Photo by Maria Badasian on Unsplash
I got married when I was 17. By the time I was 21, my husband was killed in a motorcycle accident. A couple of months after my husband's death, I just wasn't feeling right. So I go to the doctor and my mom said, 'I think she might be pregnant.' And I said 'No...no.'
I was pregnant for my husband that passed away. So, immediately my father tells me 'How are you going to be able to raise a child without a husband?' That's just how they were raised. My momma's parents were married for 65 years. My dad's parents were married for 45, so we have like a really tight family on both sides.
That’s how I ended up reconnecting with Charles. We had been friends, starting in high school, for five years. He said, 'Oh, I always loved you. And I'll take care of him like he's my child.' So of course, at that time, I was already going through the motions and not feeling like myself, depressed about the situation. I would ask my first husband, 'How could you possibly leave me by myself to raise a child?' Like he actually knew he was leaving me to raise a child. That's how we got into the relationship. I was in--basically a mourning process. I tell people all the time when they say, 'Oh, it can't be me.' It could definitely be you. If the person catches you at the wrong time in your life, anything is possible. And that's basically what he did. He caught me at the wrong time in my life.
NSNC: And so did you guys end up getting married?
No because it's like, you know, you know how somebody is not good for you but you just don't want to accept defeat in a way. I already lost a husband so I can't lose a boyfriend too. And when I tell you he was absolutely a great stepparent when it came to taking care of my son. He was good. He was an excellent stepfather. He took him to school. He went to functions. I'm talkin' bout he was absolutely fantastic with him. So that was another reason why it was kind of hard for me to leave. And my son had actually--He was like his father figure. That's all he knew so he would call him Daddy.
NSNC: When you were friends with him, did you ever see any signs that maybe he was a little too aggressive or violent with other people?
You know what? It was at times but it was proposed to me, 'No, I'm just protective over people I love.' That's how he would phrase it to me. 'Oh no, I don't have anger problems it's just people who I care about. I don't want nothing to happen and I'm protective of them.’
And actually, he had a child and him and the child's mother separated. I'm the type of person where if I'm with someone, I can't see myself being with you and you’re raising my child, but you're not raising your own child. What's the first thing that they tell you? 'Oh, she crazy. She don't want me to see my child.’ But that wasn't the case. She wasn't crazy. He had beat her too.
NSNC: How long had you been in the relationship before the abuse began?
Well, it started off small. It started off where, you know, it was more verbal in the beginning. Like you know, 'Shut up.' or 'You don't need to be talking.' Or, let's just say if his friend-- That was one of the major things that prompted him. Because the attitude that I have, my personality, it attracts people. So he didn't want me talking to his friends. He didn't want me talking to his family. He did not want that. He would say things like, 'You don't need to be in that nigga face,' stuff like that.
I remember the first time that he ever hit me, like when I tell you it's like it was yesterday, it feels like it was yesterday.
I was in college and I came home because I went to college full time, but I also was working at Walmart full time. He would get my son from school, he would feed him, you know, take him wherever he needed to go, to a practice or what not. And one day I came home because at school that day it had rained and I had on a gray dress. That was another thing I could not wear colors. The only colors that I was permitted to wear were gray, and it had to be a dark shade gray, black, and navy. Those were the only colors because he didn't want any attention brought to me. So that day I went and I came home. I went Southern [University] at that time. Since it was raining, I went home and I was about to change clothes. But when I came in, Charles said, 'What are you here for?' So I was like, 'Well, I got wet.' And he was like, 'What do you mean you got wet?' I'm like, 'I got wet trying to get to the car.' So he was like, 'No, let me check your panties.'
NSNC: Oh my God!
And I was like, 'Wait, what?!' He was like, 'I know. I know you been with them niggas.' And I was like, 'Charles, what are you talking about?' And he was like, 'Oh, I know, I know. I know you been cheating.' I was like I'm not taking them off. I just walked past him. Now, at that time, we were staying with his grandmother so we could save our money until we can got an apartment. So I think that I'm just going to go in the bedroom and change clothes. No. When I go up in the bedroom, he tells his grandmother to watch my son. My son was in the front room.
All of a sudden Charles pushed me so hard, like he slid me across the floor. Now mind you, his grandmother is there. She hears. And I scream, I'm like, 'Charles, what are you doing?! What is wrong with you?' And I push him back. At that time, that's something I probably shouldn't have done. When I was growing up, my dad raised me like I was a little boy. He taught us how to fight. I knew how to do all of that but Charles was just super strong. And he was like, 'Oh, you gon' hit me?' And he punched me. But when he punched me, he punched me in my chest and I went down and I could not breathe. It's like literally knocking the wind out of you. So I'm just laying there and I'm crying. But I heard my son knocking on the door.
He called, 'Dad, Ma, Dad, Ma.' And Charles said, 'Go finish playing man, go finish playing.' Then he turned to me and said, 'What you gon do is go up in there and go take you a shower and then take your ass to work.' So I waited a few minutes til I was able to get back up. Because I didn't know how I could get punched in my chest and my whole body felt like it just-- it felt like everything else stopped working too. So I called my friend Tasha and I'm like 'Tasha,'-- And we have the type of friendship where we don't judge. But Tasha is hood. Tasha was like, 'No bitch we bout to come over there and we gon whip his ass.'
I was like, 'No Tasha, I made him mad. And I knew that the dress that I had on was kind of tight. And he didn't like it.' I basically made an excuse for him. So I go to work and I come back. When I come back home, he has a big teddy bear because I love teddy bears. He has a flower. He tells me, 'Oh babe I'm not going to ever do that again. I was just mad. I was mad about work.' He had an excuse.
NSNC: Did you believe him?
Did I believe him?...I think at that time I did because I guess I just, to me, I just needed a man in my son's life because my dad automatically felt, at that time, like if my son didn't have a man in his life, he was going to be gay. Because he would be around nothing but women, so he probably would be gay. So I was like, I don't want that. Like I tell people now, if my child is gay, I don't have a problem with it. But I want it to be something that he chooses, not something that is forced upon him. So, at that time I did believe him. I can say that, I did believe him.
NSNC: So how did things continue on after that?
Um, it pretty much got worse. It actually got worse once we moved away from my parents’ because I was basically isolated. It's not that he didn't care for my parents, but my friends and my family didn't like to be around him, so they wouldn't come and visit me. The only reason why I would really see my friend Tasha was because she stayed in the same apartment complex. And I remember the first time I went to go visit her, I had on all black. And he basically kept me in all black because he wanted to see if I had fibers because black shows everything. He would say, 'You can see nut stains on black.' Like, he was serious. I'm telling you, once I look back, I'm like I was really tripping! How did I not see the signs? But I remember the first time Tasha came and got me, she was like, 'I just got an apartment’ and she said, 'I want you to come over and you can talk to the lady so you can get you one.' And I was like, 'OK, I'm going to tell him.' She said, 'No, I didn't say for him to get him one.' She said, 'I said for you to get you one. Carla, you can do it by yourself.' Because she was a single parent at that time too and she said, 'We can help each other out.' And I was just like, 'I don't know about that, I don't know.'
In her apartment our two sons are playing with each other and he starts calling and calling and calling. 'Where you at? I know you with a nigga.' So I'm like 'Tasha, just take me back to the house.' She takes me back to the house. His grandmother is in the front and he's in the back. She says, 'Carla, just don't say nothing to him. I'm like, 'What are you talking about? I'm just walking in the house. So Charles comes and he gets my son because he was sleeping. He went and laid him in the bed.
I walked to the kitchen and when I'm in the kitchen and I'm like, 'Have you eaten yet?' When I tell you, all of a sudden out of nowhere he gut punches me. And I immediately fall. And the first thing I did was I called for the grandmother because I'm like, I know, I KNOW you hear this. She literally went in in her room and closed the door. She went in her room and she closed the door. And then he said, 'I see all of this stuff on you. So what you're going to do is, you're going to get in the bathtub.' His grandmother-- I don't know if she practiced voodoo, or if that's considered voodoo, but he made me sit in a tub with bleach, ammonia. It was something else. It was like a bunch of different things and I ended up--because I have sensitive skin-- breaking out. I ended up going to the hospital and get a shot because my body had started swelling up.
NSNC: Did the hospital ask what happened to you?
They did actually but I lied and I said, 'I don't know.' I lied and said I must have bought some bad body wash or something like that. I can't remember specifically but I did lie. What I do want to say is If it weren't for my friends and my family, I probably would still be in that situation because this was one of the last times they put me in an actual hospital.
I was hungry one night and I said I'm about to get something to eat. So he said, 'Well, my grandmother cooked.' And his grandmother was from the country so she cooked coon. I was like, 'I'm not eating that. I want just a hamburger or something like that.' So I said, let me go to Sonic. They had just built that Sonic so it was super slow. I'm not gon' lie to you, I was at Sonic for about an hour, literally waiting for food because they didn't have a lot of staff and then they had a promotion where you got something free.
So when I got back home, he was like, 'What took you so long?' And then by that time, I had started eating my food. And he said, 'Then you don't have any food.' I said, 'Well you can see it's clearly Sonic in the car. Stop tripping I'm about to go to bed.' 'Oh no, you not bout to go to bed.' He punched me and kept punching me in my stomach so hard. And whenever he hit me, he would make sure-- the only thing he allowed me to wear was pants. If I wore a dress, the dress had to be to my ankles. I could not wear anything even mid-calf. He was like, 'No.'
So he punched me in my stomach and I went down and blacked out.
They don't know if I hit my head on something. He called his grandmother, and his grandmother called EMS. EMS came to get me and I guess at that time, he must have contacted my mother, my father and my sister. They were at the hospital waiting by the time I got there. My mom and my dad were trying to figure out exactly why were the police there. They said 'At this time we are just trying to get her stable. So my mom was like, 'Stable? Wait, what happened?' He just told her that I passed out.
What happened was, he actually hit me so hard that he burst my appendix.
NSNC: Oh my God!
So I had to have emergency surgery. Not only did he burst my appendix, but he messed up my small and large intestines so they had to cut some of my small and my large intestine. While this was going on, the doctor got the police involved. Because when they took my clothes off of me, they saw all of the bruises. That's how everything came forward and they knew exactly what happened.
So the police came. At that time I was groggy. I do remember that I talked to them and they asked, 'Has he been beating on you?' And I was like, 'No, we get into it but....' They didn't allow my mom or my father or my sister to come back there. They took my son. They didn't take him away but he had to go talk to someone in Child Protection because they wanted to see if I was protecting him, to see if Charles was beating him but he wasn't. When I woke up, my mom was crying and my dad was just looking like, 'Carla, you come from a good life. My family, we're like a middle class family. They have money. I don't have money, I'm still working for mine. They were like, 'I don't understand why you felt like you had to put up with the stuff he was doing to you.' But I felt sorry for him because his mother had passed and he didn't really have a family and he always used to tell me that me and my son were his only family. His baby momma didn't let him see the kids. So that's how they play on your emotions the things that they know will touch your heart.
So the police ended up saying, 'You have to get a restraining order.' So I was like, 'Well I don't think that he'll do it again.' I still talk to this police officer to this day. And he said, 'Baby, you are gorgeous and I don't want to see you in a coffin.' When he said, 'I don't want to see you in a coffin,' I was like, 'So you think he would kill me?' He said, 'Baby, I need you to understand that most of the time when things happen, it's not intentional.' Most of the victims' homes that he goes to, he made a mistake. He accidentally pushed her too hard and the girl will knock her head. Or he gets upset and he shoots and kills her out of a fit of rage. So he said, 'I don't want you to do that. So I started going to counseling. I had to get the restraining order against him. When I got the restraining order, that's when things started coming back. He had stolen my checks out my purse. And I was in $7,000 worth of debt. Til this day, I still can't get checks. I have to use a debit or credit card. So after that, you would say 'Carla, I KNOW that you did not go back. I know that you did not let him back. And I did.
Read part two of Carla’s story here.