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A story and a call to action: It’s time to end domestic violence


Rochelle Robinson

Making Contact Fellow Rochelle Robinson talks about her personal experience with domestic violence.

I had internalized the belief that being Black and female automatically puts me at a disadvantage and the only way to change these odds was to tie the knot.  Well, that knot was tight and uncomfortable and only added to my oppression not ease its burden.


At nineteen, I wanted to be a wife.  I’d had faith in the fairytale, the happy-ever-after meme, and was sure my life would be better for it.  But to my surprise and dismay, getting married brought me out of my mother’s house and into the transitory life and punishing hands of a man who would make my life a living hell.

My abuse began only hours after a civil judge in a county courthouse deemed me a ward of the patriarchal state.  I had become the property of the man I’d married. “You see this piece of paper?  It means that I own you”, said my newly wedded spouse well before the ink on the certificate of marriage bondage was dry.  But wasn’t slavery over?   I remember telling myself that he must’ve been out of his damn mind.

Our ceremony had been quick and dirty.  We were in and out of that office like a fast food drive-thru.  No one, not even me, had time to digest this rush to poor judgment.  But there I was, a blushing bride and mother (my son was 2 years old) with cheeks soon to be reddened by the slap of a man I’d barely knew.

We’d left the courthouse for a bar where we met with his family to celebrate our nuptials.  We threw back shots and shouted at one another across the table in the dark and noisy din.  It was my habit to include everyone in the conversation when I spoke so it didn’t occur to me that making eye contact with my sister-in-law’s boyfriend, as I turned to address him, would land me in a world of trouble.

LG (his initials) didn’t say a word before he hauled off and smacked me on the side of my face.  He’d waited until we were behind closed doors, though I’m certain that the sound of the impact and the sharp cry from my lips that followed could be heard all the way into the kitchen where his three sisters and mother had gathered as though forming a listening party.

They were soon to become co-conspirators to his abuse against me.   It was the beginning of many other unwarranted and unwanted hits to my body.  And like the first time, he continued the pattern of striking first before telling me what I’d done to deserve his wrath.

I also felt trapped by the weight of his oppression and demands for sex after he would beat me into submission.  The two often operate simultaneously as if feeding an insatiable hunger for the pain and suffering of another human being, of a Black woman who holds no claims to safety and protection.

Like many other survivors of physical or sexual abuse, I wanted to believe that it would never happen again… you let that one slide and begin the process of second-guessing yourself — maybe I rubbed him the wrong way? Triggered his anger and brought this on myself?

This relationship was tainted from the words “I do”, but I ignored the warning signs and fell for his initial, albeit, sloppy charm.  Besides, women are supposed to hang in there and keep up appearances.  I got good at the latter, but my departure was hastened by the ferocity of his violence.

As his anger, insecurities, and subsequent blows to my face escalated, so did my fear.  I was afraid to leave and even more afraid to stay.  When I finally got the courage to leave him, he became unhinged and his threats to kill me became more real with each moment he was in my life.  Until then I had suffered the abuse in silence.  As much as this man had hurt me, I had wanted to protect him from physical harm and keep the authorities out of our business.  Go figure.

Yet the thought that I may end up missing or, worse, dead was very frightening.   I was certain he would beat and rape me and leave me for dead or near death.  I made the decision to confide in my younger sister, but swore her to secrecy.  I had included her in my silence and possibly my shame.  It seemed so normal to accept what had happened to me.

I had internalized the belief that being Black and female automatically puts me at a disadvantage and the only way to change these odds was to tie the knot.  Well, that knot was tight and uncomfortable and only added to my oppression not ease its burden.

Fear feels as heavy as a brick house, as a 300-pound gorilla, as a man who gives no fucks about a woman’s life.  And it can make you do some things you thought you wouldn’t or couldn’t do.  It took almost six months before I could shake off my fear and stand up to the man I’d married but who’d made my life unbearable.

I’d gotten so sick and tired of wearing that fear on my shoulders, in my joints, on top of the bruises from my battered body and everywhere else it had landed physically and emotionally.

I’d come to my breaking point and it was do or die.  I chose to “do” so that I could live.  The odds weren’t in my favor, but I’m still here.  I have survived.  Many sistah’s with similar stories have not.  We should be doing something about this.  Screaming and shouting for an end to this comes to mind.  Happy endings comes to mind.

I’ve shared this story with you because this fits into a much too long history of violence against women (and girls), especially non-white women, of epidemic proportions.

In an article on the Huffington Post on October 23, 2014, it was revealed that 3 women are murdered daily in the U.S. due to current or former male partner violence.

Three.

Women.

Everyday.

More than 38 million have experienced domestic or intimate partner violence in their lifetime, and that “Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of female homicide and injury-related deaths during pregnancy.”

And, here is where I stand:

“Black women experience intimate partner violence at rates 35 percent higher than white women.”  I was also “70 times more likely” to be murdered by my ex in the first few weeks following my departure from him.  I certainly came close.

For years, I’ve kept my story in the closet.  Bringing out my battered and abused voice allows me to heal a little bit more.  It loosens up the phlegm of shame and emboldens me to speak even if my words shake and rattle in the telling.

I have survived but the wounds remain. It is not alright, what happened to me or to those of us who fall within those depressing statistics.  Could this be normal?  If it is then we have got to start rolling up our sleeves, sistahs and brothas, because we’ve got a shitload of work to do.  Are you ready?  I am.


Rochelle Robinson is the third Fellow of Making Contact’s Community Storytelling Radio Fellowship. Her segment will focus on Black women and how acts of violence against this group are often seen as normalized behavior.

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