There is a high school across the street from my daughter’s elementary school and most days, we’re on the elevator coming up from the train with those students. (So we’re talking about young ladies and guys who are maybe 15-19 years old.) This morning, we were waiting for the elevator and this young lady was leaning on this guy trying to give him a hug. He then says, “Man, get the f— off of me” and pushes her away. She tried again and he pushed her away again. She pushed him in his head, said something and then she turned to walk away, but he grabbed her arm and said to her with a smile, “You know I don’t like you in my face like that. Give me a kiss.” And she did. I don’t know the young lady and I may or may not recognize her if I ever saw her again. If I had a chance to write her a letter, this is what I would say:
You and me don’t know each other, but I saw something that I recognize all too well in you today. What happened with you and that guy was not okay. You disrespected each other at the very least and I do not know how long you have known him or have been involved with him, you two are in an abusive relationship, whether you realize it or not. I know you may think it was not a big deal and it is probably a part of your everyday relationship with him, but that is how it starts. Have enough respect for yourself to walk away from that and get the help that you need while praying he does the same.
You are probably thinking who I am or better yet, who do I think I am. I am someone’s mother, sister, daughter, aunt, niece and friend, and I grateful to be here to say that. At an early age, I witnessed someone in an abusive relationship. This person was being abused physically, mentally and emotionally and I can remember it clearly as if it happened yesterday. I used to tell myself that I would never allow myself to be treated in that manner by anyone. My freshman year of high school, I had my first boyfriend and we were together for two years. For the most part, our relationship was good. We had that typical teenage, cutesy kind of relationship, but we would argue occasionally and I would hit him. He never hit me, ever, but one day he became so angry that he hit something else and it set off the fire alarm in the school. He was upset that I had hit him, but in my mind I was thinking, “I’ll hurt you before you could ever hurt me.” I had promised myself that I would never allow someone to hurt me as I had witnessed someone else being hurt yet I did not understand that I had taken on some of that abuser’s actions as my own. During my senior year of high school, I met a guy who was a well-known dj and he was helping me with some journalism work that I was interested in. Things started out simple enough, but then we started spending more time together and were soon dating. By the time I graduated, I was seeing him pretty much daily and it was not long before he started showing me his darker side. He was extremely jealous and possessive and the verbal and emotional abuse soon surfaced. I was 17 and he was much older than me, so in that sad kind of way that most girls who grew up without a father reach out, I was somewhat looking to him for something. It was common for him to have get-togethers at his house and there was one in particular that I’ll never forget. An up-and-coming rap group was in his basement recording and I had gone down there looking for him, but he was not down there. As I was walking back up the steps, I literally bumped into him and off top, he began accusing me of “flirting” with the guys. One of my best friends was there with me and before I knew it, he had grabbed my arm and taken me into his bedroom where we continued to argue over his accusation. My best friend walked in as this guy was grabbing me and laying me across his lap, slapping my backside hard. HARD. I was screaming and he tried to make it as if we were playing around, so my best friend laughed and walked out. But he turned to me and said, “Don’t embarrass me again’ before walking out of the room. I’m very light skinned and that bruise was there for a long time. So was the memory of that interaction, but I continued to see him nonetheless. Our relationship continued until one night where he snapped on me in a club. Again, he was a dj so while I was under the legal age requirement to get into the club, he would get me and my friends in. Me and one of my girlfriends went to this club where he had a set. When we saw each other, he greeted me with a hug and a kiss and then we sat and listened to the music. A guy spoke to me briefly and kept it moving. No big deal in a club setting right? My girl wanted to walk around so we did and I walked past my boyfriend, who had his back to me, and thumped him on his ear. He turned around, saw me and immediately grabbed my wrist while pushing me back into a corner. I had stepped out of one of my shoes and he was yelling at me that he would “break my f’in neck” if I ever put my hands on him again. He was saying some other things before two of his friends came out of nowhere and literally pulled him off of me. There was one guy who he hung out with and we did not care much for each other, but that night I watched that guy jumped out of that dj booth quick and grab my boyfriend off of me. Had he not done so I don’t know what would have happened next. My girl was in shock because she had turned her head for a second. We immediately got out of there and he called me for days nonstop, but I left him alone. Unfortunately,not long after that,I walked into another situation that was not any better. At all. My next boyfriend started off the same way that my previous boyfriend had. Only a week or so before we met, he had been arrested for 3rd degree assault and violation of a court order. I read about the charges in my local newspaper and when I asked him about it, he gave me his version which satisfied me and we continued on. This guy was a sweetheart in the beginning and he was a lot of fun to be with. Life of the party, cool dude, cutie. We had a good time together. I soon became pregnant and all hell broke loose. The verbal and emotional abuse came first and it was horrible. Horrible. He would say the most vile things to me and I would often come right back at him with my own unladylike words. Then we would literally kiss and make up. He too was extremely possessive and jealous and we would physically fight a lot. Then we would make up, so much so that those around us did not pay much attention when we would claim to be done with the relationship. I knew that he had some issues (and I certainly had my own), but I felt that he needed me. In his own manipulative way, he was able to convince me that everyone walked away from him and in my attempt to show him that I was different, I stayed. He claimed to love me, but his actions said otherwise. One night, he tried to push me from a moving car. Another night, he called me 80 times – yes, 80 – in a matter of hours before calling my mother and asking her to pass along an extremely disrespect message to me since I refused to take his calls. Then there was the time when I was at a party at his fraternity’s “house”. I saw him when me and my friends walked in, but I bypassed him without saying a word although he asked if he could talk to me for a minute. Not long after, I was standing inside talking to someone when he walked up to me, picked me up and took me outside. Cute right? He must have loved me because he was doing all of this. Or so I thought, which is where a lot of young ladies go wrong in these relationships. A few years later, I was in my apartment at 2am on the telephone with my girl as we listened to him outside my door screaming and kicking it. Did I call the police? No, because I did not want to see him arrested. I just wanted him to go away and eventually he did, but the calls were nonstop. After that, I was done dealing with him. Even though I talked about two different guys, I was pretty much dating the same guy. See, I had to get professional help to understand why I was behaving in the way which I was and why I was attracting the type of guys that I was in order to be able to move forward and seek a healthy, happy relationship. If I had not gotten the help that I needed, I may not be here today because it would have gotten worse.
I only saw you for a few minutes, but what I saw was cause for concern. It is never okay to put your hands on someone else and when you pushed him in his head, anything could have happened. Even the smallest man, when angry, can find enough strength to inflict serious pain. What you did and what he said is not good conflict resolution. And it certainly is not love. You do not have a healthy relationship and at this rate, you never will. You are still young and God willing, you still have much life to live, but you should want better for yourself than what I saw today. You should desire to be respected and you also have to give respect. I do not know what type of friends and family you have, but I would hope that someone close to you would share with you the same words that I am. Not to mention, you should always conduct yourself as a lady. Part of being a lady is how you conduct yourself in public and being seen fighting and cursing is not ladylike at all. Do not disrespect yourself or allow anyone else to and if you need help, do not hesitate to seek it.
We all know that often children repeat behavior that they see – be it good behavior or bad behavior. Those children then grow up to be adults who will most likely repeat that pattern of behavior because it is what they know. Domestic violence is a very serious issue and unfortunately, more and more young people are getting involved in abusive relationships because they do not think it is the problem which it is. There are signs which should not be ignored and when they surface, we have to take action whether it is to help ourselves or someone else.
The following organizations are a few that can help:
In hindsight, I wish I had said something to that young lady, but I had my daughter in tow and that would not have been an age-appropriate conversation to have with her present. I only pray someone is able to see what I saw and reaches out to her.