I have been a Domestic Violence Survivor since as far back as I can remember. My case is not a typical one that you hear about at support groups. Husbands, boyfriends and significant others are usually the first persons who come to mind as batterers. In this case, my batterer is my own family member. My brother has been abusing me for years. By the time I was nine years old, my brother assumed the role of father figure and disciplinarian, which meant constant intimidation and verbal threats as well as physical beatings for disobeying.
Growing up in my family, I had no control over my environment. My mother worked unpredictable hours as a housekeeper, hospital aide, and hotel worker in various hotels. I spent my childhood back and forth between homes. My grandmother took me on weekdays so I could attend school in her neighborhood and I returned to my mother on weekends. Weekdays at my grandmothers provided no relief either since she was no angel either, instigating every chance she got or disciplining me with physical punishment that included being hog-tied without clothing on the bed and beaten with an extension cord or beaten for not saying my prayers correctly with a 4x4 piece of wood. With my brother, there was never an escape from fear or abuse as he had the run of the households, as if he was the man of the house. He was often brutal.
None of my family members had completed junior high school, so I became the family facilitator. They had me fill our all their documents, keep bank records, manage deposits and handle their private affairs. I felt as if I lost my own identity and when people would ask for my social security number, I would start to recite other family member’s identities. My family had me believing that I was their pawn and would never become anything without them or attain independent housing, a job or my own money.
My recent unhappy experience with domestic violence had me running back to my family and reinforced that I would never become anything without them. Even so, despite their promises to help care for my 8-year-old son while I finish earning my college degree and provide financial assistance and shelter, I was unable to depend on them for babysitting or any kind of help. They would disappear instead of babysitting when I was supposed to be in school. They urged me to drop out and enroll at a later date. My brother took my money for school and claimed that he needed it to pay bills and used if for drugs instead. His viciousness knew no limits when he pulled a knife on my grandmother and threw me down the stairs, dislocating my shoulder and spraining my ankle, throwing me against the wall when he claimed I was still in his way. It’s no wonder that I had no self-esteem, migraine headaches, stomach complaints, dramatic weight loss, chronic problems sleeping, crying spells and constant anxiety. When he entered the room, I would cringe. My household was always tense, unpredictable and chaotic and there was not safety with my brother’s crack use and unpredictable violent moods. Although I tried to go my separate way, the tension would always build up again and the intimidation and beatings would return.
Finally, I had the courage to stand up to my brother and he hit me for the last time. I declared I had enough. For the first time, my brother hit me in front of my son. My son began screaming and crying, begging my brother to stop. I tried calling the police and he smashed my cell phone, threatening to call them first and report me. He grabbed my son, who continued screaming until the police arrived and urged me to leave the household. Despite my family’s anger, I filed a report at the precinct and spent the next two weeks sleeping in a stairwell with my son. With no place to turn, a friend urged me to call 1-800-621-HOPE, the DV hotline and was placed immediately in the shelter system.
If awarded the HELP Survivors Scholarship, I am asked how I would use the money to overcome the many complications and obstacles I face as a result of domestic violence. These obstacles included being homeless, having no support in obtaining higher education, or building a career and a better life for my son and myself.
When I was eleven years old, in spite of my violent and chaotic home life, I became involved in Double Dutch Competition as a result of my gymnastics training. My group toured Eastern United States earning money and first and second place awards in the National Competition and appearing on television on the Joan Lunden show and Sesame Street.
I have also completed 45 college credits and maintained a 3.0 cumulative average until my family’s support became more and more unreliable, when it declined. My career goal has been to get into a psychology-related field by becoming involved in law enforcement and ultimately forensic psychology. My plan of action includes joining the NYPD or the Hartford, CT Police Department, complete my education with their grants and scholarship money. Having applied to both departments, I am on a waiting list for the Hartford Program and have been invited to an Orientation for the NYPD Cadet Program in October.
As a single mother who is now homeless and cannot count on any family support, I would use the scholarship money to ensure that I can provide safe housing (with a good school district) for my son and myself, a stable home environment, and the opportunity to pursue my career goal so that, unlike my family, I do not have to spend a lifetime living from paycheck to paycheck.
As an advocate to end domestic violence, my efforts begin in my own home working to ensure that my son grows up in a safe environment to end the cycle of family violence. It is important for him to learn that there are other ways than violence to resolve conflict and disagreement. On a broader level, through my work as a member of a police department, I hope to work in a domestic violence unit. Ultimately, in forensic work, I hope to be involved in a way that helps prevent violence. As a survivor, I could also be a spokesperson, working in tandem with domestic violence units in ways that will further our ability to reach out to other victims.