A Leap of Faith: One Woman Opens Up About Surviving an Abusive Relationship

by Anna Gibson

Jessica is 29 years old and currently lives in Detroit, Michigan. She currently takes care of two beautiful and energetic sons, Quadir and Jibril. Jessica is also a survivor of intimate partner violence, where threats, coercion, and physical violence were the norm.

Intimate partner violence—also called domestic violence—is an issue that has gained momentum over the years, especially in the Black community. Thousands of women are killed yearly in domestic disputes. In a 2013 report from the Violence Policy Center, 264 women out of 1,509 victims were shot and killed by either a spouse or partner. Compared to women of other backgrounds, Black women are at an even greater risk of being involved in an abusive relationship. According to the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, African American women account for almost one-third of all domestic violence homicides.

However, these relationships rarely begin this way. According to Jessica, there weren’t any red flags in the beginning of her relationship. Yet, hindsight is always 20/20. “At first they (your partner) can seem like the most charming people in the world. So much so that you overlook the little controlling things...”

When we think of domestic violence, more often than not, we think of physical abuse. We may imagine a man angrily putting hands on a woman, or a woman with bruises all over her face. However, abuse is far more nuanced than that. According to Women Against Abuse, domestic violence can take a number of different forms, including sexual, technological, emotional, and financial.

For Jessica, this was especially true. She recounts a number of ways her significant other began to exert control over her: “If I wanted to explore and do things with my friends, he would say it wasn’t a good idea… If he felt like I was getting too close to them, he would try to tear the relationship apart. He would make up some excuse, claiming that my friends were trying to sleep with him or whatever else he wanted to lie about.”

For domestic violence victims, these small red flags are often overlooked until they become blatant. For Jessica, this often meant her life was in danger. Her partner began to issue verbal threats against her life. She says, “He was a dope man. He said if I ever left him, he would kill me… I believed him. I’ve seen him pour gasoline on people and set them on fire. He would shoot people in broad daylight when they were coming out of their houses. One time, when I tried to leave him, he threw a Molotov cocktail into my car, while I was in the store.”

Like most domestic violence situations, the relationship quickly took a turn towards the deadly. Shortly after this incident, he was sent to jail for good.

“The only reason we ended up leaving each other [is because] he almost killed me. That night, my friend and I were sitting in the car waiting to go out to an event. He was mad that I wouldn’t let him go with me. I pulled off thinking nothing of it. When I got back, he was dressed in all black, came outside, and shot up the car. By the grace of God, I got out of that situation alive, but my friend didn’t make it,” Jessica recounted.

Many women feel afraid to leave their relationship. This is because their abuser will use whatever means they have at their disposal to keep them financially and emotionally dependent.
Jessica expressed why she thinks many women in her situation stay with violent partners: “There’s so much fear involved. Some black women are ashamed to tell people that their partner is hitting them… She might be scared of being broke. Sometimes your partner will keep you broke or spend all your money. Sometimes you’ll stay because of your children. You have to keep in mind, even though your child will grow up without a father, you don’t want them growing up seeing that.”

However, through the pain, there’s hope. As Jessica explains, there’s always a way out. “When I first left him, I didn’t have two pennies to my name. I had absolutely nothing but the clothes on my back. Sometimes you have to start from there and just take a leap of faith. If you don’t have money see if someone can help you. Sometimes you may not want to go to family, but in this day and age you can reach out to someone even over the Internet.”

Finally, Jessica had a few words of wisdom about recovery from the trauma. “I was really affected by everything that happened. I was so young and I didn’t really know how to express myself back then. I was forced to go to counseling by the judge during [my ex-partner’s] hearing. The judge had to go to a 30-minute recess. He said I was arrogant and that I had so much anger inside of me, I didn’t even understand the magnitude.”

Ultimately, the therapy helped her work through her trauma and heal herself in such a way that she was able to cope with her anger more productively.

“I’ve been going up until last year, and it’s helped me tremendously. Black people need therapy, especially after a situation like that. The answer isn’t in alcohol, it isn’t in weed… It’s in counseling.”

Vibrant, gifted women die everyday due to intimate partner violence. In the Black community, this issue can be exacerbated by our shame around seeking help, and the brokenness we experience in the context of an abusive relationship. However, we have to heal ourselves. By doing this, we can empower other women to free themselves of abusive situations and recover from the trauma they’ve had to endure.

If you would like to find help, here are some resources:
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, you can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-787-3224.

Photo: Shutterstock

Anna Gibson is a student at Wayne State University and freelance writer who seeks to illuminate the stories of the marginalized. If you think she’s a wonderful human being (as you should) you can reach her @TheRealSankofa on Twitter or on Facebook where she’s totally not hiding under the name Anna Gibson.

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