All of the above statistics are taken directly from a fact sheet found on the website of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Five of those facts stated above, apply to me.
My name is Suncera.
Too many times we read statistics or hear stories about domestic violence against a nameless, faceless individual with whom we have no personal connection. That makes it easier to ignore and deny. According to the statement above, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. That means of you, your mother and your two female siblings or cousins, at least ONE of them has had or will have an encounter.
This is my story:
My father was a heroin addict. My mother was a child of rape.
I won’t fill in the blanks, but, according to statistics, I was destined to fail.
I have very vivid early childhood memories.
My favorite early childhood memory is of me being sick in daycare and my mom coming to pick me up in a snowstorm. Because she didn’t drive, she carried me in her arms the long walk down the hill to our home.
My worst childhood memory is of my drunken step father beating my mom when I was 12. My brother, who was just a year older than me wrestled him to the ground. I grabbed a knife, held it to his throat and told him that if he EVER hit my mother again, I would kill him.
Shortly after, my stepfather joined my mother in her decision to become a member of a religious organization.
The beatings stopped.
When I was 23, I got pregnant with my daughter out-of-wedlock. I was kicked out the religious organization my family belonged to. My mother promptly disowned me.
Because I had been raised in an extremely strict religious environment, I had no relationships outside of the religious organization I was previously associated with. I had NO support system.
Fast forward a few years later.
I was living in the projects and on welfare. Too embarrassed to let my friends know. I began dating someone. We were friends first. I knew he was a drug dealer. He was attentive. He accepted me as I was. His family embraced me. They welcomed my daughter & I with open arms. He stopped selling drugs, went to school and got a good job. We moved out of the projects.
I started noticing little things but, shrugged them off. Whenever I wanted to spend “alone” time with my daughter, he wanted to come along. Whenever I went to the grocery store, he wanted to come along.
When I got a new job, he wanted to meet me for lunch every day.
In the beginning, it felt like what he wanted. Soon, it became what he DEMANDED. It was not optional.
He accused me of being interested in my boss when I worked overtime.
Although I began to feel smothered, I didn’t feel like I could discuss it with anyone. I’m sure by that time I had developed friendships with people who were willing to listen, but, because I so DESPERATELY wanted the love of my mother, I did not discuss the things that I wanted to discuss with her alone. There was a HUGE hole in my heart.
We started arguing more often. It would start small and escalate into an all out screaming match. I would try to leave and he would physically hold me down. One day, I told him that each time he did that to me, I was reminded of how my mom would tie my to the bathroom toilet when I was younger and beat me with an extension cord. I apologized to HIM for wanting to lash out.
I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. My emotions were SO misplaced and I was SO DAMAGED, that I didn’t feel I was worthy of anything else. And because I was not sharing these things with anyone, I wasn’t getting help. I was LIVING in my OWN warped mind. Everyone around me was CLUELESS.
Then we had a fight. Not an argument, but, a fight. I asked him to leave. He left.
He came back while I was at work.
When I returned home, I found EVERY picture in my modeling portfolio SLASHED. DESTROYED. (Thinking as I write this now, maybe that’s why I don’t like to take pictures anymore?)
There were broken picture frames all over the place and ANYTHING of value to ME was DESTROYED.
I finally told my cousin what happened and he took me to the police department. We discovered that he had a warrant out for his arrest from a violent incident that happened when he was younger.
He was arrested and of course, promptly apologized. *sigh*
Anyone who knows me now and is reading this, cannot FATHOM that I would let things go any further.
That’s why I’m writing this. Because I KNOW there is someone in a similar situation RIGHT NOW, who can’t see the forest for the trees and I want them to understand, that your past does NOT have to dictate your future.
Back to the story.
When we went to court, I was overcome with GUILT. Because, while I DID want him out of my house, I had no idea about the other warrant and he was not facing some significant jail time. So, at his and his family’s behest. I DROPPED THE CHARGES.
Yup. I’m sure anyone who knows me, or who has read this blog, seen my tweets or even heard my radio show is SHOCKED that I am the person who is the subject of this story. AGAIN, I’m telling it for a reason. Remember: 1 in 4.
The judge issued a STERN warning to me: He will do it again. If you let him back in your life, he will do it again.
I was so CONSUMED with GUILT, SHAME, LOW SELF-ESTEEM, and wanted to accepted by someone, that when the judge asked if I was SURE I wanted to drop the charges, I replied yes.
He then said: “I hope I don’t ever have to see you in this court for the same thing again, because YOU are making this choice.”
He went to jail for the other charges. And when he came out, he didn’t have a place to stay.
Yup, I took him in.
We were off and on because of the fighting so much.
And I finally decided I had enough. At least for then. I was so serious that I moved and cut off all contact with him.
I hooked up with someone from my past and became pregnant with my son.
Looking back, I can’t imagine how recklessly I lived my life. *sigh*
When I was about six months pregnant, I heard from my ex. He had apparently made a total transformation. He was now engaged, VERY gainfully employed and heard that I was pregnant.
Chrissy Lampkin, in an episode of Love & Hip pretty much summed up how I felt at the time:
“It happens a lot,” she says. “You’re with a man, you groom him, you straighten him up, you dust him off, you teach him how to chew with his mouth closed, and before you know it, he’s chewing with the next one.”
So, I did what ANY woman FULL of low self-esteem and without ANY love for herself would do: I got my man back.
I remember thinking: What was so special about HER?
Couldn’t see the forest for the trees…
Three months after the birth of my son. I was finished with him. AGAIN. Only this time, I WAS SERIOUS!
I told him he needed to leave. I called the police to remove him from my house after an argument ended with him hitting me.
But, he wasn’t having it.
He stalked me.
He terrorized people at my places of employment. I lost three jobs because of it.
I was living out a hell that I had created & saw NO way out.
I got a restraining order.
I wrote a letter to Oprah.
I tried EVERYTHING to get him out of my life – but, it wouldn’t happen.
This continued DAILY for two months.
Then, I remembered the judge’s words to me.
I felt like I deserved it.
So I stopped asking for help.
He called me and told me that if he couldn’t have me, he would kill himself.
I saw him outside of my townhouse.
I called the police and BEGGED them to arrest him, as he had violated the restraining order. A female officer PROMISED me that they would pick him up and if they couldn’t find him, they would call me.
I never got a call. I was on the phone throughout most of the night speaking with my son’s godmother about making changes in my life and how stupid I felt for letting myself get back in this situation. I felt like the kid who cried wolf and now no one was taking me seriously. More than anything, I wanted to call and speak with my mom, but, I knew I couldn’t because she wouldn’t take my call.
Another friend lived right around the corner from me. We decided to go the spa the next day for manicures and pedicures to relieve some of my stress. I decided to let my daughter spend the night at her house. I HAD NEVER DONE THAT BEFORE.
That night, he slipped into my secured townhouse building.
He stayed awake all night, listening to me move throughout my house. He heard each of my phone conversations.
The next morning, I put my son in his stroller.
As I opened my front door, he kicked it in so hard that I fell on the stroller, knocking it over and my son to the floor.
By the time I got up and gathered my son, he had a knife to my throat.
He said “If you scream, I will slit your throat.”
It took me ten years to be able to have a sharp knife in my house again. My son NEVER sat in a stroller again.
As my son cried in terror, he told me to make him stop crying. I tried to nurse him, but, was too terrified, so I asked permission to make a bottle.
With a knife to my throat and my crying infant in my hand, I went into my kitchen to make a bottle. I was nervous that I didn’t screw the lid on tightly and as a result poured milk all over my son while trying to feed him. That angered him.
I began screaming at the top of my lungs. “He has a knife and he’s going to kill me.”
He grabbed my infant son and dangled him upside down by his ankle. He held the knife to his neck and said ” Scream again, and I will chop him into pieces.”
He flung my son on the bed and pulled my hair so hard, that a plug came out in his hand. Even today, that section of my scalp has become a weakened “stress” point, still causing headaches and from time to time, my hair sheds. In fact, when I learned my mom was dying from cancer, I had to shave most of my hair off because I lost most of it in that same area.
He then started choking me and everything went black. I later learned that he permanently damaged the cartilage in my throat.
I was in and out of consciousness. When I finally regained my composure, he had changed my son’s clothes and put him in his swing directly in front of me.
My hands and feet were bound. I was hog-tied, so that if I moved my hands or legs, the phone cords he used to tie me would cut my skin. I still have scars.
He lifted me up and placed my son’s socks in my mouth, to prevent me from screaming. He then tied a gag around my mouth.
He told me that if he couldn’t have me, no one else could.
He told me that his life was not worth living without me.
He told me that he was going to sodomize me, kill my son in front of me and then kill himself.
I prayed that if my son survived that he would not remember any of it and be scarred for life. I prayed that God would forgive me of all of my sins and that my daughter would heal from my murder. I didn’t ask God to save me, because I didn’t think I was worthy. I felt like I was reaping what I sowed, that if I had never gone back to him, this would never have happened.
But, God loved me more than I loved myself.
He started asking me questions and each time I tried to answer, he cut me and told me to shut up. Scars.
He asked more questions and each time I failed to respond, he cut me and asked why I wouldn’t answer him. Scars.
With the knife to my throat, as I lay on my back, he ripped the belt off my jeans with such force, that they split.
Just as he was about to sodomize me, my neighbor SCREAMED out my name. She had keys to my house and I never made it around the corner to meet her for our spa date. Concerned, she had tried to call me and when she got no answer, she walked the short route from her house to mine to search for me.
When she screamed my name, he dropped the knife and ran right past her.
The police came and I was taken to the hospital.
He walked up to a police car as the search for him ensued and said “I’m the person you’re looking for. I didn’t mean to hurt her.”
When we went to court, his mom sat behind me.
As the charges were read she said “I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal. He saw his father do the same thing to me when he was a little boy.”
While in jail, he wrote me letters, professing his undying love for me. To this day, “You’re All I Need” by Method Man and Mary J. Blige reminds me of that fact.
He was not charged with attempted murder, because none of my injuries were serious enough.
I’ve shared my story because I KNOW there is someone RIGHT NOW reading this, who is in the beginning phases of where I was. I know there is someone who is in the middle phase and my prayer is that this post will help someone they get to the final phase of that relationship NOW.
Even as I read over what I have written, I cannot believe that this story is about me. Every ounce of it is true. In fact, I called my sister and my daughter to let them know that I would be sharing this. My mom and dad have both passed away. I have only recently shared the story with my son.
If you’ve ever been encouraged by ANYTHING that I’ve said, written in any way. You now know where my courage comes from.
My strength comes from a God who answered a prayer to save my life, even when I didn’t think my life was worthy of saving. Each step I take towards the greatness he has in store for me, is a reminder of his unfailing love for me. He hears my prayers and he answers them. He continues to shield me from dangers seen and unseen. And I KNOW he will do the same for you.
That was sixteen years ago and I am not the same person. I am not a victim, I am not a survivor.
I am a mother, a grandmother, a radio show producer/host, a television producer/editor, a writer, a friend and a child of God and he calls me FRIEND. Nothing makes me happier!
My life has been a process and I STILL make mistakes on a daily basis, but, this I KNOW: God has made me into a worthy, magnificent human being who deserves to be loved. I AM WORTHY! I was all along, I just refused to accept it!
I won’t lie to you and say that all you need to do is pray. I will tell you that I will pray with you and for you, because I know this will be a lengthy journey for you. I will tell you that you ARE NOT ALONE. I will tell you that you CAN live the life of your dreams. I will tell you that YOU DESERVE TO BE LOVED!
If you or anyone you know can relate to ANY portion of my story, PLEASE contact The National Domestic Violence help line: 800-799-7233 and share the information on the fact sheet located here with them. You might just save a life.