When Prince Charming Turns Out to Be Violent, Yes, You Can Walk Away
Moving to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams was one of the biggest, scariest, coolest decisions I ever made. In just one year I’ve worked with Kelly Rowland and Common, built friendships with designers and celebrity stylists, made connections with other celebrities, and met inspiring and motivated young people. I work at DOPE, a street wear brand, and I’m a cast member of the reality show Welcome to Fairfax. But just a few years ago I was involved in a violent and dark relationship that few people knew about.
I never thought I’d end up in a relationship involving domestic violence. I knew my mother experienced it while she was with my dad, and I told myself I wouldn’t let it happen to me. But domestic violence sneaks up on you, and before you know it you’re depressed, you don’t talk to people, and you start to question yourself and what you deserve.
My boyfriend was good at first. You know what I mean—the sweet little stuff after a fight, the showing you off, the protectiveness, the love. That soon turned into constant arguing and yelling. Name-calling and saying cruel things that neither one of us had any business saying. But sometimes he made me feel special and important. He needed me, you know?
I told myself it wasn’t really that bad. And I was sure this stuff happened to everyone. That’s what people always say—everyone argues. Also, I was in a vulnerable state after my stepdad passed away and my real dad moved back to Ohio. My guard was down, and I wanted to feel beautiful and needed.
My boyfriend and I shared a lot of friends, and we had a lot in common. We both danced and loved fashion, and neither of us had a father figure. As we got more serious, he became jealous. If I wanted to see, talk to, or hang out with a friend, I was automatically cheating, lying, or being a ho.
Because of things he would say and do, I became very insecure. When your self-confidence is down, it’s easy to be flattered by or confuse controlling behavior with caring. There were the times he broke something, put a hole through a door or window, or sat on top of me and yelled. He would yank me out of bed by my foot or throw me against a wall. There were the times he wouldn’t let me leave or had me jumped in a club. He even went so far as to contact my friends and family members to complain about me.
I felt isolated, unhappy, and emotional. I lost interest in everything, and I lied to my family and friends about what was going on. I wanted things to be better. I wanted to be what he needed and help him, and I felt like I was failing.
It took me a long time to walk away. There was no one class, friend, parent, movie, song, or fight that helped me leave. But I remember taking a flight, and safety instructions we so often ignore about the oxygen masks stuck out to me. The flight attendants always tell you that if you are with a child or loved one, put your mask on first and then assist the person you’re with. It got to the point where it was either save my boyfriend or me, and I chose myself. I needed to put my mask on first. I finally realized my staying in the relationship wasn’t helping me, and I couldn’t help him get better either.
Now it’s been more than two years since I ended the relationship. When I talk to people about what I went through, I try to tell them what I learned, what I felt, and what I wish I had known back then. I find a common and comfortable place for them to express themselves if they need to talk.
I’m speaking up because I want others to know there are people who will listen, and who have experienced domestic or dating violence. More people than you think—men, women, boys, and girls—go through these violent situations. So many instances of dating violence go unreported, and too many of us feel guilty or bad for even talking about what happened.
Abuse doesn’t have to land you in the emergency room to be something you need to walk away from. You might be thinking you’re in that one relationship affected by domestic violence that will get better. But there is a much bigger chance that you’re not and things will not change. They didn’t for me.
We have to talk about it. Open the closed door. Until we break the silence, the abuse can continue. And for far too many, there’s no happy ending.