Written by: BTSADV Survivor
“A Torch in My Hand, Facing My Darkness”
Every time I close my eyes, I say a prayer and am just thankful to be here. Though there are times that I get panic attacks, my brain gets foggy, and I break out in sweats, and there were times that I cried and cried and then later suppressed it all.
A young multicultural girl brought up on her religious faith, on morals and values, I thought, “How did I get here? Not once, but twice.” And if I delve into it deeper, while still in this process and lifelong journey of healing, there are probably more than two abusers in my life. But with these two, I endured the most suffering, I guess, because it involved my daughter and my beloved dog. How could this happen to me?
I graduated high school, won runner-up homecoming queen and most likely to debate in high school. I was pretty popular, danced ballet and jazz from the age of three, and I was the first African-American Sephardic Jew to be a member of the United Synagogue Youth in the area. In high school, I sang in the choir, and I was accepted to a university in Florida. My plan was to move there and start my new life.
All of that changed when my grandmother, who lived with me, got sick. One day while at the local mall, my grandmother called me explaining that she had pain in her head, neck, and shoulder. She said she couldn’t lie down because of the pressure. I immediately said to her, “You are having a stroke…” Then she said, “But there is pain going down my arm.” I then said, “Oh no, you are having a heart attack!”
I hurried home and called my dad for help; we whisked her away to the hospital. They immediately told us she was having both a stroke and heart attack. The doctor was able to stabilize her and told us it was because of us acting so quickly that she was still alive. She lost her memory, movement on the right side, and her speech.
My dear ‘mommom’ was in so much pain. How could I leave her? We had just returned from the Bahamas, my gift from her. It was weeks before my high school graduation and off to college, and then this happened. So, I turned down college. I stayed home and helped my mom take care of her and get herself back every day. She ended up regaining her speech and some of her memory and was able to walk again using a cane, so I thought, “Well, now I can go and live life.” I tried to go back to community college but blew it away by partying and meeting this guy.
It was a Sunday night that my cousin and I would meet my abuser. He was handsome, dressed in a suit, had a charm about him. I gave him my number at the end of the night. Two weeks later he called me to go on a date, and I met him. It was so far from home, I thought. But, that was the fun part. It was different, he was four years older, had his own place and business, and he was so charming and daring!
He made me feel like he could take care of me. He made me feel like we were Bonnie and Clyde with his boisterous and flamboyant attitude. I thought, “Wow. I am no longer sheltered at home. I am going to settle down and be a great girlfriend and, someday, a wife.” Then, as time went on, I would see the signs of cheating. He would come home late, and sometimes he would have porn on while he passed out on the couch. I left a few times, but he would say the right things to bring me back. I thought, “Okay, love is blind. Love is work. Love is going to hurt sometimes, but you gotta be the one to make him change.”
I went on to attend a vocational school, graduating with honors as a computerized medical office assistant. I worked as his receptionist, and things seemed better. We got pregnant, and I almost lost the baby. His brother hated me and tried to convince me to get an abortion. I remember that night. He ended up going out and didn’t come home. I was in my red nightgown, and I asked him where he was. He told me it was none of my business and that I didn’t need to know.
The argument escalated, and when I said I was leaving, I turned my back for a second. The next thing I knew, I was pushed up against the wall, hitting the back of my head against it. I was always known to be a strong fighter, and I remember grabbing a butter knife and saying I would call the cops if he ever touched me again. He laughed at me. Then he said, “Who is the one holding the knife?” I was 24 and pregnant. Scared of going back home, scared of being looked at as a failure, and afraid to have a baby and raise it all alone. So, I stayed.
After having my daughter, things got worse. Food was thrown at me, and we shouted at each other. Then, eventually, not having me as his receptionist led me to be broke. I started modeling and would take the baby with me. I barely got paid, but it was my outlet, and I enjoyed doing it. He wouldn’t give me gas money or help me pursue this avenue at all.
So, I decided to work at night for UPS part-time. He was to care for our daughter. I came home one night, and he had porn on the TV with the baby sleeping in the carrier while he was passed out. I went ballistic. I didn’t know what he did or didn’t do. He swore to me that he would stop, that he didn’t want to lose his daughter, and that he would be the family man he never had growing up.
He shared his story again of not having his mother for many years and getting kicked out of his father’s house at the age of 16. I fell for it. I believed it over and over again, to the point where I was the reason for them getting back into each other’s lives again but being the victim of more emotional abuse for doing so by his other family members.
Time went on, and I still stayed in this toxic relationship. I was convinced it was my fault just as much as his. I thought it was just anger issues we both had. I would cook for him morning, afternoon and night and bring it to his job. My grandmother would send me money, and he would take some of it. I think she always knew something was wrong and just waited for me to ask for help to get out.
I remember him coming home in the late hours of the night so enraged, and it didn’t help that our dog, a pitbull-American terrier had peed on the floor. He spanked him often for doing so, but this particular night, he picked him up and threw him against the wall – as he did to me. But this time, the impact was so hard, he put our dog through the wall. I still cry telling this piece of my story. I ran in the other room and saw my dog’s look of fear and a high pitch cry came out. I dropped to my knees. He went upstairs, and I just held my dog. Thankfully he didn’t die… yet.
Time went by, and I was house-sitting for my mom. I came home to panties on my bed, the Tiffany ring given to me by his mother was stolen, and my watch was stolen. I confronted him. He told me who the girl was and said he could do what he wanted. He told me, “My boy killed his boy,” and then said that I was nothing. I asked him who he was talking about and he said “Jesus.” I remember hyperventilating and having an attack. I reached for my asthma inhaler, and he grabbed it. I was on the floor in our bedroom, and he just stared at me. I tried grabbing for his leg, trying to reach for the phone, and he wouldn’t help me. I crawled downstairs; his boy was over that night. 911 was called. I remember the cops who were familiar with him tell me to get out. “But what about my daughter?” I said. I went back.
This last time, I went to house-sit at my moms and take care of my grandmother who was living with her at the time. He was angry I left for the whole weekend. I remember him telling me that he would rather have a judge tell him when to see his daughter than to hear it from me. That stemmed from me complaining before I left that he would work and come home late and our daughter would stay up for him. Well, when I returned Sunday evening from my mom’s, I made dinner as usual. HHe, my daughter, and I all sat around the table, as usual, for her sake, or so I thought and pretended to be a family.
I called for our dog, but he didn’t come. My daughter called, and still, the dog didn’t come. I thought that he must have been outside. At this point, his brother and his girlfriend were staying with us. They heard us calling for the dog. I even went out looking and to no avail was he found. The girlfriend pulled me aside, stuttering her words saying that my dog was at the shelter. I went to my ex and said, “You saw me and your daughter call for the dog, and you watched me look for him. Why did you not say anything?” He said, “He got out of the gate, and now he is at the shelter.” Something was burning in my gut. The story didn’t seem right.
By this time, I was working part-time during the day to pay for healthcare and food. I called the shelter and told them I would be there in the morning to get my dog. The lady sound bewildered and as though she didn’t know what was going on. I explained that my dog got out and was picked up by them. I described the dog, and she immediately cut me off saying, “I’m sorry.”
I told her there was no need to apologize and that I would be getting my dog. She then said to me that the owner dropped off the dog because he was in a fight. I asked her what she was talking about. I said, “I’m coming now to get him.” She repeated, “I’m sorry; he lost the fight, ma’am. If only you called sooner.” I told her that he would be fine and that I would take him to the animal hospital. Mind you, I was told an entirely different story.
She kept saying she was sorry, and I yelled, “I am coming to get him!” She said, “Ma’am, your dog has been euthanized.” I said, “What does that mean? I will get him to a hospital.” She said, “We put him to sleep; I’m so sorry. The owner said he got into a fight and dropped him off here. We didn’t know you were co-owner. You can come down and identify the body and bury him, or we can bury him.”
I informed my boss. She let me go, and I identified my dog. He was still warm. He lay there on the table, and all I could think was, “Mommy couldn’t save you.” He needed me. On days when I called out to my maker, on the days I cried, he would crawl up beside me and lick my tears. He gave me comfort, and I wasn’t there to save him. My daughter and I buried him, and I couldn’t keep up the maintenance fee for the dog park. I should have just let the shelter dispose of him after all. But, I did bury him in a casket with his favorite toy, his blanket, and a picture with him and his daddy, the one that hurt him and all of us.
To this day, I don’t know what happened. You had to lock the gate for him to get out. Someone either left the gate open, or they let him out and allowed him to fight the dogs two doors down. I went to the neighbor who owned the dogs. They said the little dog, which was owned by my ex’s brother, got loose, and his two rottweilers came after the dog. My dog was loose and fought for the little dog and lost the fight. We still don’t know who left the latch open on the gate. This piece of my story is one of the hardest to tell. I had to pause from writing to let it out and come back to it again.
I eventually left months later. But the story didn’t end there. After I left, there was one more person that would be affected, and that was my beautiful daughter. A new horrific chapter began.
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