Submitted By: Neisha, Survivor
As many survivors of domestic violence learn once we start to share our stories with other survivors, abusers tend to use similar tactics against their victims. However, each of us also experiences forms of abuse that are exploitative of our individual circumstances. One example of this can occur in interracial relationships and is referred to as cultural abuse.
Cultural abuse is tied to one’s identity and includes using racial slurs and stereotypes to demean and mock a partner or their family and friends, prohibiting observance of customs or traditions, and coercing their partner to violate social mores in their community. Survivor Neisha shares her experience of surviving abuse in an interracial relationship, how she ultimately left, and where she is now.
Neisha was introduced to her abuser through a mutual friend who believed they would be “perfect” for each other. Her friend invited her to a birthday party he was expected to attend, and because her friend was so eager to introduce them, Neisha became excited about meeting him. On the night of the party, she was sick with a cold. She arrived late, intending to stay only for a short time, but changed her mind once her friend introduced her to him.
They talked, laughed, and danced for hours, and he eventually asked for her phone number. At the time, Neisha declined because she had recently ended a long-term relationship with her youngest child’s father and felt she was not ready for a new relationship. A few hours later, she changed her mind and reached out to her friend to ask for his number. Years later, Neisha wondered if her friend realized it was that moment that changed everything.
Although they had dated for two months, she was just as smitten with him as she was the night they met. He seemed to be unlike anybody she had ever dated before. Aside from the obvious differences of being in an interracial relationship, he was different from others she had known because he seemed to have his life together. He had a good job, a promising future, and appeared to be a great father.
After the first few months, Neisha noticed that he was starting to become jealous and possessive of her.
Around this time, he confronted Neisha after finding text messages between her and her ex discussing a possible reconciliation. He was understandably hurt and felt she had betrayed him. She found herself having to choose between trying to mend an old relationship and leaving her past behind in the hopes of starting a future with him. In the end, Neisha chose him and never questioned the fact that he had gone through her phone.
They continued dating, eventually deciding to make their relationship exclusive, but it was too late; he never trusted her again. If she let the phone ring too many times or did not answer when he called, he accused her talking to someone else. If she needed to cancel a date for any reason, even if she could not find a babysitter or had to work late, he would think Neisha was cheating on him. According to him, she was either sleeping with her ex and all her male friends – or wanted to.
Neisha’s second job waitressing at a local sports bar caused countless arguments, and he eventually started to show up posing as a customer to watch how she interacted with others. Any free time she had outside of caring for her children became consumed by him until she ended up alienating her friends and family and abandoned her hobbies and interests, including her passion for writing and performing spoken word poetry.
The abuse soon escalated to physical violence.
The first time he hit her, he used a pillow. They were sitting on the bed, arguing over yet another accusation. The name-calling and verbal abuse, which had been going on for about two years at this point, were worse than ever before. Neisha had reached a point where she could no longer handle being called names like, ‘stupid c–t, dumb black b—h,’ and ‘worthless whore.’ She was getting ready to leave when he picked up a pillow and hit her across the face with it. He struck her so hard that she fell off the bed.
Neisha was not sure what she felt more – surprise, hurt, or anger – but whatever it was, she knew that she could not handle it anymore. She jumped up, crying, and squared up as he charged at her. He threw her to the ground and began kicking, hitting and choking her. She fought back with everything she had, but she was no match for his strength or rage. Neisha was left with a broken spirit and bruised body after that attack, but it took many more incidents like it before she would leave for good.
The last time he put his hands on her was in March 2012. That day, she suffered two broken ribs and a grade two concussion. Once again, Neisha went to work hiding bruises, but this time, her doctor prescribed an asthma inhaler to prevent her from getting pneumonia as a result of the fractured ribs.
Although her abuser started counseling, the verbal and emotional continued, eventually prompting her to exit the relationship.
At this point, the weight of everything Neisha had been going through began to catch up with her, and she suffered from severe depression and suicidal thoughts. She had lost her home about six months earlier due to financial hardship and temporarily sent her children to live with her daughter’s father. She continued to live with the man who was abusing her while still trying to get back on her feet.
He eventually began counseling and promised things would be different, but, while the physical abuse had ended, the verbal and emotional abuse had not. Neisha left for good several months later after he called her mother and sisters a racial slur during an argument.
Seven years later, Neisha has blossomed into a strong, unstoppable survivor, mentor, and advocate who shares her story using her gift of spoken word poetry. She is also the founder of an empowering 501c3 non-profit organization called G.R.O.W. Foundation (Girls Recognizing Our Worth), which assists victims and survivors of domestic violence with the resources needed to lead a safe life free of abuse.
“I am now married to an amazing man who loves me wholeheartedly and unconditionally. But most importantly, I stand here as a woman who loves herself and values her worth wholeheartedly and unconditionally.
“I ask this of anyone who has or may be going through an abusive relationship: please talk to someone. You are not alone and do not have to fight this battle by yourself. You are not worthless; you are priceless. Love would not force you to choose between the two.”
**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page.
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