“As a television News Anchor and Reporter, I had covered countless stories about domestic violence and its detriment on victims and families. But, I never imagined my life would be devastated by the pain of a love gone wrong.
My aunt and uncle were visiting Memphis, Tennessee, for a charitable event. During their visit, they were invited to a local church. I accompanied them on the visit and would be introduced to a seemingly nice man who was outwardly quiet, yet, kind. We exchanged email addresses. After one exchange of messages, he revealed being divorced and was the father of a six-month-old son. He was highly educated, achieving his doctoral degree and working in education. Still, I didn’t want to wade into a potential pool of confusion that could come when involved with a relatively newly divorced person and such a young child. There was concern about the often unsettled issues that follow a broken marriage as well as possible issues settling into co-parenting. I was single and satisfied with my career. Although single, I wasn’t lonely. Therefore, a romantic relationship was never at the forefront of my mind nor a necessity. So, I ended any further communication with this otherwise eligible man. In my mind, he was not the person for me. However, he may be a great match for someone else.
Four years later, on an otherwise normal Friday, I received a message from the man which came from his work email address. It contained a message requesting help for a woman and had been sent to a list of local leaders as well as notable individuals. As a person who enjoyed helping others in need, I saw no harm in opening the message. Turns out, there was a virus attached to the message. Minutes later, the sender issued a response urging the recipients to not open the message. It was too late. I replied thanking him for the warning, but it had reached me too late. That message exchange started emails and eventually phone conversations that lasted 24 hours.
During those conversations, I learned he had accepted a job in Boston, Massachusetts. He would lead a high school as a ‘Headmaster.’ It was an exciting, yet sad, time as we both felt true love had been found but may be lost due to distance. But, we decided to at least give the relationship a try and communicate as much as possible. He proved himself to be kind, caring and loving as well as a great father to his son.
Over time, our love deepened. We became a team of sorts by working through the challenge of distance. Over the previous years, I had vowed to abstain from sexual relations and focus on my relationship with God. He expressed his understanding of my commitment to God and expressed a great desire to take the journey with me. We would spend the next seven months visiting each other every three weeks. Our love for each other grew deeper. We spent hours laughing and could never get enough of being together or even talking on the phone.
After a night of ice skating in Boston, my loving boyfriend proposed marriage to me. It was a cold, but beautiful, January night that seemed absolutely perfect. Eight months later, we were married. Everything seemed perfect and the prelude to a wonderful life full of love and happiness. We had a couple of disagreements like any couple. But, nothing seemed out of the ordinary or unusual until hours before saying ‘I do.’
Prior to the wedding, I had ordered a replica of his NCAA championship ring. He had lamented over having to sell his beloved ring to help pay fees associated with his previous divorce. He was proud of his achievements as a track runner at the University of Arkansas. I saw the sadness in his eyes due to making the choice to sell his ring in the past to make a better life for his future. After much research, I was able to find the company and purchase a replica. The ring was due to arrive on the eve of our wedding day. But, it had not arrived by the close of business. I was worried about the gift and had planned to present it that night during the rehearsal dinner. The wedding party, including my fiancé, went to the church for rehearsal but I was still a ‘no show.’ Suddenly, the skies darkened and rain became pouring heavily. My fiancé kept calling to find out my estimated arrival time at the rehearsal. I didn’t want to spoil the secret and was crypt about what was causing my delay that night. As the rain came down harder, so did the words he used to force me into getting to the church immediately. ‘You better get here now,’ he kept repeating. Then, he became irate. I had never heard him yell at me in this manner despite our past disagreements in the relationship. The forcefulness of his voice sent fear through me. It was a feeling I had never experienced while dating him. I started crying and then sobbing while a feeling of fear ripped through me. I was confused, hurt and afraid of a man who was always so loving.
I explained we were not getting married and the wedding was off. I hung up the phone and called two friends while sobbing uncontrollably while trying to explain the reason behind this decision. But, they reassured me that this was part of the pre-wedding jitters. Meanwhile, my fiancé kept calling and texting me to ‘please come to the church. I love you!’ After being peppered with ‘I love you so much’ and my friends confirming it was nervousness over the wedding, I went to the church and we made up. We exchanged gifts in the car before going inside the rehearsal dinner. Many guests had already eaten and left thinking I was not feeling well or busy making last minute preparations for the wedding. But, I put on a happy face for the remaining guests and went inside to show a united front. However, I still had a bad feeling in my gut.
About three weeks after the wedding, we achieved out first goal. We became pregnant. My husband felt we should start trying to start our family immediately. I wanted to wait a year before trying to get pregnant. But, he convinced me that God would reward our faithfulness and commitment to abstaining from sex during our courtship. Now, several pregnancy tests and my doctor’s diagnosis confirmed what my husband had prophesied. Due to being newly pregnant, my husband wanted me to move to Boston. He felt we should be a family. A bad relationship with my co-anchor at work was only getting worse. So, my husband felt that was a sign of the need for us to be together. At three months pregnant, filled with excitement and love, I packed up everything, focused on the great life ahead with my husband and the baby who was growing inside of me.
We arrived in Boston at the beginning of November. Less than 30 days later, we had our first marital disagreement. But, this was no ordinary lover’s quarrel. My husband got in my face and called me the ‘n-word.’ He hurdled around the word to degrade me which sent me into tears and the feeling of helplessness. ‘N*gga you ain’t nothing!’ ‘N*gga nobody wants you.’ ‘N*gga you can’t tell me what to do?’ The same feeling of hurt as well as fear from the night before our wedding reappeared. As he came closer to me, a panic arose and I jumped backward. It was as if he wanted to put his hands on me and my only option was to get out of his way. I went into our bedroom and packed my duffle bag. I left in a rush and sat in my car. After a few minutes, I called his Pastor who officiated our wedding. He explained that the first year was difficult and we needed to learn how to better communicate… I started driving around and called another friend. He informed me that this is not a ‘normal’ disagreement among a newlywed couple. He feared things could get worse. At that moment, he feared for me being out in a new city alone. So, I went to an area hotel and secured a room. I wasn’t sure of the length of my stay. I just needed a place to lay my head and relieve the fatigue due to the pregnancy.
The next day, after much needed sleep and discussions with friends, I decided to send a text message to my husband. He convinced me to share my location. I thought he would express some sense of regret. Instead, after arriving in my hotel room, he scolded me for leaving and further pressed how the argument was my fault. After what felt like hours, he returned to our apartment. I did the same later that day. It may have been the first time I left him. But, it wouldn’t be the last.
The months passed by with many highs and lows. I prayed for the good days to last longer and for the strength to tolerate the bad ones. Over time, his need to control became more obvious. I did not have a job and he encouraged me to continue being a stay at home wife while preparing to be mother. But, our home began to take on the feeling of a prison. Several times, I would get dressed only to realize my keys were gone from their usual spot. My inquiries about the keys would be met with, ‘Babe, I took them by accident.’ Since our apartment door locked automatically upon closing that meant I was confined to the apartment all day until he returned after work. The entrance into the apartment building was monitored by cameras that allowed residents to see who was entering and leaving the building. Upon using the apartment building, visitors would have to buzz via a keypad. My ex-husband had his cellphone number programmed to receive all of the notifications when visitors buzzed our apartment. That meant, I did not have the ability to order food or friends could not visit me, especially if he had my keys.
Over time, I became to settle into the marriage and accepted the position of ‘peace keeper.’ That meant making sure everything was perfect and avoiding any conflicts. But, that was not enough during my seventh month of pregnancy. A disagreement about my baby shower escalated into my husband pushing me. A heightened sense of fear rushed through me. He yelled, ‘go to the room! Get in there!’ Typically, when things got heated I rushed into the bedroom or my closet. Those were places of refuge and hiding until things calmed down. This time, I rushed into my closet and laid on the floor. I was in the fetal position and cradling my stomach. I whispered to my baby, ‘Mommy will always protect you. I’ll make this alright. We’re going to be okay.’ But, I was so lost, confused and hurt. I called my cousin Pokey who lived in Georgia. Pokey and I are the children of siblings and come from a huge family that shared a tight bond. No matter what happened, I knew Pokey was there for me. I explained what happened.
‘Get out of there immediately,’ Pokey told me.
After calming down, I called my friend Nicole. She agreed that I could come to her apartment on the other side of Boston. After packing my clothes and dog, Winston, I drove off in the dark not knowing if there would be any way to fix my marriage.
Over the next three days, I slept on Nicole’s sofa. During the day, while Nicole worked, her cat and my dog kept me company – but I missed my husband. I was so confused and spent hours crying. Like most victims, I returned, yet again, to my husband. I desperately wanted my marriage to work. Due to the lack of employment, and my dwindling savings account, I felt my only option was to go back to my husband and work hard toward making my husband happy.
The next couple of months were filled with anticipation of our son’s arrival in May. There were still arguments but nothing physical. Anger and fear were replaced with excitement and love for the little boy who was expected to bring us together and erase any pain in the relationship. That changed when our son was five weeks old.
On a beautiful June morning, my husband woke up and started cleaning in preparation for his mother’s arrival later that day. I did the same prior to my mother’s arrival. Now, he was doing the same but became visibly perplexed as to how to clean and what needed to be done in the apartment. I smiled and jokingly said, ‘oh so you’re cleaning?’ My husband rushed toward me and grabbed the lapel of my robe. He pulled me into him and said, ‘I’m sick of you!’ I tried to get away and kept asking, ‘what is wrong? Why are you doing this?’ He said, ‘I just want to kiss you.’ I was confused and the sense of fear rushed through me again as in the other times he became furious. Suddenly, he pushed me into the counter area of the kitchen. He started saying, ‘I hate you! I want a divorce!’ I started crying, ‘what did I do? What’s wrong?’ He pushed my head into the cabinets. The next 30 – 45 minutes were filled with me screaming for help and him yelling, ‘shut the f**k up!’ As I sobbed, he went on a tirade about what makes me a bad person. ‘Nobody likes you! Your family doesn’t like you! No one cares about you!’
Meanwhile, I continued screaming for help. He pinned me to the refrigerator and continued cursing at me and yelling reasons why I was not a good person. I started praying. The more I prayed, the louder he would yell, ‘nobody cares about you! You can pray all you want.’ The more he squeezed my neck, the more I went up on my toes in an effort to gain air. For some reason, it felt as if I could stand taller and get more air. Meanwhile, I looked over his shoulder at my five-week-old son who was in his infant swing moving from side to side. In my mind, like while hiding in the closet during past fights, I reassured my son that everything would be okay. This time, I looked at my son and silently reassured him and myself, ‘We will be okay.’ At that point, I heard a voice as clear as day say, ‘duck!’ My head went to the right side. My husband’s fist went into the door of the stainless steel refrigerator door. The force was so strong that his fist left an impression in the refrigerator. It became clear I was in trouble and yelling ‘help’ was not yielding any results. So, I started yelling what had been happening. I yelled, ‘why did you punch me?’ I also yelled, ‘why are you holding me against my will?’ My husband kept spitting with anger, ‘shut the f**k up!’ I never had to physically fight for my life. Therefore, I didn’t know how to get away from him. I started trying to knee him and push him away. My might could not match his strength. Due to intense weight lifting and exercise he was much bigger and was not moved by my effort to get away from him. In an effort to constrict my movement, he pulled me into his arms and squeezed tightly. He continued to hurl mean words at me. I couldn’t break free. Once again, I heard a voice out of nowhere. It said, ‘bite him!’ I locked my teeth into his right shoulder. He released me to due to pain. I ran to the bedroom and grabbed my cellphone. I hit the number assigned to my sister and went toward the living room to get my son. At that moment, there was beating on the apartment door, ‘open up! Police!’ Someone had heard my pleas for help!
My husband was arrested and charged with assault. Meanwhile, my sister and mother arrived in Boston the next morning. After four hours of packing and gathering as much as possible, we got on I-95 heading south toward Georgia. We were separated by thousands of miles, but the abuse didn’t end. It was revealed that my husband was cheating with a young woman in Memphis. She, my husband and his mother used social media to flaunt the relationship and spew negativity about me. This, coupled with his refusal to see the baby, caused emotional abuse.
I didn’t think there could be an additional layer of abuse. But, I was wrong. Upon finalizing our divorce, my soon-to-be ex-husband voluntarily terminated his rights to our son. That means, my son would not have a father. I would never receive child support to raise my son. According to my ex-husband’s attorney, he expressed the desire to have ‘little to no involvement’ with the little boy he so badly wanted to create and raise. This was the final punch to my stomach that sent me to my knees. By taking away child support, he was financially abusing me due to my inability to fully care for my son. That, along with learning that his mistress was pregnant with twin boys, felt as though his hands were still wrapped around my neck.
After a long period of grieving and fighting to reclaim my life, I have been able to gain footing in my life. The ability to live in peace and raise a wonderful little boy have been saving graces for me. Now, I use my platform as a journalist to turn my pain into purpose toward help others survive abuse.”
[If you need help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org to live chat with someone 24/7. Help is out there and you are not alone.]
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Dee Griffin of Georgia. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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