As I write this, the first thing that comes to my mind is, do I have a right to consider myself a “battered woman?” Is such a term and concept of thinking about oneself, even classified under a right? Or is that oxymoronic, in and of itself?
I came to a conclusion in the last two days or so. This is it: the men in my family have a “problem” with putting their hands on women. Now as I write this, I have fear in my heart. And that bothers me! So much!
If you were to know me, in any way, shape or form, you’d know that the one thing Shaquana never relinquishes her power to is, fear. I have said, since I was a very little girl, that I fear no man, as my Father in Heaven is my keeper. So, please tell me, why am I so afraid of acknowledging the truth about being a battered woman?
The organization RAINN, defines a battered woman as,
“A battered woman is a woman who has experienced at least two complete battering cycles as described in dating and domestic violence.Battered women stay in these dangerous relationships for a variety of reasons including: still being positively reinforced by the “honeymoon” phase of the battering cycle.”
The website, Duhaime.org, describes the battering cycles as, stage one being the tension building stage. Stage two, being the acute battering incident. And stage three is characterized by, extreme contrition and loving behavior.
Quotes like this, are what have me bawling, in tears right now.
“There are four general characteristics of the syndrome:
- The woman believes that the violence was or is her fault.
- The woman has an inability to place responsibility for the violence elsewhere.
- The woman fears for her life and/or her children’s lives.
- The woman has an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient.”
“For some couples, this period of relative calm may last as long as several months, but in a battering relationship the affection and contrition of the man will eventually fade and phase one of the cycle will start anew….
Some women may even perceive the battering cycle as normal, especially if they grew up in a violent household. Or they may simply not wish to acknowledge the reality of their situation. The middle-class battered wife’s response to her situation tends to be withdrawal, silence and denial…
In addition to these psychological impacts, external social and economic factors often make it difficult for some women to extricate themselves from battering relationships. A woman without independent financial resources who wishes to leave her husband often finds it difficult to do so because of a lack of material and social resources.”
If you replace the terms couple and wife, with sister and brother, my life story fits directly into these descriptions. You know that Tina Turner song, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ Well, it’s been on repeat in my head for months now. Especially the line when Tina says, “I’ve been taking on a new direction. But I have to say, I’ve been thinking about my own protection. It scares me to feel this way.”
It’s so deep, I don’t even know where to start. I mean, it’s crazy enough that, it never dawned on me that I was a battered woman. Or an abused woman.
I never allowed myself, to see myself that way. Perhaps, for the reasons stated above. My entire life was encased in violence, from inside my home, to my neighbor’s homes, friend’s homes and everywhere in between. Violence is the norm, where I come from, not the exception.
Having gone on to college, working so many “middle class” jobs and inserting myself into the “normal” sector of society, I eventually adopted the middle class battered wife mentality, of withdrawal, silence and denial. It took me longer than you can imagine, to acknowledge that violence is not normal. That someone putting their hands on another person, is not normal. More importantly, that it is not okay.
Transferring that concept into an acknowledgement that I was a desperate victim of abuse and violence, took even longer than I might have hoped for. That, for sure I know, has to do with my unwillingness to say out loud that, there is something terribly wrong with my “family.” That inability to accept my reality, was deeply rooted in the truth it meant for those I call family.
My heart is so heavy right now. I just want to get away. I want to become someone else right now, sooooo badly. I just want to not know the people I know, and not be of and from them. I want to be someone else. Someone who comes from people who know what real love is.
Someone, who comes from people who actually want to be better. People who see the error in their ways, and instead of covering up, protecting and safeguarding their wickedness, want to fix it. People who don’t want to live a life bowed at Satan’s foot anymore.
I’ve always wondered that, you know. Why people who put their hands on other people, don’t seem to ever want to get help? Why it doesn’t scare them, as much as it scares others around them, to become a person that seeks to abuse other people?
It always bothered me. Because I could never imagine knowingly hurting someone else, in such a way that I don’t even recognize myself, and instead of wanting to change, I choose to not only stay the same, but feel empowered in such sameness, as that.
So, I suppose I should speak more plainly, to make sense of what’s actually going on in my reality right now. Since I was a very little girl, I’ve watched my mother be beaten by the men in her life. A lot of times, it was physical. Yet, more often than not, it was mental, financial and psychological. So, when I speak of abuse, I am not only discussing physical abuse, but all five types, known as, financial, sexual, verbal, physical and psychological.
My mother was and still is, a victim of all five. She passed that on to my sister and I, I’d say. And now, it threatens to be passed on to my niece, and even my little unborn butterbean, if I don’t interrupt this harrowing cycle. As I’ve mentioned before, watching my mother be abused, not only by the men she went to bed with, but even her nephews and own sisters, was extremely damaging to me.
I suppose, by the time I was born, my mother was so indoctrinated by violence, she thought that was the way of life. Not just by men she loved, but by everyone. So much so, that it was only a matter of time before her own children joined the bunch of abusers.
Now, the complex issue, among many, in this sordid chain of events, is that my mother became the abuser, thus, teaching her children to abuse. Her boyfriend’s abusive behaviors and outbursts, reinforced such teaching. It was only a matter of time before my brothers and sister, would join the ranks of abusive people in this family.
I grew up, wishing I could protect my mother and siblings, so much so, that every chance I got to leave and stay away from the, since college, I’ve squandered. I was in high school, when the attacks on my mother, by my brothers, started to get bad. I’d come home from school, and have to fight my little brother, to save my mom from him.
Him being abused by her, his entire life, made this that much more difficult and complicated. He wasn’t created in a vacuum. He was a person. Raised and rooted in the evil, that consumed him. Unfortunately, no one saw him as that. Particularly, because my mother would run to anyone who would listen, and tell her victim story.
But you know, in a world where intersectional identities can’t exist, and everything is either black or white, what room really is there, for her to connect the dots between her past, her present and her children’s futures. That’s what makes this so hard for me.
Am I horrible for loving my brothers so much, I want to protect them from themselves? Am I even worse, for telling my story, so that these secrets don’t eat me and my child alive? I am more than educated, experienced and intuitive enough to know that, the violence plaguing my family, is so much bigger than us. It’s as long and deep as it is, rooted in our ancestral history of slavery.
My mother was abused, her sisters were abused, my grandmother was abused, and who knows how far back this goes beyond them. This is bigger than us, making it impossible to dictate a villain and a saint. This is a story of Blackness and violence, one so common yet, so covered, it still threatens to defeat us all.
I remember one break, when I had friends over, and we were chilling and having fun. I’d left the room, to go tell my mom something, only to walk in on one of the worse scenes, I still have stuck in my head. My older brother had my mother by the neck, choking her so tightly, that my caramel skinned momma, was turning blue. I didn’t think. I just jumped into action, trying to get him off of her.
Next thing I know, I’m stopping my mom from stabbing him, and then he’s locked us in her room, I can’t breathe because of my asthma and I’m sure I’m either going to die, or have to kill him, so I can get to safety.
I don’t have the strength or heart to relay all the details of that night, right now. I’m sure, I’ll be able to do so, at a later time. I can say that, the night ended with my brother’s face scratched so badly, it made my cry. And him leaving the most evil and threatening messages on my phone, blaming my mom and I for his face and swearing revenge. He didn’t see what he’d done wrong. In his mind, he was simply defending himself.
That became the saga for my brothers, every time they put their hands on women in my family. It was self-defense. I knew my life was getting away from me, when two years ago, my then boyfriend, put his hands on me, and then countered with that same self-defense logic. When my cousin, attacked me a few months ago, while I was 4 months pregnant, and till this day, uses the same self-defense logic, I knew I was doing everything wrong. I still didn’t see the picture. Or at least, I didn’t want to, yet.
The problem is, if you know one thing about Shaquana, you know that I don’t put my hands on people. I am not physically violent, whatsoever. In the past, my mouth could be a problem, as I am working on it. But I’m not physically violent, in any way, shape or form.
You know the whole concept about people who have parents that do drugs, that they either turn completely toward their parent’s damaging habits, or they turn completely away from them. That’s always been what separated me, from my siblings. I turned completely away, and they turned completely towards it.
Now, here I am today, fighting to get that abuse monkey off my back. You see, every time I left my mother’s home, in my heart of hearts, I knew I was leaving because of the violence. But consciously, I’d tell myself it was for every other reason in the book. Every time I came back for my mom, it was for the same reason.
I feared, and still do, the day I’d hear she passed or was seriously injured because one my family members, particularly my brothers, attacked her. What makes it so bad is that, my mother is so conditioned to such violence, when it’s absent in her life too long, she invites and even begs it to come back. She entices people to want to hit her. It’s so deeply psychologically imbalanced, she still doesn’t see it.
Two years ago, when I was pregnant, my older brother attacked me. I still, to this day, have no clear reason of why. He was drunkenly ranting and raving about how people had told him that I thought I was in charge, but he would show me better. Those people, were inherently, my mother, younger brother, and perhaps sister. Who knows anymore? What I do know is, my first miscarriage came a few weeks after this attack, and I made a mental note, to never forget.
When the battering cycle discusses the calm periods, it says a few months. For my family, it works like a few years, instead. Mostly because, my brothers have gone on to have girlfriends who bare the brunt of their abusive ways. In such, I suppose, buying my mom more time, till the wave comes back her way. Every time that wave comes, I’m there to bare the brunt for my mom. Every single time! But for what? Because she doesn’t bare the brunt for me!
I suppose, after being beat and abused for so long, a part of your brain gets to wanting someone else to go through it too. Not because you’re heartless, but simply because, you need to know that you’re not the only reason this happens. That you’re not the only one who deserves this abuse and pain. So, when I’ve protected her in the past, she doesn’t try to help me. But instead, watches as I fight my brothers. And then, being the battered woman she is, works to help protect THEM from ME!
Last year, was the final strike for me. It started two years ago, when a physical fight between my mother and sister, in which I was again just trying to help, led to me being illegally and unlawfully arrested. The NYPD’s hatred of me, my intellect and my daring will to be bigger than what they can squash under their boot, plays so sadly into this abuse story, I feel so lost.
They NYPD hate me! Truly! Because I represent everything a Black, poor, project woman should not! Moreover, I am hands down, smarter than their smartest detective, and that just adds injury to insult.
So, every time the cops are called to my mother’s house, which is more times than are reasonably calculable, I am there to reinforce what the NYPD’s legal authority over the situation, truly is, versus what they use their badge and fake “power” to pretend it is. As you might guess, I’ve made myself a marked woman, in more ways than one.
So, in a story I’ll save for another time, I ended up arrested with a slew of charges that are so baffling, it makes you cringe at the thought of the true state of the American “justice” system. I lost my job, which though, was completely immoral and against company policy, was indefinite.
All in one year, I’d lost my child, my relationship, my job, my home (because I wasn’t going back to my mom’s house), my freedom and damn near, my sanity. It was a nightmare! One that sadly but truly, hasn’t gotten much better since.
Now last year, when I was dragged off to a mental ward, by the NYPD SWAT team, my brothers’ hands were so deep in it, I still cringe at the reality of things. They’d worked with the cops, to have me institutionalized. How you might ask? That’s also another story, for another day.
What I will say is, my older brother stood at the door, with damn near the entire downtown Manhattan police force waiting to violate my rights, freedom and life, complicitly begging me to open the door for them. He used his assumed solidarity with me, as a way to get me to open the door.
When I didn’t trust him, nor open the door, he turned on me. Later, after the SWAT team had kicked in the door and dragged me off, he told my mother that I got what I deserved, and it was my fault it happened. My younger brother, did him one better.
When the NYPD kicked in the door, he cursed me so bad, you were sure he was on the side of the officers. These are two dudes that have been arrested and jailed enough times, to know how messed up the NYPD is, and still, if it’s against Shaquana, they’d rather be with the enemy.
When I finally got out of the hospital, long before the 15 days hospital tried to commit me to, my younger brother attacked me. In midst of an argument between him and my mother (which by then, I’d learned to stay out of, for concern of my own safety), he walks away from her and their argument. Follows me into the back room, curses me out, and then just punches me dead in the face.
A fight ensued between us. In which, yet again, my mother and his girlfriend, tried to protect him from me. Leaving me wide open, for him to continually punch me in the face. After a while, I lost my senses. I threatened to kill him. I would kill him, so he could never come back and attack me again.
Him and my older brother, by now, were hell-bent on proving to me that I couldn’t beat them. That I was weaker than them. More importantly, that they were in charge of running my mother’s mental and her house, and if I continued to stand in the way, they would continue to attack me. There was no other way to win. To prove that I wasn’t going to be their fucking punching bag, for the rest of my life, if I continued to have a relationship with my mother.
So, it got into my mind, that the only way to end this for all, was to kill him. That way every man, who sought to ever put his hands on me again, would know better. Because he’d think about the one that didn’t make it, and consider whether his life was worth jeopardizing, just to appease his false sense of ego and control. In the end, God took reign, and I didn’t kill my younger brother.
Nonetheless, the sentiment was set. If you want to put your hands on Shaquana, be prepared to fucking die. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Until of course, I found myself pregnant. For some crazy reason, I thought that was the safe zone. That no man, assuming that people who identify as such, actually resonate the honor of being such, would put his hands on a pregnant person. I also thought, my abuse was exclusive to my brothers’. Boy! Was I wrong?!
Since March, when my cousin attacked me, I’ve been working on every way to get out of my mom’s house. Nothing has worked. Mostly because she prays hard, on my inability to do so. She’s conditioned herself to this life. And she can’t conceive of the idea, that I’ll leave her behind in it.
I’ve offered to rescue her and take her with me. But her actions prove, she doesn’t really wanna go. So, for months, I’ve been arguing with my mother about the smallest things. But in reality, underneath it all, we’re arguing about me leaving, even though she’s staying. I’ve somehow become, a horrible daughter, because I won’t continue to life in fear of my safety, and more importantly, my child’s safety, just to appease her.
The thing is, I’m not so much afraid of being hurt, as I am afraid of having to hurt someone else, so as to protect myself from being hurt. In such, I realized, I can’t save her. Only she can save her. But, she’s so messed up psychologically, she doesn’t know how. She may not even really believe, she needs saving.
The past month or so, has been especially bad. My older brother, coincidentally moved back into my mother’s house. I always know what that means. The first stage of the battering cycle has been in full effect, since then. The tension is so thick, you can cut it with a knife. And no matter, how stage two ensues, it will indefinitely include me, if I stayed.
His energy, is starkly dark and evil. And at the end of the day, this physical reality, as all are, is just a manifestation of the very real spiritual battle between God and Satan, good and evil, righteousness and wickedness. The wicked one hates me and my child. That’s no secret. And he’ll possess whomsoever is available, to get to me. It’s my job to wise up. For once and for all.
So, this past Sunday, a year anniversary since the start of the attack on my life, freedom and sanity, I knew I had to go. I felt it in my soul. The way Tina knew, she had to get the hell away from Ike, after that limo fight. She didn’t even go back and get her bags. She just left. I did similar. I only have one outfit, two pairs of underwear, a toothbrush, prenatal pills, my favorite blanket and my laptop.
When I was leaving, my mom said, “so you’re just gonna leave me?” Subtly acknowledging, that she felt the eerie tension, as well. But also, acknowledging that in some way or another, I am still expected to protect her, at 8 months pregnant.
You know, my sister used to have the same job, when she was pregnant with my niece. Protecting my mom from my little brother. And then, protecting her child, from both my brothers. I’m sure, though she never said it, that’s why she left when she did. If she was gonna be abused, it wouldn’t be at the hands of men she didn’t even choose to be in her life.
I feel like I’m on the run right now. I don’t know what to do. I have a friend, letting me stay with them for a few days, until I figure out my next move. And though, I hate to say it out loud to the world, I am sooooo scared. Perhaps, even petrified. I just don’t want anything to happen to my child. She deserves a fair shot to come into this world.
With the doctors refusing to acknowledge my growing belly as the truth of my pregnancy, it feels like she could be wiped off the face of the earth, and no one would even know. Like my last pregnancy. I just can’t bear the thought of that.
Every city agency, obviously working close with the police, hates my guts. From the hospitals that poisoned and tried to kill me last year, to the mental institution working to commit and drug me for a lifetime, to the housing authorities, welfare offices and whomever else denying me a right to any assistance or protection. So, no, a domestic violence shelter in this city, is not an option! Hell no!
Similar though, to the reasons listed above for why women stay, I am penniless. I have no money or job. I have no material security, to help buffer the struggle I am facing right now. Even if I had a job, I’d be worse off, than anything. How do you explain broken toes and black eyes to people at work?
Having set up my life for an independent career in writing, it only gets deeper. As a writer or entrepreneur, how could I meet with clients, with a black eye or broken toe? How can I develop myself professionally and successfully, in midst of the life I am living? How? This is the greatest catch 22, I’ve ever seen.
If it were not for the friend who is helping me, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I can’t go back to my mom’s house. Because I know what will happen. I feel it in my bones. And I refuse to go back, and be attacked, just to prove to people who didn’t want to listen to me, that this is true. I refuse.
I’ve noticed that, about telling one’s abuse story. It’s so difficult to believe, or rather digest, people insist on the ugliest of proof, like the Ray Rice video, or the Bill Cosby depositions, to acknowledge our truth. I need help right now. I really, really need a support system. Of some kind. But I won’t try to get help, at the cost of being hurt and abused again. Just to prove my story is true.
So, what do I do? What do I do, when my human right to feel safe, under God’s powerful, watching eye, becomes a privilege that I can not afford? What do I do?! For right now, all I can do is pray and have faith. God willing, this post will free me, rather than bring me more harm. Pray for me folks! Pray for Bayyina and I, both.