically-connected” businessman—is expected to appear in court soon.
Nobody in the NFL wants to touch Ray Rice. While other athletes like footballer Greg Hardy and soccer player Hope Solo’s abusive pasts have been forgotten, Rice is something like a pariah. Still, the former running back hasn’t given up his dreams of working with the league, in one way or the other.
On Sunday, on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” Rice said that if he didn’t get a second chance to play again, he would like to partner with the NFL to raising awareness about domestic violence.
ESPN asked Rice what he thought about other athletes being allowed to continue playing their respective sports. He said that could only speak to his case and he did acknowledge that the video footage of the incident left an indelible impression.
“I totally understand what my visual did and the effect it had on society and the survivors of domestic violence. So, for me, to never be forgiven … I understand those things, and I totally take full responsibility for my actions. The one thing I can say is … I have made a lifelong decision to raising awareness about this.”
Rice also spoke about the shift in his potential legacy.
“I used to have a situation where kids were like, ‘I wanna be like Ray Rice.’ And now I have to think about kids and parents saying, ‘I don’t want you to be like Ray Rice.’ And that haunts me.”
After he completed a pretrial intervention program, the domestic violence charge against Ray Rice was dropped. Still, with this season nearing its halfway point, it’s unlikely that he’ll be returning, particularly since he hasn’t had been offered an official tryout.
Rice continues to train in case he does receive the opportunity and said he would love to speak to younger players about not making the same mistakes he did. He believes working with the NFL would expand his reach.
“I think the NFL has such a huge platform and I’ve seen the platform I had when I was playing, when I would go out and help people. I go out now, and I don’t have an NFL platform, but I’m going out there and helping people out. So if I never played a down again, why not see if I could use their platform to go out there and help make a difference…Young rookies, anybody in college … I want to be able to spread all of my experiences to help other people, to make them understand that domestic violence is not OK, not even one time.”
I’m so conflicted by this story.
I’ve always believed Ray Rice should have the opportunity to play football again after successful completion of one of the intervention programs. Still, a part of me always questions the motivation behind his interviews. And sadly, this one was no different. I can never be sure he says what he does because he wants the NFL to let him back into their good graces or because he’s truly repentant and wants to work to right his wrongs. I’m not sure what work he’s been doing to raise domestic violence awareness, but the announcement that this is now your lifelong mission seems a little self-serving to me. Perhaps, it’s too much to assume Rice would just do the work and allow other people to take notice.
Still, when other athletes with similar infractions are allowed to play again, he certainly should be given the same opportunity. The NFL is hypocritical. Had this video not been leaked to the public, he would have received the two game suspension and would still be playing with the Ravens today. At the end of the day, this is what this is really about. The league believes he’s too much of a liability, not that they stand with and support domestic violence victims and survivors. There are no angels here. The NFL has been turning a blind eye to incidents of violence and even deaths for years. Ray Rice was just happened to be the lone scapegoat.
What do you think about Ray Rice’s comments? Do they seem sincere to you? Do you think he should be allowed to continue playing?
Halle Berry Still Struggles With Domestic Abuse: I’m Tired Of Watching Women In Our Community Suffer
While it’s been several years since Halle Berry found herself in a physically violent relationship, the pain of the experience still lives on for the actress.
Speaking at the “Imagine” VIP cocktail party benefit for the Jenesse Center, a national domestic violence prevention and intervention organization, Berry confessed “It seems like I’ve overcome it, but I really haven’t. In the quiet of my mind, I still struggle. So while I’m helping these women, I’m helping myself through it, too. And that’s largely why I’m here.”
Recounting the helplessness she felt seeing her mother “battered and beaten many years” of her life, Berry explained many domestic abuse victims feel the same way, particularly due to the lack of sympathy towards this issue.
“For some reason, I’ve found after 15 years of working with the Jenesse Center that when it comes to domestic violence people just say, ‘I don’t get it. Why don’t they just leave? This is ridiculous!’ I call [these women] addicts. They’re love addicts … they’re addicted to the pain. And they’re largely addicted to the pain because they’ve been taught nothing else. They haven’t been taught that they have self-worth or value. They often weren’t loved the way they should’ve been as children from their mothers or their fathers. People didn’t say the things they should have said.
“They go into the world feeling knee-high to a bullfrog … and they’re not equipped to deal with that that is coming at them at rapid speed. They quickly become victims of predators who just prey on their insecurity and lack of knowing who they are and I am just tired of watching the women in our community suffer. I’m tired of watching them overlooked and made wrong and to be villainized for just trying to survive.”
Berry, of course, can speak to that villainization quite well. Just this week two of her exes accused her of turning them into the “worst guys in history” for leaving their marriages for one reason or another. And in the arsenal of “crazy” accusations hurled at the actress for her doomed relationships, no one seems to take into account that fleeing a violent situation is actually something to be applauded, not criticized. Already, in other reports on her speech, commenters are accusing her of being disingenuous and speaking out on domestic violence victimization as a PR move. In spite of the gossip and pending divorce, Berry recently told Extra “I’m doing okay. I really am.”
Bridgette* found the attentiveness she loved about her abuser would be the very thing to set him off when she wanted to do her own thing. Her ex played on her self-esteem and used physical abuse to control her, but once her daughter was born she found the strength to leave and never look back. Bridgette also didn’t let the abuse the father of her child put her through come between his relationship with his daughter, and she wants other women to know they shouldn’t either.
How did you first meet?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn and my ex’s family moved there when we were in junior high school. It wasn’t until we both graduated high school that we met over a summer day just hanging outside or whatever. He happened to come by with someone that knew some of the people I was standing with. We all were just standing around talking and that’s how we met.
I gave him my number and within two weeks we went out. We walked around just talking. Then a few times after that we went to the movies, just regular stuff. He was cute and ambitious. The other side of him — being angry — came out when he wasn’t getting his way in whatever we would be doing or talking about. Other than that, he was really nice and always wanted to spend time together. That other side was like, who are you? What is this?
Tell me about the first time the abuse happened
I was with him from 18-25 years old. The first episode happened sometime in the first year. It was the sign where I should’ve said “I can’t do this,” but of course, young and in love, I was thought, “Okay, he said ‘Sorry it won’t happen again,'” but it ended up happening again.
We had gone to do laundry together — something really simple. We were coming home with the bag and the lid on the bleach wasn’t tightened, and some of it leaked onto the clothes. A few of his items got messed up and he went off — shoving me, yelling at me, just all kinds of craziness — and apologized for it after. That was my first idea that I probably should’ve left, but of course in hindsight…
From there we had disagreements like any couple would and not all of them came to blows, but there were some that did. He’d push me or grab me really tight and be up in my face. I think it was more verbal like putting me down saying, “nobody is going to want you; I know you don’t think you’re all that.” Or he’d be controlling, asking “Where you going? Who you going with? If I tried to make plans with friends he’d say, “No, I don’t want you to do that; come do this instead.”
He had friends, but he didn’t really hang out with them so when I wanted to branch off by myself with other people that was a problem. He would also tell me, “You can’t wear that,” or ask, “What are you wearing that for?” All of those things in hindsight were him wanting to control things; at 18 and 19 years old I didn’t see any of that.
If we did have physical altercations he was always apologetic. I believed him and really wanted it not to be that way, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Although it didn’t happen a lot, one time for me is too much. Thankfully, I didn’t have broken bones, emergency room visits, or blackened eyes, but psychologically it was taking a toll.
Did friends and family have an idea of what was going on?
Probably a few of my close friends knew. They would say little things like “why is he always trying to stop you from going out with us?” or “you shouldn’t take that. Was he just yelling at you? That ain’t right.” Of course I made excuses for him. If my family knew they never said it to me directly.
What was your life like during that time?
I’d actually just gotten my diploma and went to business school for about a year and some change. Then I immediately started working. We got married four years into the relationship and moved to Queens, NY. It wasn’t a big change when we moved, but he was still controlling and domineering. The times I did decide to go over a friend’s place I came home and it was an argument. Sometimes it was shoving. He never really hauled off and punched me, but one time he reared back like he was going to punch me and I started yelling at him because I was about six or seven months pregnant. In my mind I was like, it’s bad enough this is happening, but I’m pregnant with your child, and you’re rearing back like you’re going to punch me. I was screaming “What are you doing? Are you crazy?” That was a point when I was like this can’t keep going on.
Why did you still decide to marry him?
When we both still lived at home I think the attentiveness when he was kind was really good. I didn’t really have a lot of dating experience prior. He was the second person I dated. Did I realize this probably shouldn’t be going on? Yeah. But I wasn’t thinking it was going to escalate to that kind of stuff. It was just the pushing or being controlling verbally in the pre-marriage time setting. As time went on he was shoving more.
What’s the worst memory of a fight you guys got into?
One time, which was the last time, we had a verbal argument after my daughter was born. He came home and I was in the process of getting her dressed to go out. Whatever he said, it escalated and he started pushing me. My daughter was in the car seat by the door and we were in the bedroom towards the back. He was pushing me and when he pushed me I grabbed his shirt so I wouldn’t fall back and then we started tussling on the bed. In the middle of that, we rolled off the bed and onto the floor. He pulled me by my ankles out towards the front of the house where the baby was. She was yelling because of the commotion and I was yelling at him, “Get off me, get off me, don’t you hear the baby!” In the middle of me screaming he was still hitting me. Finally he got off of me, and that was when I was finished. It was time to leave.
He had done this enough times to me but there would never be a day where I let him hit her. My daughter’s birth is the thing that forced me to make the decision to leave. She saved mommy because I don’t know if I would’ve had the courage to get out of it and keep going without looking back or second guessing it.
Did he give you a hard time when you decided to leave him?
Actually, I found out that he was having an affair. One night when my daughter was six months old he was having a phone conversation with this other woman and I picked up the phone. At the end of the call he was saying to this person “yeah, I’m going to come over there and we’re going to resolve this,” and I said “good and while you’re there find where you’re going to sleep because you can’t get back in here.” He put the phone down and came running to the front where I was and yelling “I can’t believe you were on the phone.” I said, “Whatever you said, you said you were going so go wherever you were going.”
As soon as he left I called my friend who lived in Queens and told her “I’ve got to get out of here.” She said “Alright I’m putting my shoes on and coming.” She came to get me and I left. That was the last time I lived there. I realized when I was pregnant that he was having an affair and I knew I needed to start making some moves or whatever to get away from it. You aren’t going to be cheating and getting crazy with your hands when you feel like it. That’s just a little too much.
How did you get to a place of healing?
After I left him I started going to church and realized that despite everything we go through there’s one individual that loves you no matter what. I started reading the word and understanding God’s plan for my life and stuff like that. It made a shift in me to know that I’m not the things he said I was. He would say “You’re stupid. You ain’t that cute. Ain’t nobody going to want you. If someone does want you they just want to sleep with you. What do you think you have to offer somebody?” All types of derogatory things.
Because of that I was always in my head thinking maybe he’s right. I didn’t really have any previous relationships and I didn’t grow up with my father. I had a disconnect on how a man is supposed to treat me to begin with, and this was the first experience. I knew everyone wasn’t going through this physical thing, but again I didn’t know how it’s supposed to be. Afterward I realized people do like me, but it was still a process.
Has he changed?
I know his anger doesn’t really flare up as much. After we split we had to deal with each other because of my daughter. We would both be very argumentative with each other but I think, for him, when he realized I’m wasn’t coming back and he moved on in another relationship things changed. I don’t know if the relationship shifted him or if he just grew up some more, but the anger part is gone and even in different conversations we’ve had since then I can see he talks different now. It’s not aggressive with him trying to tell me what to do.
What was it like when you first realized he wasn’t that man anymore?
I was glad for him because the descent side of him was always really a good thing. I wanted him to have a relationship with his daughter so the better the person he is will ultimately make her life better as a result.
Does your daughter know about this angry side of him?
I waited a really long time to share with her what really happened. She was about 16 when I shared it with her. Prior to that I would just say, “Things just didn’t work out and we decided to live separately, but we obviously love you.”
It bothers me when parents tell so much of what happened in the relationship to children. Not that the child shouldn’t know anything, but you are hurting the child in the end because, though that parent did you wrong, the child still loves that parent and needs them. Now you’re putting your junk in the child’s mind and it shifts their thoughts about the parent. I didn’t want to be that parent.
I let her see for herself because her relationship with him is different than mine. I don’t want to dump my stuff on her and he’s trying to be a good parent and she’s looking at him sideways because mommy said you knocked her in the head. No child is going to be like “Dad I think you’re great and I know you shoved my mother.” No, that’s a problem so I didn’t want to do that.
How did she take it when you told her?
She was like, “Wow that’s a lot mommy; you should’ve let me know before. Why did you stay? You know that’s crazy right?”
What about dating afterwards, do you notice red flags sooner?
Heck yeah, you start saying something crazy to me I’ll be like “check please! We are going nowhere with this.” Sometimes I can observe couples and their interactions. He may not be physical, but I can see in their eyes, in her reaction, and how he’s speaking that something is going on behind closed doors.
What advice would you give other women to prevent it from happening to them?
Know that you are absolutely worth it, regardless of what anybody has told you. You do not deserve to be shoved, pushed, talked down to, talked about, or anything. If he’s not uplifting you, leave it alone. Period. I don’t care who you are or how old you are, leave it alone. You can go on and be okay without him. It’s going to hurt, but you can get over it. Low self-esteem is so horrible it really messes you up.
How Danielle Richardson Became An Advocate In The Number 2 State For Domestic Violence Deaths After Her Mother’s Murder
Danielle Richardson from Charleston, SC used her tragic childhood of domestic violence to fuel her into being an empowering author and domestic violence victim advocate. Using her trials and doing the work to heal herself and family has allowed her to fight against domestic violence in the state of South Carolina, and the compassion that other victims seek to get out of or over their situations too.
What was your first experience of domestic violence?
Me, my brothers, and my mom grew up in a domestic violence household. My brothers’ father moved my mother far away from her family and friends, this was around the time I was four years old.
You remember the abuse at the age of four?
Oh yeah, it was very scary. She would get jumped on and beat. My brothers’ dad was very controlling; my mom couldn’t go certain places or wear certain things. He had very strict rules for my brothers and I too. We lived in fear, she was very nervous and always making sure everything was perfect. He was the type of person to always find something to be angry about.
Was she ever able to leave?
They were together for 13 years and the abuse went on that entire time– in fact, it got worse once the crack epidemic got started back in the 80’s because he would drink and do crack cocaine. One time he held a double barrel shotgun to my mother. I called my aunt and told her what he did and she talked to my mom. This led to her putting him out. Then she got into a relationship with a white man who did the same thing to her. After six months she put him out and my brothers’ dad came back. Maybe six months to a year later he stabbed her to death 38 times; she was killed June 18, 1991.
How did the abuse escalate to murder?
It happened at two in the morning. My mom came home from her third job around 11:30 pm and my stepdad was at a party down the row from us. The guys were jeering him about my mom dating a white man. They said “oh you let your women be with a white man, living in your house, wearing your clothes…” He was the type of man who couldn’t takes jokes so he came home and started beating on her.
This night was really bad. I always slept light to listen out for my mom. As kids, we found ways to open the door (even though it was locked from the outside) so we could rescue our mom if we needed to. By the time I was able to get the hinges off the door, my mom was thrown into my room door as she was trying to run away. She was bloody and he was on top of her. At that time I didn’t realize he was stabbing her. I went berserk fighting him and trying to pull him off of her. My mom was about 115lbs and he was close to 300lbs.
My brothers and I started to fight him off of her. Things were so bad we created our own safety plan because we knew things would get worse one day. We didn’t have a phone in our house, so the two little boys knew one need to go through the front and the other through the back door and knock on our neighbor’s door so they would come and help; that’s what we did. We finally got her out from under him, but we had to get him out of the house because the ambulance wouldn’t come in. The policy was they can’t come in if the suspect is still inside.
My mom was bleeding, and one of the neighbor’s sons who was home from the military gave her CPR while the ambulance waited downstairs. Once the police came they were able to wrestle my stepdad and take him out of the house.
I was there holding her hand, and I knew she passed while the EMTs were working on her. Before she passed I was singing to her and making promises to take care of my brothers and stuff like that. She said “I know he didn’t mean to do it, I forgive him for what he did.” Once the ambulance came in I couldn’t go back inside the room. There was a tree in front of our house and I thought I saw my mother there. I ran and hugged the tree as if everything was okay. Then I was pulled away from it and placed in the back of the police car with my brothers.
Did her murderer go to jail?
Yes, he went to jail. Three days later when he came down off his high he didn’t even know he killed my mother. He didn’t even know why he was in jail. Two weeks later he died in jail from a massive heart attack.
What happened to you and your brothers?
We moved to my grandmother’s house, and my grandmother was diabetic and just had her legs amputated so she wasn’t in a position to take care of us. She was also depressed about my mother’s death. My mom died in June, she died in September.
Our family split us up. My youngest brothers, who were 7 and 8 years old at the time, went to Virginia with my uncle. My brother, Michael, who was 13 years old, went to live with his dad then with his dad’s parents, but by December they died and he was left homeless and floating around. I went to Columbia, NC, with one of my aunts; I was 16 years old.
My brother began to rob places so he could go to jail and have a place to sleep. One time I came home and he was sleeping on my mother’s grave. He said he’d rather be in jail than in the streets so I would know where he was and safe. He eventually went to jail for 13 years, but he’s out now, married, and a preacher in North Carolina.
My youngest brothers were abused by my uncle because their father killed his sister. He would physically, verbally, and sexually abuse them. My youngest brother was affected and when he moved back to South Carolina with a roommate he had a flashback and stabbed his roommate to death. He’s in jail on the mental ward side, and has to take eight or nine pills a day. Some days I talk to him he’s fine, other days he’s out of it. He’s only 30 years old now.
Once you were old enough to date, did you find yourself in abusive relationships?
No, in fact it was kind of like I was the abuser. My love life has been short lived because when it comes to relationships I have short patience. I’m not going to tolerate a lot of things because I don’t want to be put in a position like my mom. If we get into a disagreement I’m going to hit first, yell first, or just walk away because I don’t want to ever be in a position where I’m being abused or someone has control over me.
That’s why I’m still single now because I never want to be in that kind of situation. I can’t take people yelling at me. I suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome) which stems from growing up in that situation. My nerves are bad, so yelling and screaming like that doesn’t work for me. Hopefully, I’ll get to the point in my personal life that I can have a future relationship, be married, and live in the same household. My number one goal if I ever get into a relationship is to never be like my mom.
She was the sweetest, kindest person you’d ever meet, and my brothers’ dad completely took advantage of her. She’d make excuses for him like “he didn’t mean to do it,” “it’s alright,” “don’t worry about it.” Even a few months before she died I was telling her she couldn’t keep going through this. Going through that took away my childhood.
Tell me about your advocacy and how you got started?
After my kid’s dad died, I started looking into counseling for me and my kids because his death was pretty devastating. I didn’t understand because after my mother died I didn’t go see anybody or talk about it to anyone. It became a family effort to heal together. I wanted to heal so I could talk to my kids about it because they were asking me about death and stuff, but I didn’t really know how to answer them. We were crying all the time; we needed the help.
I was introduced to an advocate who also started the Homicide Support Group for the South Carolina chapter of the national organization. When I started going to the support group it helped so much because I was able to meet people that went through the same thing I did. I also started going to Ebenzer AME church and things started to get better.
One of my counseling leaders who is also the head victim advocate for Suffolk County, Easter LaRoache, asked me if I wanted to speak at a domestic violence workshop. When I did it I was so relieved and enjoyed people asking questions. A couple of people came to me privately telling me what they were going through and asking for help. I knew in my heart this was something I wanted to do. Domestic violence victims felt comfortable talking to someone who’d been through the same thing before because I understood how they felt and didn’t judge them.
From there I wrote a book, God Heard My Cries, which talks about my journey. This has opened up ways for me to advocate through telling my story. I recently started a Facebook group called Goodbye Abuse Ministry, it’s another space to tell our stories and support each other. In South Carolina, we’re training advocates so we can work with women all around the state on this.
I’ve teamed up with Real Mad, and organization of men against domestic violence in the Charleston area. We’re really pushing for advocacy in South Carolina because the state used to be number one, now number two in the country, for women being killed by domestic violence.
What was the response to your book?
I started writing the book as therapy, but my brother talked me into publishing it to help others. My book has become relatable. I just had a lady inbox me because her husband bought my book at one of my events and she liked the name of it. After it sat on the counter for a long time she began to read it. The woman realized she was going through so much already in her past like I went through and it helped her to get out of it. She told me ‘thank you’ because some of the things she was coping with she didn’t know how to get through it. Now she feels so much better. The book is also nominated for a 2016 Best Independent Book award for the Geecheeone Magazine, a local magazine in Charleston.
I have another book, Becoming A Phenomenal Woman, coming out spring 2016. It’s about the steps I had to take after everything I’ve been through in my past to become the woman I am today. My brothers’ dad used to call us ugly and make us feel like we weren’t enough, so it’s about becoming a women, accepting and loving myself, and going from that place to where I am now — a positive space.
In my first book I was able to forgive and I even wrote a letter to my brothers’ father to be at peace with everything that he put us through. That brought our family back together because there was a riff between us. Over the years they didn’t want to admit their brother killed our mother. Now we’re able to be close again.
I was watching the actress Kerry Washington’s PSA on domestic violence. I’d been seeing her around carrying a purple purse for some time, but never had time to really stop. There she sat in a pristine room, dressed like an angel, with the prettiest purple makeup you ever did see. It looked more like a promo for a movie called “Purple Princess.” She was saying that she’s working with the Allstate Foundation to bring awareness to domestic violence and financial abuse, which affects 98 percent of the women who are in abusive relationships. Purple is the color for domestic violence and the purse signifies the heart of a woman’s finances. By talking about this issue she hopes to bring it out of the shadows.
Honestly, I just couldn’t buy her as a domestic violence spokesperson. It was all too perfect, too neat. Domestic violence is ugly. Where was her black eye? Why was she even there? Not once did she mention what brought her personally to want to advocate for this issue. Was she or someone she knows ever a victim? It just didn’t seem connected to anything and left me wondering if she’s the latest celebrity jumping on a cause.
Is it even helpful to throw a celebrity out there to just start talking about an issue with seemingly no connection?
Ironically, the next day, I was walking home from school with my two daughters. My neighbor stopped me and asked if I had heard what happened in our building. “No,” I said, wondering what I had missed.
A woman on the first floor was getting beaten so badly by her boyfriend that my neighbor, who lives three houses down, called the cops. The police came and took the guy to jail.
Not in our building. Clutch my pearls. I asked him what the woman looked like and he said he never saw her face.
Whoa. Who is she? Does she live in the building? How did she end up in such a situation? I hurried my girls along. My neighbor is chatty and could have stood there talking about it all day.
Later, I found that I was still thinking about that woman. Maybe I could help her. But then again, if her man was crazy enough to beat her in broad daylight, what would he try to do to me? I’m smart enough to know that I can’t get involved. Even if she was my best friend I’d have to think twice, three times about how I could help. Better to mind my own business. But still, if I’m my sister’s keeper wouldn’t it make sense to try and do something?
I decided to speak to the family advocate at my daughter’s pre-school. I remembered they sometimes do talks on domestic abuse. She said that the only thing to do in the case of this woman is to call the police.
“You don’t want to put her in more danger by exposing the situation because now the man feels threatened and he could take that out on her.” Okay, but he already got arrested. Is there anything else I can do for her? She had no answer. I asked her if she’d seen Kerry Washington’s public service announcement and if talking about the issue could help. “Yes. Talking about it empowers the powerless and takes the shame off,” she said. “That woman can walk out of the shadows and realize that it’s not her fault. It also puts the blame back on the abuser where it belongs.”
Back to Kerry Washington’s PSA. Does it matter if she may not have been abused? Does that mean she shouldn’t talk about it? One of my favorite writers, Cat Marnell, is a drug addict and gets a lot of flack for talking about her addiction. When Whitney Houston overdosed she wrote a powerful essay called On the Death Of Whitney Houston and Why I Won’t Ever Stop Talking About My Drug Use
Her belief is that as soon as she stops talking about it she is going to ‘slip silently into the water and disappear.’ Just like Whitney. For Cat, talking about her drug use is a matter of survival. She can’t stop, won’t stop.
It could stand to reason that if we stop talking about our sister’s issues then maybe we’ll all disappear too. Isn’t that what the recent Ebony magazine cover with “The Cosby Show” cast is all about? Let’s just talk about it. Sometimes we underestimate that power. Somebody out there is going to feel validated, and will hopefully come out of the shadows. Then maybe we won’t all disappear.
Do you believe in the power of public service announcements to bring a greater awareness about domestic violence?
Tenisha Webb, 39, as once a high school dropout and teenage mother of three who grew up in a home where domestic violence was the norm. Today, she’s an advocate for preventing such violence from happening to other teens. Going from witnessing domestic abuse to being a victim of it first hand, Webb proceeded to get her GED, graduate from college, and is currently working on her Master’s degree in Psychology to go beyond advocacy and further help those in need. In this interview she tells us about how she tried to protect her mother who was abused, and the years of abuse she suffered from the father of her children.
When did you first experience domestic violence?
As a child. My mother and stepfather went on a camping trip with his motorcycle club, and my grandmother, who my siblings and I stayed with, told them to call and let her know that they got there safely. When my stepfather told my mother he was going back down to make the phone call she said she was going to stay at the site. On the way to the telephone pole he got into an accident that left him in the hospital for six months to a year. He was in a wheelchair and had to gain back his mobility.
After that accident is when the domestic violence started between him and my mother. We would have parties all the time and every time there would be an altercation between the two of them. It got to the point where I hated parties and holidays because it was almost guaranteed that a fight would happen.
The violence became more frequent during the week when we had to go to school. Sometimes we would be tired going to school because we were up all night trying to keep them from fighting. My siblings and I developed a plan for when they began to fight. We would remove all silverware, pictures, and anything that could be used as a weapon, wrap it up and take it to the neighbor’s house.
My stepfather ended up getting my mom involved with crack. She was on drugs and constantly having to fight so that left the responsibility of taking care of my brothers and sisters on me. By the time we got home from school she’d be good and have snacks ready for us. After a while the time we were at school wasn’t enough for her to recover.
How did you meet your abuser?
I was in drill team at the park — that was my escape — and one day he hit me with a basketball. We started talking from there. I began to look forward to seeing him every time I came to the park because it was flattering as young as I was that someone a little bit older and intriguing was interested in me. Eventually, we started having sex and he went to my mother and asked for her permission to date me. My mother told him to take care of me, but my stepfather didn’t like it. We were open in the community about seeing each other, but hiding it from my stepfather.
Eventually, my stepdad became cool with him coming over if he gave him dope. Within a year-and-a half I became pregnant. My children’s father joined the drill team to be with me. It was socially accepted that this 18 year-old dude was dating me, a 12 year-old girl.
Did your boyfriend ever get charged with statutory rape?
Once I had my son, I went through this organization called El Nido to get assistance with medical, financial aid, and different things I needed for my baby. When I did the interview I didn’t know that if I tell her about my kid’s father and how old he is that she had to report it. When I told her his age she gave me this look, but tells me it’s her job to report this but not to worry, nothing was going to happen. Next thing I knew, Fullerton police was contacting us, and I had to assure him nothing was going to happen, but when he went to the police station they arrested him.
I felt like it was my fault. We had to go through a trial and he ended up doing three months in jail. They tried to give him eight years. He was released under the stipulation to never come in contact with me again. Of course, that didn’t happen because we had two more children after that.
When did he start to abuse you?
At first he was manipulating me before putting his hands on me. When we first started having sex, we were at the park very early and no one was really there. He pulled me to an isolated area and said, “You know I love you right? Because I love you that means I’m supposed to tell you the truth.” That’s when he told me he’d been sleeping with another girl. That became more frequent and whenever he would bring me flowers I knew he was sleeping with her. Emotionally, that was a lot for me.
My ex-boyfriend was living with my mother and I at the time. One day when we were in the bedroom and he was about to leave, I knew he was going to sleep with somebody else. I’d beg and cry for him to stay while grabbing onto him and he would drag me, or push me down into the closet, and then push his hand around my neck or head and smash it into the floor and say, “Don’t move, I’m leaving. I’m a man. I do what I want to do.”
He burned me with an iron after ironing his pants once. I didn’t know what he was going to do next so I ran out the door and he chased me. I ended up jumping a full flight of stairs to get away from him. I landed on my ankle and fractured it. Even during sex he would hold me in a way that it felt like he was raping me.
He also started dating another girl that was his age. I was pregnant with our second child, and there were issues between him, this girl, and I. My mother lost her apartment so I stayed with his sister. The other girl was pregnant and staying there too while he was in jail.
Once my mother died that’s when he began abusing me more. I went through a lot of mental, physical, emotional, and verbal abuse.
Did your mother ever try to leave your stepfather?
My mother did leave him. She lost the unit we lived in and got a trailer home on the other side of the projects. At this time I had my first son, and my brothers and sisters went to live with their father. Because he wasn’t my father I stayed with my mom.
My stepdad started using my brothers and sisters to lure my mother back to him. Whether it was other people doing stuff to them or he was threatening to do stuff to them. He told her, “If you want to protect the kids you’ll come back home to me.” My mother had the kids for a moment, after a visit she decided not to give them back. He came and stole them back from her and once he did that it was the last straw and she got back with him. She went through the abuse some more, but started to get tired.
You mentioned she died, tell me about that.
It was around Mother’s Day weekend. I was seven months pregnant with my second child and my mother and I spent the weekend together planning to make these famous enchiladas next week. The next week she came over and got a call from my stepfather saying that he’s going to do something to my brothers and sisters. I told her that he’s not going to do anything, but she didn’t trust it and left. I remember her walking down the hallway backwards saying “I’ll see you later, don’t worry about me.” She had on a white dress with fuchsia polka dots and it was like she was floating away.
I spoke to her around 11 that night to check on her and she said that he’d been threatening to kill her while arguing and fighting. I asked if she believed his threats and she said no, he’d been making that threat for so many years. By six the next morning I got a call from my little brother saying “dad stabbed mom” and she was in the hospital.
I went back to sleep for several hours, and when I woke up I realized it wasn’t a dream. I called around to get a ride to the hospital, and around 3 p.m. my boyfriend’s mother picked me up. On the way to the hospital she decide to stop and get food stamps for the other girl who was pregnant by her son. I was so angry she just ended up taking me to the police station.
I spoke with a detective and he was asking me a bunch of questions. In my mind, I’m like “I don’t have time for this, I have to get to the hospital to see my mother.” He said, “I’m sorry to have to be the one to give you the news, but she died at 7:30 this morning on the operating table. This case is now a homicide.” He gives me a yellow envelope with her earrings in it and had the nerve to ask me if I wanted her dress. I leave the police station in tears, and became angrier because, even in my grief, I still had to look at this girl who I don’t like. I felt like my whole world was crumbling.
When we buried her I didn’t want to leave the cemetery because I felt like I was leaving her alone. All those years she was being abused by him I always felt like I had to protect her. My stepfather only went to jail for two years after killing my mother.
What was the worse incident of abuse you remember?
One night he picked me up from school at 10 pm with the other girl’s brother and sister in the car. I don’t remember why he was angry, but before we got in the car he pinned me against the wall and choked me. He said, “b-tch, I’ll whoop your a–.” I got in the car and he was driving really fast, threatening to crash the car. I tried to get out of the car and he snatched me back in it and said “b-tch, don’t move I’ll kill you.”
We got to my house. My aunt was living with me and taking care of the kids while I was in school. I was crying, telling her what happened and he was asking me for money. I’m telling him the baby needs formula. The brother that was with him left money on the counter for me to get the formula and took my children’s father with him. I remember my aunt telling me to call my friend and have her come get me.
My friend picked me up and I went with her to her boyfriend’s house. Her boyfriend had a roommate that I knew of from around the neighborhood, but not personally. They left me in the living room and the roommate came back out of his room and asked me why I was in the living room by myself. He invited me to watch television in his room, but I was like “no I’m fine.” I called my aunt and she said I needed to come home because my son’s father was tripping.
I knocked on my friend’s door but they weren’t answering. I called my aunt back and she insisted I get home. The roommate said he wasn’t going to do anything to me and I should go in his room. I went in the room and he raped me while I was on my menstrual cycle. I didn’t know what to do, my friend still wasn’t answering the door, the guy who raped me was passed out. I called my aunt and she just kept telling me that I needed to get home. I had no money and it was after midnight in a gang-infested neighborhood. Eventually, I went back in the room and begged the roommate to take me home.
Only the driver side door opened so I had to climb over the seat to get in the car. When we get to my building my children’s father was hiding in the bushes. The guy told me I have to give him a kiss to get out the car and my children’s father saw this and thought I was sleeping with this guy. He and I go into the apartment and the first thing I did was go to the bathroom and shower. When I got out he started beating me like I was a man. I had two black eyes, a busted lip, a cracked rib, and he pulled out his .9 millimeter gun and said “b-tch, I’ll kill you.”
He left and my aunt called the police. A couple hours later he came back and apologized to me. We laid down together and went to sleep. When we woke up there were 10 police surrounding the bed with guns drawn. He was arrested.
How did you leave him?
He went to jail for two years for killing someone. When he was sentenced I was thinking about having to raise my three sons by myself. Then I realized I was already raising them by myself, he was just present. That was the first moment of letting go and I started building from there. I became tired while going to the family visits, sending packages, the calls, and everything became too much after everything he did to me. Eventually, I stopped visiting him.
By the time he was released I was emotionally detached from him. I was deeply in love and involved with my fourth son’s father. There was no going back to him at that point. When I first saw him after he was released I was in shock because I didn’t know he was getting out, but once I got over the shock I realized I wasn’t with him anymore. I felt empowered in that moment. He tried for years after to show me he changed, but I was done.
How did your advocacy start?
As a young girl I always wanted to give back to the community. I felt empowered when I went to vocational college, even though I still hadn’t completed my high school diploma. Accomplishing those basic milestones for me meant I had something to share.
This particular organization I was in told me I couldn’t mentor their girls in the program because I was in an abusive relationship with three kids at 18 years old and no high school diploma. They felt like I had nothing to offer the girls, but I felt like at least I could tell them not to do what I did. It left me feeling even more broken. I was invited to stay as a mentee, not a mentor. I left the group. At that point I let that dream die like so many others.
How did you eventually start your own advocacy group, Lyke Me?
My cousin is a spoken word poet, and we were looking around Inglewood and Los Angeles to hold a spoken word event. The woman he’s in partnership with has a venue in Inglewood. While talking with them about renting the space my cousin said to them, “she has an organization, and she’s a domestic violence survivor.” I’m looking at him like, “what?!” I didn’t have an organization!” But they became intrigued and asked about my story. After telling them my experience they told me about their organization and wanted to collaborate. It opened a door for me to make connections and learn about running programs.
Next thing I knew my sister was getting her hair done and the lady told her she has a domestic violence shelter that she’s trying to get off the ground. She told her about me and connected us. The lady called me and we talked for two or three hours. She told me about another woman, Kandee Lewis, CEO of Positive Results Corporation, and connected us. I began volunteering for her organization, and through volunteering for both organizations I learned more about non-profits. My cousin started designing a logo and materials for my organization, Lyke Me. Then I began holding introduction workshops and it’s been around ever since.