Dating and Domestic Violence

I read the tragic story of Bianca Richardson Tanner this summer and was immediately heartbroken. Bianca was a beautiful, 31-year-old educator and mother. She was reported missing by her boyfriend and 10 days later her body was discovered in a wooded area in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was a victim of domestic violence.

According to her family she had moved to Charlotte with her boyfriend to start her teaching career this fall. Her dream. Her dream died the day she did. Thankfully, her boyfriend was arrested for the crime. How did they catch him? Because Bianca’s courageous three-year old son told the police “Mommy got a spanking with the belt. Angelo kicked mommy’s butt and made her cry,” the boy told police according to court records. “Angelo is mean to mommy and hurt mommy in the face.” The police now had a starting point.

Let’s talk about Bianca’s case. Bianca’s boyfriend was a violent offender against women. He had abused other women prior to Bianca. Bianca never knew. How could a man have three separate abuse charges filed and not have spent time in jail? Why can’t we enact a required law that causes charged abusers to register like sex offenders? I mean did he really have to abuse three women before murdering the fourth. No.

We as women need to be educated when it comes to dating men especially when we have children. We need to diligent about background screenings for potential mates. Even if everything comes back clear, we need to leave at the first sign of abusive behavior. Why do we stay with our abusers? I don’t care if he says he’ll never do it again. I don’t believe it and neither should you. I mean Bianca was abused before right? According to her son, her boyfriend was mean to her. Last month, I read this great piece, by Feminista Jones, for Time where she said:

“Racism and sexism are two of the biggest obstacles that Black women in America face. But because many Black women and men believe racism is a bigger issue than sexism, Black women tend to feel obligated to put racial issues ahead of sex-based issues.”

As I read this, one thought entered my mind, “Yes.” This is why we stay. We have been programmed to believe that our value as black women is to support our black men first and then women issues. We wonder “Am I black or Am I woman”. We can’t seem to simultaneously fight two battles because we have to be strong black women holding down our black men and our black people. But, what about self? I want to change that.

We need to change that. A study of 2011 homicide data conducted by the Violence Policy Center examined that “The disproportionate burden of fatal and nonfatal violence borne by black females has almost always been overshadowed by the toll violence has taken on black males. In 2011, black females were murdered at a rate more than two and a half times higher than white females: 2.61 per 100,000 versus 0.99 per 100,000.” These are not total strangers. More like boyfriends and intimate partner violence.

Recognize the signs. According to Safe Horizon here are some signs of domestic violence:

Does your partner ever:

  1. Accuse you of cheating and being disloyal?
  2. Make you feel worthless?
  3. Hurt you by hitting, choking or kicking you?
  4. Intimidate and threaten to hurt you or someone you love?
  5. Threaten to hurt themselves if they don’t get what they want?
  6. Try to control what you do and who you see?
  7. Isolate you?
  8. Pressure or force you into unwanted sex?
  9. Control your access to money?
  10. Stalk you, including calling you constantly or following you?

So, what do you do if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence or intimate partner violence? First, get help. Call the police! Leave. There is no reason to stay in an abusive relationship and you have to trust that people will help you. You can call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Safe House Center has created a handbook for survivors of domestic violence. You can download it here.

Let’s remember that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and not forget the women who have fallen victim to domestic violence like Bianca Richardson Tanner. Let’s encourage each other to never forget Bianca and know that we can make a difference.

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Check out this video I posted last month about a woman who didn’t hit first and was a victim of domestic violence:

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Getting My Praise On

Last week, I was going through a mini-crisis with the 117% increase in my car insurance next month. I was devastated. I literally went through the 5 stages of grief at the amount of increase. I was crying and falling out all over the place. But, people told me to “get a grip” because I’m the most faithful person that they know. I was offended. My going through the stages didn’t mean that I am without faith. It meant that I was utterly human and fallible. Don’t judge me.

Sometimes we need to go through the stages to get to the praise. Some people don’t but I do. I am not alone. It is not a sign that I am not faithful. On the contrary, it shows that I need to work through a crisis and analyze it from all angles. So, let me tell you what happened at each of my stages so that you can realize how completely normal I am.

Denial and Isolation Stage

This was the first stage. I literally couldn’t believe the amount that I was seeing on my renewal notice. I assumed this is a mistake.

How could you remove the responsible driver discount? I mean two accidents in one year, I get it, but they were small and no one died. Why is this happening to me? No one knows what I’m going through. God, I hate my life. It sucks to be me.

Anger Stage

How could they increase my dang insurance this much? How am I supposed to live? You obviously don’t want me as a client, so kick rocks. I will find someone else. I have had a great driving record for the last 21 years and this is the kind of foolishness that I get? Well, screw you big insurance company! You’re always trying to stick it to the little person. I’m going to talk to my elected officials about Tikeetha’s law to put a percentage increase in place so that insurance companies can’t increase your car insurance over a certain limit without tickets or money paid out in excess of $10,000. Now, where is my congressman’s number? I need to write the Insurance Commissioner about this ASAP.

Bargaining

Okay, I know that this is more than my car note and I can’t afford this amount. I am one step from the poverty line. I can’t get a second job. I’m in a custody battle and my ex will go for full custody if I can’t pick up my son during our scheduled time. I would rather die than be without my baby. I asked my sister, “Do you think people will judge me if I become a prostitute?” My sister responded, “No, judgement, but have you thought about stripping first? Why jump to prostitution? Baby steps okay?” I can’t afford this. Ugh! I need a soup kitchen line because this is where I will be eating from now on.

Depression

I hate my life. Why oh why didn’t I just stay in my beautiful Corolla? Why did I get seduced by the beautiful body of “Blue Magic”. She’s a gorgeous sports car, but am I really that responsible? Apparently not and no one can empathize with the financial burden I am dealing with. I want to crawl under my covers and jump off a tall building in my mind because I can’t handle this.

I couldn’t stop crying in this stage. Everything affected me. Everyone who couldn’t understand was my enemy.

Acceptance

Okay, this is happening and I need to figure out what I’m going to do. I can’t afford the premium and I know that there is a lesson I must learn and I need to fix my mind and call the insurance company because their suggested increase is still the cheapest. These insurance companies suck! I need to switch fields and open up an insurance company because that is where all the money is going. But, let me get it together and call the insurance company…

Me: Hi, I’m calling about policy number 123-455-5789

IA: Hi, I have your policy, how can I help you?

Me: (Burst out crying) Ma’m I can’t afford the increase. I need my car to drive to work and get my child back and forth to school, but I don’t want to become a prostitute. I have a 6 year old son. Do you know how hard it is being a single parent? What will his friends think?

IA: (Extremely sympathetic) I understand your concern. Let me look and see what I can recommend to get your policy lower.

Me: (Sniffling) Thank you.

IA: We can increase your deductible to $1,000 and that will take $300 off your yearly premium.

Me: Okay. I hope no one hits me or that they total my car out.

IA: That’s still a lot. We can run your credit as part of your renewal and that may lower your premium.

Me: Okay, do it.

IA: Good news, it lowered your premium another $900 a year.

Me: Okay.

IA: I know it’s still expensive, but try to bundle your insurance with us and it could save you another 10% a year. I know it’s not much, but it may be worth it.

Me: Yes, 10% is definitely worth it. Thank you for all of your assistance and I’m sorry for crying.

IA: It’s okay, I would definitely be doing the same thing in your situation. I couldn’t afford this.

Me: But, God. I guess it’s time for me to get my praise on.

IA: Amen. You have a good day.

So, I got some money off and the increase is now $5.00 less than my car note a month. Something is better than nothing and I am thankful that she could do that. I have extreme faith that God will never give me more than I can bear and that He won’t let my baby starve or have me living in the streets or prostituting to make ends meet.

Sometimes I need to go through the stages before I get to the point of accepting that He has me and He always will. Don’t question the fact that I go through the stages as a lack of faith. It’s not. It’s a sign of my authenticity. Because, God knew where I would end up at the end of my 5 stages. Right where I was supposed to be. On my knees…praying, praising and thanking Him for his continued support and love over my life.

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Knowing Your Worth

The sounds of screams, fists flying, furniture breaking and blood on clothing; are all vivid images from my childhood that still haunt me to this day. My mother left. Many women don’t. Domestic violence is not always physical. It can take many forms including sexual, emotional, verbal and psychological. It’s all about power and control. It has lasting effects.

I read this article last month on My Brown Baby entitled “#WhyIStayed: Teaching our Daughters & Sons How to Love Sans Violence” and was moved to write about this topic in October. Why? Because October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month and we need to stop blaming the victims for domestic violence and encourage them to get help and get out of destructive situations.

So, how did domestic violence affect me after witnessing it? I suffered all forms of domestic violence at one point in my life with the exception of physical, but it was just as painful.  Domestic violence affected my self-esteem and made me vulnerable and susceptible to unhealthy situations and relationships. You know the kinds of relationships where you think your first name is B*tch? How about the relationships where you’re being yelled at constantly with no regard to your feelings? How about the relationships where you feel that you’re just not good enough because he likes skinny women and I’m too thick for him? How about the relationship where he forced himself on you?

Domestic violence is serious. I suffered the affects for many years. Silently. As confident as I was on the outside, I was a wreck on the inside. I thought no one cared or that it was “my cross to bear”. Suffering alone and in silence strips you of your voice. You begin to doubt yourself and realize that maybe just maybe you deserved all those bad words or things that have happened to you. But, you don’t.

Domestic violence is simply about power and control. Hurt people hurt people. You can’t change someone. You have to love you first. Loving you is the fundamental point of everything we do in life. If you can’t love you, how can you expect someone else to love you? Truth? You can’t.

You can’t change someone.  You can’t heal a broken person when you in fact are broken. I know. I tried. I failed. All I earned was a broken, battered, abused heart and spirit. So, what do you do? You focus on you. Till this day, the best line I ever heard was from the comedian; Katt Williams when he says “B*tch, it’s called self-esteem! It’s the esteem of your mother*cking self. How the f*ck can I f*ck up how you feel about you…?” Vulgar and crude…Yes. But, it’s accurate and on point nonetheless.

That sketch reminded me that I’m the only one who can control how I feel about myself. I stopped waiting on others to validate me or my existence. I accepted who I am and I love me first. Think of it this way…when you fly they always instruct you in an emergency situation if the oxygen masks should deploy that you secure your mask first before helping someone else. Why? Because you can’t help someone else if you die. Help yourself first.

Yep, I am officially depressed

So, this is what happened. Last year in November I bought a 2012 Nissan Maxima. I was excited. My first grown up purchase. Well, two months later I was living in the hotel (multiple pipe bursts in my kitchen with flooding) and I pulled my beautiful baby out the hotel garage and scraped the driver’s side door on the yellow concrete posts. Ugh. The damage to my car was $2,900. I had to get it fixed. I just got the car. So, I paid the $500 deductible and got “Blue Magic” fixed.

I resounded to pay attention and not get distracted by life because I couldn’t afford another expensive lesson. Well, in June of this year, I went down the wrong way of a roundabout. I realized it and began to back-up when I was hit by another driver who couldn’t see me. Damage to both cars, but no injuries and I thankfully didn’t get a ticket. God was watching after me on that one because I was praying that the officer’s would have mercy and make it affordable. I sat there in shock and realized I can’t afford to keep paying these dang deductibles. I hadn’t had the car a year. What was happening?

My mom didn’t make me feel better. Her response, “Kee, you need to be careful and pay attention.” Like a petulant child, I yelled “I know mom and you ‘re not helping. I’m already depressed. I laid in bed crying.” I said, “I didn’t tell you that when you got into your two accidents within a month of each other.” She said, “No, but I told myself.” She reminded me to count my blessings that I didn’t get a ticket.

As I’ve been sharing I’m exceptionally happy. I said it out loud. I didn’t just write it, but I woke up and thanked God for his continued blessings over my life. But, I always knew that something would happen because I was happy. I didn’t know what form the happiness thief would take, but I knew it was coming. Would I be prepared? Would I crumble? Would it be that bad that it would destroy me? All the questions that I kept pushing out my mind. I wasn’t going to “think it” into existence.

I just went with the flow and enjoyed the moment. Then it happened. I was checking my emails on my Ipad this morning before work and got the renewal information from my car insurance company. My insurance was increasing by 117%. I sat there dumbfounded with tears in my eyes. All these thoughts ran through my mind:

  • I can’t afford this.
  • That is more than my car note.
  • How will I be able to live?
  • OMG, I want to die
  • I would be better off selling my car and paying off the balance and buying a vehicle outright

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I was freaking out. It was way too early to start calling folks and asking them to pray, encourage and remind me that I will be okay. I was already planning on how I would pack up my spot and move back home with my mom with a defeated attitude. I was lost. I was officially one step up from being in a crack den or on the streets or living in Blue Magic. Yes, Blue Magic is roomy and all, but I couldn’t bring my baby to living in our car while trying to get bootleg wi-fi so he can watch Disney Jr. and Netflix on his Ipad. (I told you I was having a mental breakdown).

I called my best friend who said, “Wow! Call around. Stop freaking out! You have 6 weeks to find another insurance company. Do your research.” I sniffled, “Okay, thank you. I will do it.” I hopped in the shower and got dressed and headed into work. I prayed to God that Blue Magic and I will not have to live in a seedy part of town dodging bullets. I went about my normal routine and arrived at work 15 minutes early. I started trying to get insurance quotes to see if I can get a cheaper rate.

I sent a text to my other best friend to let him know and seek his counsel. He replied, “It’ll be okay. You’ll find something. It was your two accidents in one year and the fact that you were at fault for both and your car is considered a sports car because of the horse power. It’s going to be expensive, but you will have to budget and make some adjustments.” I sat there listening to him with tears streaming down my face, “This is one of the worst days of my life. Definitely the worst day in the last 15 months. I can’t breathe.” “Stop overreacting please. I will help you” he replied.

As I sat at work frustrated I decided to go see my good friend to get her advice and perspective. I had already received quotes that were more than $300 over what my current insurance company was going to charge me. I was spiraling downhill fast. She said, “Don’t let this get you down. I am claiming it. You will be saved from this situation. We are not going to give the happiness thief satisfaction in seeing you defeated.” I just put my head down on the table and sighed.

I went into my office after lunch still consumed with this travesty of injustice on my mind and in my spirit. I checked my emails and read my devotional from Bible Gateway called “His Princess Today”. I got too busy to read it yesterday so I opened it up and this is what it said:

Come to Me

I saw you before you were born. Even then you were on My mind, My daughter. I knew you were coming, and I did everything possible to express My love to you and extend My invitation to you. Now that you are Mine, I want you to continue to come to Me. Come to Me when you feel strong and when you feel weary. Come to Me when you are rejoicing and when your spirit is crushed. I ask you to come not only to give you rest, but also because there is so much more I want to teach you. There is more of Me I want to reveal to you. You see, I did not create you for this fallen world. I created you for Paradise, but the curse of sin tore us apart. I’ve conquered sin and death for you through the death of My son, so come to Me… and live.

Love,
Your King who is waiting

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and
carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you,
because I am humble and gentle,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
Matthew 11:28–29

I realized that I went to everyone with my problem (that I could think of without disturbing) but the one who could truly put peace in my heart and remind me that He will carry my burden. My burden is heavy. I told you yesterday I grew up poor and I was determined not to go back to the poor house and God was reminding me that His yoke is easy and I should take that. Wow! I sat there with tears in my eyes apologizing for my selfishness and realizing that HE NEVER FAILS!

Yep, I am officially depressed, but you know what? I will get through this because it is a temporary setback. Sometimes we all need a reminder to stop going to everyone first. Go to Him first. My grandma used to say, “Trouble don’t last always” but I know that my God is a burden bearer and he can carry this burden too.

Be blessed my loves!

It’s Not Funny

As I sat there watching the “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” reunion show (part 2), I was mortified at the scene that was taking place. Joseline Hernandez, one of the main characters and her “husband” Stevie J were fighting. It started with them fighting Benzino and Althea and then transpired into Joseline fighting everyone. What things stood out to me:

Fame is a powerful drug

Apparently, some don’t know. Fame is addictive. You get a whiff and you can’t stop. You want to drink it, inhale it, eat it and breathe it because you can’t imagine going back to a perfectly normal life. Think about the reality stars who have made it big and the things that they’ve been accused of doing. From criminal activities, to violence to drug abuse and jail time, these people can’t let go of fame. How awesome is it to wake up and realize that you have become famous for just being you? Being recognized everywhere you go. Having TMZ and Us Magazine cover your latest antics seems normal after a while. You like the recognition. You crave the spotlight and you love having an entourage. It’s just like Rod Stewart said…

“There is this power that comes with being famous.”

Drugs are bad

I have never taken drugs, but I know what an addiction can do to people. My father was is an alcoholic. His addiction had him doing things that “normal” people shouldn’t do. Drugs numb a pain that you’re feeling and it’s only temporary. Deal with the issue. Address your brokenness and know that God heals all. You have to get help for your addiction. Drugabuse.gov indicates that the cost of substance abuse is in the billions. See the chart:

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We have to stop putting a band-aid on our problems and seek professional help to heal. Many do, but a lot don’t. Some people don’t see it as a problem. They don’t recognize the problem or how it’s hurting us as a society. We have to support mental health. Dang, don’t you get tired of pretending like everything is okay and you’re dying on the inside? Drugs are not the answer to your pain. It’s okay to hurt it’s also okay to…

Just Say No

People medicate to heal

Fact: Burying your pain and then self-medicating to get through the day is not healthy. I know people medicate to heal the pain, but it’s not working. Depression is real and we shouldn’t make the problems worse by turning to drugs. You don’t have to be superman or superwoman. We can’t keep it together all the time and sometimes life gets chaotic that you need to seek professional help. No judgement. Just truth. You can’t fix a dam with duct tape. It won’t work. Fix you. You are the most important person and you can’t heal while medicating and burying your real issues. I know there is a stigma in the black community for seeking help, but trust me…the worse thing you can do is avoid the issue and abuse your body to make the pain go away. Yes, you may cry. Yes, you may scream, but I promise you…this too shall pass.

When keeping it real goes wrong

I don’t think anyone was prepared to see the ratchedness that transpired on Monday night, but I hurt for Joseline and Stevie. I hurt because both of them are damaged. Instead of laughing at their antics, creating memes and diagnosing them (FYI – Joseline admitted to smoking blunts and Stevie J tested positive to cocaine in June) we have to create a campaign that bullying, drug use and ratchedness are not acceptable programming. The fact that it took more than two dozen security members to try and keep chaos from affecting the audience is proof enough that reality TV is truly at the end of days. Let’s demand quality programming because I can sense the lawsuits that are going to come forth.

Chaos & Comfort for Ferguson

I awoke to find chaos had occurred in a small town called Ferguson, Missouri where a policeman shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. He was 18. Still in his teens. Not able to buy alcohol, but still legal. As tears streamed down my face and I ached for the young man I never met, I said a prayer for peace. Peace in that town. Peace in the family. Peace in the police department. Peace for humanity.

I can’t imagine what that family is going through at this moment. I am saddened to think “what if”. What if it had been my son? What if it had been someone I know? My church school students? My friend’s son? What words of comfort could I offer to help them through this difficult time? What words of comfort could I offer to other parents who raise black boys? I stumbled over the words to write that could offer a semblance of hope in a difficult time. Another young man was murdered and we are left to wonder why? Was he armed? No. It was this picture that broke my heart.

RIP Michael Brown
RIP Michael Brown

I believe in an officer’s right to protect and serve. I believe that in order to do their jobs sometimes they have to make difficult judgement calls in life threatening situations. I believe in safety. But, I also believe that there are bad people out there that want to wage a war against our youth. I believe that bad people work in all fields hidden in society where we are left wondering their true intentions. They wear a mask of anonymity and we always question it when situations like this occur. What is their real motive?

We will never know. Because it seems as though it is open season on our young black men. I am scared. I am scared for my son. I am scared for my beautiful black boys in my church school class. I am scared for the many nameless young men out here who will never grow up and be able to legally buy alcohol, graduate from college, vote or get married. Your life has ended and there is no excuse, but I will pray for peace for you, your family and your community. Violence begets violence and no one should ever think “Kill the Police” is a good idea.

Be patient my loves and know that we have a justice system. Although flawed in some areas, I know that God will have the final say in all that we do. Prayer is essential in this time and I want you to know that I found some words to comfort you in the chaos:

Revelation 21:4 (KJV):
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Bad Things Will Happen

This week I read an article on Huffington Post titled “Children Exposed To Religion Have Difficulty Distinguishing Fact From Fiction, Study Finds” and was taken aback at some of the comments that I read.  It wasn’t a relatively lengthy article, but it had amassed over 757 comments in just two days.  Disclaimer:  I know I shouldn’t read the comments, but I can’t help it.  I like to know what other people think about a particular article and well I was floored.

I was floored because people were saying that they found the church stuff skeptical.  I understand not everyone subscribes to a religious view, but how can we not have faith in light of everything that we have seen or experienced in this world?  I’m not trying to convert you to Christianity or make you subscribe to my point of view, but what I am saying is that my faith is the foundation for everything I believe and I how I raise my son. The article said that of the 66 children who were between 5 and 6 (same age as my munch) who went to church or were enrolled in parochial schools were “significantly less able than secular children to identify supernatural elements, such as talking animals, as fictional.”

I’m not surprised, but I’m not offended.  In my house we serve God. That is what I am teaching my son. The end and that’s all.  That is exactly what I posted in the comment section of the article and another commentator replied to me asking “How could you teach him to believe in a God who would allow Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 to be shot down? Does God really do that? How does God allow all those children to die?” I sat there and said a prayer before I simply responded…”Was it God or Evil? Aren’t we taught that there is a balance to everything which creates the understanding of harmony? A battle between good and evil?  The fact that we believe in God and teach our children about God doesn’t absolve them of bad things happening.  Bad things will happen, but God will protect your mind and spirit while the enemy may try to destroy you.  It is simply faith.”

I went home that night and really thought about how important it is for me as a mother to teach my son about God and faith.  It is an important lesson that has to be taught, one that I have never regretted, because it is one that was taught to me by my mother.  My mother was taught by her mother and she taught her children that our God can handle it all and will never stop loving you.  We didn’t grow up with a happy life absent of trials, tribulations or death.  We just knew to never stop believing and that prayer changes things.  Faith of a mustard seed is what she said.  Belief in God was the greatest gift she gave me.

Even when life knocked me down and I ran from God believing that He didn’t love me, want me, understand or could hear me, she prayed.  People prayed.  When I hit rock bottom, I prayed and I knew at that moment that He had never abandoned me.  Nothing would make Him leave me.  So, it is easy for me to teach my son to love a God that has always protected me even in my darkest hour because it is embedded in the very fabric of everything that I believe and go through.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Prayer is not asking.  It is a longing of the soul.  It is daily admission of one’s weakness.  It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”  

There were 298 passengers and crew members that were killed on that flight and 80 of them were children. This is a horrible tragedy and we must continue to pray for the families of the victims and this nation as a whole. Longingly and truthfully because we need God now more than ever.