“Daddy, stop! You’re going to kill Mommy!” I screamed so loud my throat felt like a campfire was fully ablaze inside it. My tiny hands couldn’t even reach around the fullness of my dad’s Marine strong hands, which were firmly wrapped around my mom’s neck as she slept. “Daddy please, you’re killing her!” Tears flowed freely onto the bed comforter. You have to get help Janae. My seven year-old brain told me to run to get help but my feet wouldn’t move.
It’s no secret that my mom’s first husband is my biological sperm donor and it is also not a secret that he is not my father. For years, I’ve had people tell me I can’t say he is not my father. For a while, I believed them. This belief lead to over 10 years of me getting my heart shattered by a man who had no interest in being a father. I am still not fully aware of his reasons surrounding all of his many disappearances, poor communication, & careless neglect. The neglect, however, turned into confusion as a teenager because I felt unwanted and I couldn’t figure out why the man who I would spend Sunday evenings trying on his oversized NY Giants football helmet no longer wanted me in his life. What did I do wrong?
When I was 17, I decided to give him one last chance. Even though he insisted that this time would be the final time, I was wary of Tony and gave him the opportunity to tell me the truth. I asked him the questions I always wanted answers to. He answered the easy questions without pause. I got to my last question and before he answered this time, he paused and audibly gulped. He looked me in my eyes and told me that he never laid a hand on my mom. He’s lying. Not only is he lying but he’s calling me a liar because I know what I saw with my own two eyes. That was it, that was the day I stopped hating him. I realized that he’s sick. I recognized that like most of us, he has an addiction. Some of us are addicted to drugs or food or pornography but his addiction was lying. He has convinced himself that the same things that were damaging from his past were not real that they were just a dream. He looked me in my eye and told me the what I have seen with my own two eyes was nothing more than a childhood fallacy that I’ve made up as an excuse to hate him. I sat in the car with him that day and reminisced on one of the most traumatic moments of my life…
I was laying in the guest room bed with my mom, who had adopted the spare room as her safe haven from Tony. I know that it was late at night because I had awoken a couple hours earlier from a dream that involved the devil himself. Suddenly, the light switch was triggered and the room was filled with brightness that pierced my eyes. Tony stood in the open doorway, “Where is the money Janice?” The veins in Tony’s neck looked like they were about to burst. I laid perfectly still on the opposite end of the Queen sized bed. I don’t know if he didn’t notice me sleeping behind my mom or if he didn’t care. The 5’10 former Marine’s eyes were bloodshot and filled with so much anger it was seeping out of his pores. With full force, he dropped my mom’s black faux leather purse he had been rummaging through and straddled my moms sleeping body. As she opened her eyes to the bed movement, Tony took his hands and wrapped them firmly around her neck. He squeezed so hard that, as I popped up from under the comforter, her eyes were bulging out her skull. I had seen Tony fight so often, I knew the only way this would stop was if I could get to the phone and call 911. This time was different though, at seven years old I knew by the time I’d reach the house phone downstairs (it was the 90s), mommy would be dead.
“Daddy, please!” I screamed. I put all the effort I had into punching, hitting, and scratching Tony so he would let her go long enough for her to get away or be able to fight back. It didn’t work. Nothing worked. He was unfazed by the biting, kicks, or screams of his youngest daughter. He was determined. He never acknowledged my presence of looked up.
“WHERE.IS.THE.MONEY!” He screamed repeatedly while slamming her head into the wall. She tried to fight back and grab his arms but the more she struggled the harder he sat on her chest and the tighter he squeezed. My older sister woke up to the commotion and came in the fight. She and I fought him for what felt like an eternity. My sister sent me to the phone. I ran down the twisted steps, sprinted through the darkness pass my made up monsters to get to the pitch black kitchen. I didn’t need to see the buttons on the corded phone to dial the number I called more than my childhood best friends. After reciting the script my mom made my sister and I memorize to the 911 operator, I made the same trip up the stairs to my mom’s bedroom. I sighed with relief when I saw that she was still alive. My sister had her arms around his neck trying to pull him off. Tony was sitting on her chest with one hand raised in a blade. Just as he was about to strike her, she yelled, “Look at your children. look how scared they are.” It was like for the first time he noticed we were there. He briefly took note of our faces. He was out of breath and his chest was moving up and down at the same speed of a horse at the Kentucky Derby. I could see the shame and embarrassment set in. “Where is the money Janice. That’s all I want.” He said quietly. His hand still raised he gave no time to answer. He struck her in what could be referred to as a Pimp Slap. He got up slowly and walked to the Master Bedroom on the other side of the house, slamming the door closed. I could hear him throwing things and slamming what I assumed to be glass objects.
I know what you’re thinking, Domestic violence is terrible and when the police came she pressed charges, filed for divorce and never saw him again until the hearing of his sentencing after the police escorted him out of a house he would never return to in handcuff. It’s okay to think that my friends, but I would like to tell you, you are wrong. That is NOT what happened. All the times the police were called to our house he never went to jail. Not once. Charges were never pressed. Not once. One time we went to stay in SC with my grandma for a little bit but we came right back.
Looking back, I’m sure this probably shocked that 911 rep. But this was my norm. Unfortunately this is the norm for 1 in 5 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States. In fact, in the 10 minutes it will take you to read this post, 200 people will be abused by their intimate partners.
There are some common misconceptions with domestic violence. We think that once you get physically assaulted in a relationship that it is easy or feasible to get out of the relationship instantly. False! Most domestic violence survivors will tell you that the abuse started gradually. Their significant other would make comments about how they look, or how they are dependent on them financially\, or say nasty things in a heated argument. This is almost ALWAYS followed up with an apology of some kind which typically has a gift included. So they stay. The verbal assault happens again. Sometimes the abuser make derogatory terms about something the victim cares about, like the child from a previous relationship, an outfit or hairstyle. Physical assault never comes alone…
My mom told me that her abuse started when we would play outside with our neighborhood friends. If she did not do or say what pleased him, he would take her to the kitchen window and have her look at us and say, “I could kill you right now and they wouldn’t even care. I could get rid of your body before they get hungry for dinner.”
Once I was old enough I had a tough conversation with my mom about the way I grew up and I asked her to be raw and honest.
Janae: “What was it like being married to Tony?”
Mom: “At first it was nice. We went on dates, he told me I was beautiful. He was a knight in shining armor.”
J: “When did it change?”
M: “I’m not sure. One day he was different. He was angry and distant. I was afraid.”
J: “Why didn’t you leave the first time he hit you?”
M: “I loved him. Imagine the person you love the most in the world….now imagine them hitting you. Would you forget all the times they stuck by you when no one else would?”
J: “If it was me I would.
M: “What if they threatened your kids?”
J: “I’d just go to the police and get a restraining order.”
M:”What if the police won’t give you one because you have no proof this person is a danger?”
M: “What if they police give you a restraining order and the person still comes to hurt you. How would you defend yourself? Throw the paper at them?”
M: “What if you get a restraining order, they come around to see the kids and they threaten to kill the kids if you don’t do what they want.”
J: “I’ll tell the police.”
M: “What proof do you have that he said it?”
She wanted to leave. But she’s a stay at home mom, how would she afford an apartment in one of the most expensive places in the country by herself? Her closest family members were more than 8 hours away and the only family car was his. She had no college degree, no money, no help. No one she cared about even knew he was abusing her. Of course he threatened her if any of them ever found out.
Who would believe that he had been abusing her? He was ex military surely the government would take his side.
Lately, I’ve seen a nasty trend called victim blaming. It’s when we take the focus of a crime off the person who committed it and onto the person who felt the most effects of the crime. I want to throw up when I see people say things like “Why didn’t she leave the first time?” “It’s her fault.” “The signs were all there.” “She should’ve sent him to jail the first time.” “She’s weak, I would’ve fought back.” “He’d be dead if it was me and mine.”
What we don’t realize is that these victims fought. They fought their hardest. It doesn’t matter why it took her so long to leave him. There are only two options in a situation that causes adrenaline to enter our blood streams. Fight or flight. So if they didn’t flee, they stood and fought in the best way they know how. I heard a pastor say that there is no such thing as regrets because even if things didn’t turn out the way we planned or hoped we made the best choice we could with the information given. Of course with more/better knowledge will come a better decision which would result in a more favorable outcome. But what if you do not have access to those things? Next time we think of looking at the victim and begin sharing what we personally would have done ask yourself do you have all the facts, variables, or the same mindset. I guarantee the answer is no.
I’m sure you guys are wondering how I feel after learning the whole truth about Tony…
It’s 2018, almost 20 years after this incident, and as I watched tears stream down Tony’s face during my moms funeral I couldn’t help but think isn’t that what you wanted? Wasn’t this your ultimate goal in the late 90s to see her in this casket dead and now here we are years later and you finally got your wish and you’re crying? What are you crying about? Are you crying because you wanted to be the reason she died? Or are you just a sociopath and you see everybody else doing it so you want to join the crowd? Either way, the reason didn’t matter to me anymore. I have long ago put away the hatred that I have for him and replaced it with love. Not for his sake, but for my sake and for the sake of my future kids. For the sake of my legacy and my own mental health. It was so that I can move forward and learn to love in the way that he never did.
If I’m being honest, I don’t think about him. I don’t think about his well-being. I don’t think about what he does. I don’t think about what he thinks of me. Instead, every now and again, I think about what he missed out on. I think about the fact that my kids will never ever meet him and how sorry I am to them that they won’t have any biological grandparents.
To the ladies and gentleman who have been through this and survived, you are my heroes. To the ladies and gentlemen who have not yet been able to exit these situations, you are stronger than you think just by waking up everyday. This will not define you and it will not be the final chapter of what God has for you. Get out now! I believe in you! And to my beautiful mother, thank you for fighting. You showed me that domestic violence is not the end of your story but rather the beginning of a lifetime of intense survival.
k, good talk
SN: If you or someone you know is in need of help, here are some resources:
2. National Phone Number: 1-800-799-7233
3. Apps: Aspire – Personal safety app for users to send a message to a trusted contact when they need help. The app is disguised as a news app
4. Shelters (most of these will take men too): https://www.domesticshelters.org/search#?page=1