written by Tamara Peterson
I met him on Twitter. He was extremely charming, well dressed, well traveled and well spoken. He had a lot going for him: a thriving career, a beautiful home, and the ability to enjoy vacations in other countries. He was very down to Earth. Meeting through a social media app is normal these days, so it wasn’t a big deal when we did. The first time we hung out, he took me to the Brooklyn Bridge, and we walked side by side, sharing our experiences and thoughts. We had an instant connection. After weeks of dating, we quickly decided that we wanted to enter a relationship. Our relationship was filled with beautiful dates, and amazing road trips. We would enjoy amazing cuisine while traveling together, visiting the different states. He treated me like I was a queen.
remember when he started to yell. I had never been in a relationship with someone that I felt overbearingly dominated me. He would get angry at the smallest things. If I didn’t take the garbage out in his house, or if I forgot my key somewhere, he would flip. I didn’t understand his emotions because they were so explosive. I had never been in a relationship with someone that was so angry. I believed that by being with me, it would change him. I was convinced that our relationship was special, and, through me, he would learn to be calm and content. There were many red flags within our relationship. He had told me that out of all of the relationships he had ever had been in, there was only one woman he never put his hands on. He told me that he had beaten the others. I figured if he was capable of not hitting one of them, then surely all of the other women were the problem. To me, he was almost a King, and at the time, the love of my life.
Winter came and left, and I found myself seeping into depression from all of the verbal abuse. There was, at first, one day-- followed by many other days-- where we would drive in his car and he would threaten to crash it and kill us both because he was so angry. I should have left him, but at the time I had no self-esteem, and I was financially dependent on him. We weren’t married, but he called me his wife. At the time, I was having issues with my family, so I believed this meant I finally had a home in someone. Unfortunately, this belief led me to ignore the warning signs and continue enduring all of the verbal and emotional abuse.
While he was at the top of his career, he was also attending Narcotics Anonymous. We would go to NA meetings together, where he would talk about his past addictions. He had been clean for 7 years, so I'd never seen him touch substances; but I did feel his wrath. He had experienced a lot of trauma in his life that he had never healed: from being in the vehicle with his ex the during the fatal accident that killed her, to him never feeling comfortable about his own identity. I would go to NA meetings with him, holding his hand and showing him in whatever way I could that he had my support and love. He was violent during sex and he glorified BDSM. I convinced myself that I enjoyed being in pain during sex. I wanted to do anything to please him, and, at the time, that pleased me. I remember he once held his unloaded gun to my head during sex. I don’t know if I was really turned on, but I allowed it and told him I loved it, because I loved him.
I don’t remember the exact first time that he hit me, because there were so many incidences of violence. Once, he even tried making it into a routine or tradition in our relationship. There were times where we would be sitting on the couch and I said something he didn’t like, and he would slap me across the face while yelling at me, or he would choke me and throw me on the bed. Other times, he would pack all of my clothes and put them in the hallway of his brownstone. I convinced myself that he would one day stop hitting me, and that we would be okay, but the yelling and the hitting would only stop for a week or two before beginning again. Our relationship ended with him knocking me to the ground one day. I grabbed my phone and told him I was going to call the police. He grabbed me without fear, because he was sure I would never have the courage to do it. I had him arrested, and never resumed a relationship with him again.
Domestic violence is often overlooked in the black community. Black women are shunned for speaking up about their experiences, but in order to heal it is completely necessary to use our voices and raise awareness. Although I am a black woman, my partner wasn’t a black man. Although people immediately assume that he was black, he was actually Puerto Rican. It’s important to note that domestic violence can happen in any relationship, across all cultures, including LGBTQ+ or same sex relationships. The biggest danger of being in a domestic violence relationship is not understanding that you're in one-- and that your life is always at risk. The trauma that follows a domestic violence relationship can remain for years, affecting other relationships, friendships, and social interactions. While you're in the relationship, you might believe that once the hitting stops for the moment or day, that all is well again; but there are serious emotional and mental long-term effects that come as a result of being in a domestic violence relationship. This is why it’s necessary to get out as soon as you can.
Here are signs that you are in a domestic violence relationship. An abusive partner may do one or more of the following:
1. Threaten to hurt you, your pets, your friends, or family
2. Say that you make them extremely angry
3. Touch you without your permission
4. Control access to your money
5. Control your time and actions
6. Threaten to hurt you or commit suicide if you leave
7. Put you down, call you names, or make you feel like you are crazy
8. Blame issues in the relationship on your age, life experiences, or other conditions you can’t control
9. Humiliate you in front of other people, or when you’re alone
10. Blame most of the relationship problems on you
If any of these apply to your relationship with your partner, you are in an abusive relationship and should consider your options on how to protect yourself and safely leave your abusive relationship. Once you leave the relationship, you'll need to follow up on how to continue the deep healing you will need. You may feel like you miss him or need him, but those thoughts are part of the symptoms that stem from being abused. Do not stay in a relationship with anyone that emotionally or physically harms you. They do not respect you, and they will continue to abuse you, until you draw the line.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, encourage them to leave, and provide added support after they do. Healing takes time, but the faster you leave, the faster you will be able to grow and begin rebuilding yourself after your trauma. Remember that you are beautiful, and that you are worthy of a healthy relationship, but also that a healthy relationship must first began with loving yourself. I was able to hide being in an abusive relationship for years; none of my friends had a clue. I encourage you to check in with your friends that are in relationships.
Today, I can say that I am healed from that relationship. I spent many years working on myself, and I share my story in hopes that it will help to encourage someone that needs it. We, as black women, must support each other in these very difficult situations, so if you are in an abusive relationship or still healing from one, just know that I am you, and you are loved and supported.