“Hey, yo I don’t even know you and I hate you
See all I know is that my girlfriend used to date you
How would you feel if she held you down and raped you?
Tried and tried, but she never could escape you…”-Eve
Doonk-dada-doonk-dada-doonk-doonk. It was an early Saturday morning in 2001, and my Nokia phone was going off. It was Raquel.
“Morning lady. Listen can you ride out with me to Tisha and Mac’s place real quick?”
I sighed, knowing why Raquel probably needed me to go with her. Tisha lived with her boyfriend Mac, and had for some time. Mas was incredibly possessive and jealous when it came to Tisha. It got to the point where Tisha dreaded the feel of men’s eyes on her in public, as Mac would blame her and rage about men finding her attractive. The men who gawked at Tisha would never know the price Tisha would pay later behind closed doors. Mac was emotionally and verbally abusive to her, accusing her of infidelity. Tisha would pack her things and leave the apartment. Raquel was often the one Tisha called first, as I didn’t drive.
“Yes I can come with you”, I replied”, I’ll start getting dressed now. Within forty-five minutes Raquel and I arrived at Tisha and Mac’s place. Tisha opened the door, her eyes red and wet.
“I don’t want to talk about it”, she said as we trailed her in her robe. “I just want to get out of here before he gets back, okay?” We nodded and helped her finish gathering her things. Later that day Tisha would confess that she left because she was scared it would turn physical this time. That morning Mac had thrown a boot at her head and directed a number of racial epithets towards her. Lines were crossed. I was sad and angry for Tisha. There was nothing she’d done to warrant this treatment! I was glad that she got away from him. However that joy was short-lived. Mac would show up within a week, begging for forgiveness and promising never to talk to and treat her that way again. Tisha went back to him, entering into the cycle.
In discussions on domestic and violence I often hear people ask some variant of the following: well how did she end up with him in the first place? What did she see in him? Why do these women date abusers? I was asked that in my FB inbox yesterday by a male friend. It took everything in me to refrain from snapping. I know that he meant no harm, but questions like that reveal a certain naiveté in my opinion. It’s not as if abusers come with a red warning sticker plastered on their foreheads. When he approaches you for the first time-hell even for the first few months-he isn’t going to shake your hand and say: Why hello there! I am the man struggling with various feelings of weakness, inadequacy and rage of my own who will eventually take them all out on you! I am going to slowly isolate you from your friends and family. But first I will break you down psychologically to the point you feel worthless and blame yourself for my behavior. By the time I put my hands on you, you won’t have the mental fortitude needed to escape me. I will regularly slap you, choke you, punch you, injure you. I may attempt to take your life and even succeed in that. But more about that later. Let’s do dinner and a movie! When first dating you always meet the ‘representative’, not the real. That person comes out later.
I met ‘David’-or rather his representative- in May 2001. My friend Raquel had been raving to me about this wonderful guy she was seeing for weeks, and was eager for me to meet him. I was happy that Raquel met someone she clicked with, but there were a few things about his resume that bothered me. He was significantly older than us-eight years to be exact. He also had no job and lived at home with his Mama. I was fully on that Bougie Black girl flow, so I side-eyed any grown man who was David’s age and still dependent. But hey I wasn’t the one dating him; if Raquel liked it I loved it. Raquel drove over to my place with David and the three of us went to Baskin & Robbins to get ice cream and talk. I sized him up. I didn’t see any major red flags. David was very jovial and easygoing. He was also a fast-talker, which did push me to pay close attention to his words. I remember looking down and noticing that he was wearing sweatpants that were also high waters. Who the hell still wears sweats, and when did highwaters become acceptable? And what is up with his hair? Why is he rocking that fitted over his uneven afro? I was taken aback at David’s appearance, as I was used to seeing Raquel with very clean-cut, well-dressed young men.
In the years to come I would look back to that first meeting, crying and agonizing over my inability to see what David really was. Raquel brought him to me to look him over and get my opinion, and I failed her. Why didn’t I sense it? Even now I wish I’d known what he would do to my friend. I wish I’d known how far he would knock Raquel off her trajectory. I wish I’d known the eight years of hell that were to come, that I could have warned her and saved her from that ordeal. But truth be told: I was hiding an ordeal of my own at the time. There was no way for me to save Raquel when I lacked the ability to even face what happened to me.