There was a girl. She was sixteen years old –
Locked in a bathroom, sitting on a closed toilet stool, rubbing the tops of her thighs with a wet rag, trying to take the stinging out.
The boy (and he really was just a boy, at fifteen) that she was going with at the time had taken his belt off and hit her across her legs.
She was able to get away from him long enough to lock herself in the bathroom. She decided to wait him out. Hopefully, whatever it was that made him angry would dissipate, and then she could come out of the bathroom and try and slip away to the bus stop. Maybe. But she could hear him on the phone, through the thin walls. He was on the phone, talking to another girl, telling her that he wanted her to come over. She sat on the toilet, in a stupor. What about me?
She was able to slip out of the bathroom and collect her things and slip out the back door while he was in the downstairs half bath. She ran, barefoot, as hard and as fast as she could, to the bus stop. Luckily, there was a bus pulling up as soon as she got there. She threw her shoes on the ground, and slipped them on all in one motion, and boarded the bus.
While on the bus, she thought about what has just happened and that one time (the first time) that he pinched her so hard that he left a purple bruise on her arm, and the other time when they were waiting on the train to come and he twisted her arm up around her back and held it there until she started to cry and none of the adults around stepped in to help, and the other time when he squeezed the sides of her mouth together so hard her teeth cut into the inside of her mouth, and the other time when he deliberately scratched the inside of her vagina with his fingernails and then he laughed and why would he laugh at that?
and when do you decide you’ve had enough?
That sixteen year old girl was me.
And I’ve never told anyone about this. Until now.
While I was on the bus on the way to the train station that day, I stared out the window, thinking how difficult it was for me to reconcile that horrid, abusive man-child that I had left behind in his mother’s apartment to the sweet boy that I had met a few months back…
We met like this: I had a girlfriend who was talking to a boy who “lived up the road” which meant he was from the city. We lived in the suburbs (which is a nicer way of saying we lived in the sticks). Anyway, this boy would drive down to see her and one day he brought his friend with him. His name was DeMon*. My girlfriend called me and told me to come outside so I could meet this boy. So I bundled up and walked over to her house. We stood outside by this boy’s car talking until the streetlights came on. It was freezing outside that day. And me and him stood out there, whispering and giggling, our collective breaths puffing out and rising into the air, curling into each other. I remember my toes feeling like tiny blocks of ice inside my shoes and my nose going numb from the cold. But I ignored my discomfort. I ignored my frozen extremities. I wanted to know more about this boy. I was sprung off one conversation with him.
I remember my girlfriend telling her guy that she was hungry so he drove us to McDonald’s to get something to eat. DeMon and I sat in the backseat, huddled up like bench warmers on the football team. He fed me french fries; I was blushing down and smiling like he had just touched me in all my secret places. He was so…charming…and he said all the right things. At the end of the night, we exchanged numbers; I had to hurry back home, even though I didn’t want to leave this boy and all his new found sweetness.
So that was the start of our relationship, I suppose. We talked on the phone every day. I couldn’t wait to get home from school to call him and tell him about what happened at school, the shade of lipstick I wore, the outfit I had on, and who said what and where it was said. And it seemed like he felt the same. Eventually, he started to act different. Saying things that were disrespectful and mean about my hair and my clothes. Saying the way I wore my hair was stupid and my lips were ugly.But I let it slide. I thought I was in love.
The first act of violence he committed against me was the pinch.
Because we lived so far away from each other, we would usually meet at a central location. Most of the time, we met downtown. In Atlanta, the World of Coca-Cola used to be right next to Underground. He got us tickets and we would go inside and take the tour. Neither one of us really cared about the historical aspects of the museum; it was just an excuse for us to see and spend time with one another. At the end of the tour they have tasting stations set up where you can sample beverages that are unique to each region. I stopped at one station and got a drink, I can’t remember from where, and I tasted it. The taste was so bad that I bent my head down to spit the drink back into the little cup. That’s when he got mad and pinched the meaty upper part of my arm so hard I had a purple bruise there for days. After we left the museum, with tears in my eyes, I asked him why he did that. He said because I pissed him off and I was a stupid bitch.
Then the second act of violence.
Later, at the train station, I was still sniveling at him about what had happened earlier at the museum. He decided to shut me up by grabbing and twisting my arm behind and up my back, so hard that I cried out loud in pain. There were adults standing on the platform waiting on the train as well; none of them would look our way as we boarded the train and he shoved me down into my seat. He sat next to me; I angled my body away and squished my body as close to the window as possible so I wouldn’t have to touch him. When I looked at my reflection in the mirror, red streaked, puffy eyes stared back at me. And I wondered to myself how I got here.
Our relationship trudged on, with him becoming increasingly more verbal about his discontent with certain aspects of me such as my hair and my weight (I was very slim back then), and me becoming increasingly more uneasy with him and his Jekyll and Hyde personality. I felt like I was walking on eggshells with him all the time. It was an uncomfortable feeling, and one that my immature, teenage mind didn’t know how to deal with. But I still talked to him. I think I was hoping that the sweet, charming boy that I had first met would make a reappearance.
But it never happened. That sweet, charming boy never came back. Because it was never who he actually was.
The last time I saw him was at his house. He was alone. His mother was at work.
(I already know someone is going to say, “well why was your fast ass at that boy’s house, anyway? You didn’t have no business being at that boy’s house while his mama was at work!”) Yea maybe I shouldn’t have went to his house but it is what it is. It doesn’t excuse what he did at all.
Now that I got that out the way –
…as I was saying. The last time I saw him was at his house. His mother was at work.
He hit me with a belt that day. I honestly don’t remember why. I just remember hiding in the bathroom with my thighs burning like the suns of a thousand hells were beaming upon them, eyes so puffy with tears that they were almost swollen shut, waiting for him to get off the phone with that other girl and go to the bathroom downstairs so I could leave and never come back. I was Fed Up. All of a sudden, I was tired of being pushed around. Maybe I realized that he would never change. Maybe I realized this later as I was running to the bus stop barefoot. Maybe I was just tired. Maybe I was sad. Maybe I felt stupid. Either way, I was done.
You may read this and ask yourself why did I continue to visit him, or why didn’t I tell anyone about the abuse. The first question is difficult for me to answer because I am honestly not sure. Did I like him? Of course I did; or maybe I felt like him and his treatment of me was what I deserved. I recall him telling me that obviously I liked being hit and shoved around; of course I didn’t. I don’t think anyone likes to be abused. People can be made to rationalize abuse; but that’s different from liking someone to dehumanize you. I may have had a bit of Stockholm syndrome (if that’s even possible to have a little bit; it’s probably all or nothing). I am not sure if I would have tried to protect him or defend him. Really, it was no need to protect or defend his image because I never told anyone what he did to me. I just…liked him a lot. For a long time. Until I finally got Fed Up.
And I never told anyone because, instinctively, I felt that no one would believe me. I think I was afraid of the stigma that is attached to victims of abuse and assault. I felt like I would have been blamed for the actions of my abuser. I felt like someone would have placed the blame squarely on my shoulders because I would meet that boy alone at his house and in abandoned train stations. Maybe I didn’t want to get the police involved. It could have been any of those reasons, or all of them as a whole.
I recall a girl that went to school with me. She was dating a boy on the wrestling team. And I remember them getting into a fight, in which she was probably not the aggressor, and him breaking her arm. He literally broke her arm. Other students shunned her; because she would go over to his house alone. They said she would suck his dick and that she was “fast”. So the whispers from the boys and some of the girls indicated that she deserved it. For being fast. And being alone with boys.
Victim blaming is a huge problem.
Young Black women are more likely to suffer from domestic and/or intimate partner violence, the least likely to report it to the police, and between the ages of 15-35, the most likely to die from domestic violence.
Some of the reasons for this, I believe, is the (sometimes blind) loyalty that Black women have for Black men, even when these same men are dragging us through filth and mud. And that talking about the abuse and seeking help is akin to betrayal of Black men, and could possibly earn the victim backlash from her family and the community at large.
If you don’t believe me about this backlash, go on Facebook and type “Domestic Violence” in your search bar and read the comments on some of the posts and articles that appear in your search and you will see what I mean. The deflections from men and women and the attacks on the ones brave enough to speak up and out about Domestic Violence is disheartening.
I wrote this in hope that if a young woman saw it and was a victim of Domestic Violence then maybe she would find me and my story relatable, and realize that she was and is not alone in this.
Experiencing DV was one of the most dehumanizing and isolating things that I have even endured, and I wouldn’t wish it on my bitterest enemy.
The last time I spoke to DeMon was when I was 18 years old. I had given birth to my son a few months earlier. It was in the summer. I’m not even sure why I answered the phone; I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. I told him about my son and he said a few unkind things; the gist was that he figured I would end up being a statistic, I wasn’t shit and he probably wasn’t shit either for messing with me those couple of years back.
He was right about one thing.
He definitely wasn’t shit.
(*DeMon is an alias)