Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash
In the second part of Carla's story, she talks about the last time Charles hit her and how she got out of the abusive relationship for good. If you haven't, read the first part here.
This was the last time he hit me. He got upset because I did not come home by the time he thought I should have come home.
NSNC: So how long had you all been together by this time?
This was about four or five years.
So he got upset and said that I took too long to get home and I was out there doing something I had no business doing. When they first come back they always say, 'Oh, I've changed. I'm not going to put my hands on you.' And for months, I'm saying months, he literally didn't. He was sweet. We always went places and he was cordial. Everything was fine. But this...it just sent him over. So he was like, 'So you really think that you gon leave me for another nigga. I'm gon kill you.'
NSNC: Oh, he said it?
Oh yeah, he said it. He said 'I'm gon kill you.' So that's when he walked into the kitchen and the way the apartment was made, in order for me to get out of the house, I had to go past the kitchen. He went and got like a big butcher knife. And I was trying to run out the door when I was running out the door, it just so happened my child wasn't there. He was with my Mom, I think. When I was running out the door, he grabbed me by my head, pulled my hair and hit my head into the door. And I dropped.
He thought that I was unconscious. So he went to the back. I don't know what he was doing but while he was back there, I hurried up and unlocked the door. And I ran out and I ran to the lady who owned the apartment complex. I was beating on her door but they were closed so I ran to my friend Tasha's house. And she was not there either. By this time, he was out the door, he was screaming my name. And this is how I met one of my best friends, his name is Adrian. He stayed right next door to my best friend and he was like 'What's going on?' And I literally had blood just dripping down my face. Adrian was like, 'Did he beat you?!' He didn't even know me and Adrian got out that door--Adrian is gay-- so him and his boyfriend came out the door. They had a bat and they were going after him. But by that time, he had my keys to my Mustang. So he got in my car and drove off. This time I had to call my mom because she kept asking me, 'Carla are you still messing with him?' But I lied and told them no. So at this point, I have to tell them the truth, like, 'Momma, Charles stole my car.' And also while we were out there, he was coming toward me, he was throwing knives. That's why Adrian and his boyfriend had the bat.
So I called the police. The police was like, 'You know, you were supposed to have a restraining order against him.' Charles calls me while the police are there and tells me, 'I know you love your car, so I'm about to drive your car off the bridge and I'm going to kill myself too. And I hope you don't get any sleep because you're the reason why I'm dead. I don't have my family any more.' So the police asked him where he was. They ended up getting the phone information. They tracked him. But he didn't do anything to the car. He just left the car up there. My dad found out. He said, 'Carla, I don't know what's wrong with you. We're going to put you in counseling. So I ended up going back to counseling. My dad said, ' But if you go back to him, I'm gon kill you!' He said, 'You need to understand and know your worth. I don't know what you're going through.'
But just like I tell people all the time, your parents put stuff in you and they don't understand the importance of the things you feed your child. Because that's something I got from him, 'You need a man to fill that void.' Because you can't raise a son. Which is not true. I have a lot of friends, who are single parents, who raised children. But that's the way that they knew because they grew up in what is considered, in their time, a traditional home. So that was something he created and planted that seed in me. It was years later that my dad and I had the conversation about it.
But Charles ended up going to jail. He went to jail for about two or three years.
And that was basically the end. I ended up meeting my now husband. And it took a long time because I tell women all the time, you know, it's hard for you to trust a man after another man has done the things that that man has done. But you still have to open yourself up to love and understand that there is somebody out there who is going to love you. Now, that individual that comes in, they're going to have to be strong. Because in the back of your head-- it has been over 16 years since I got abused--but those wounds are still there. Like, if me and my husband are arguing and if he gets too loud, I'll jump. And he's like, 'What? You know I'm not gon hit you. What is your problem?' Or I'll have a flashback, and I'll wonder, 'Is it going to get to the point where he would hit me?' And he would never hit me.
And that's another thing that I tell people, once you get out of a domestic situation, you need to also let the person know that you were in one. So they can understand how they need to handle you. I'm not a person where you can rough house with me because I take it as you're really trying to be rough with me. So I don't play like that. In my relationship with my husband, we've never played or pulled on each other. We don't do that because he knows where I've been. So a woman would need to tell that person.
I talk about domestic violence a lot and I am vocal about it only because I know there are so many women who don't speak on it and it's happening. And I tell the young girls when I go, in October, to schools, I ended up finding out that I was pregnant for him after he busted my head.
Yes! And I ended up getting an abortion. I talked to the lady at Walmart-- because I had been at Walmart for a long time and-- actually my manager paid for my abortion.
She said, 'Carla, if you keep this baby, he is forever in your life. And that's not something that you want.' She said, 'You have a very bright future ahead of you. You left him alone. I understand your religious beliefs but you really need to consider what this is going to cause and the riff it's going to cause in your life.' And that was the hardest part to tell. I told my sister first. That hardest part was to tell my parents that I was pregnant for him. So we went through that and I also tell young girls, 'Yes, I did have an abortion because I did not want him attached to me.'
I saw him for the first time, in fifteen years. I think last year. And it's so crazy, we literally--both of us live in Baton Rouge or I'll assume he still resides in Baton Rouge. And I was in the store, I was grabbing something to eat for my little godchild. And I walked in and I saw him. And even though he hadn't put his hands on me in fifteen years, that fear still set in.
And he was trying to talk to me. I was like, 'No!'
And I walked out the store. And I immediately called my husband. And I'm crying and I'm hyperventilating. And he's like, 'What is wrong with you?' And I was like, 'I just saw Charles.' He was like, 'Where you at?' I was like, 'No, I left.' He said, 'No, where are you so I can make sure that he didn't follow you or something like that.' So I ended up meeting him somewhere. And he was like, ' You OK. You good. He not bout to mess with you.' But it's just like it's still in you. Even though, all of those years later, the sight of that person will still incite a little fear in you. Especially since it had been so long. You don't forget about them but you just kind of forget that they exist, like out of sight, out of mind. That's what it was for me.
NSNC: Like seeing a ghost or something.
Right, right. Basically, it was.
NSNC: I know you were really concerned about your son not having a father figure. How did your son take, I guess, the breakup between you and Charles? And what did you tell him about it? Did he see any of the abuse?
He never saw the abuse. The CPS worker asked him, 'Did you see mommy get hit? Did you see Daddy hit Mommy? And he said no. He was upset, but at that time, I ended up moving back with my parents. So he had that father figure in my father. So he was able to rear him. And my dad said, 'This is what we should have done from the beginning instead of telling you that [you needed to find a man to raise your son.]' So he accepts that some of the stuff he said was wrong. He said, 'I should have just said from the beginning, just stay at home and we're going to help you.' And that's his child now. My son still resides with my mother and my father. He comes to the house with my husband and my daughter but he's mostly a maw maw and paw paw boy.
NSNC: What lessons did you learn about yourself after you got out of the relationship?
I had Daddy issues that I did not know I had. I did. And it was probably more so because of the way my dad raised me. Me and my sister are eleven years apart. And he put a rift between my sister and I, when it came to the way we were raised. When my parents had my sister, they were just beginning and they didn't have a lot of money. So by the time they had me, they were established. So they were able to splurge on me. I got my first car when I was 15-years-old. I was driving a Mustang. So I was a spoiled brat. And my dad put those seeds in my head, 'You need a man.' And that's not necessarily true. You can survive very well in life. You can be a successful woman and be single. You don't have to be attached to a man to make you valid or to make you whole. And I think that's one of the things that I did not understand, I thought my worth was attached to a person that I was with.
And once you see that you can stand alone--because it did come to a point where--before I got remarried-- I did end up moving by myself and I lived fine. All my bills were paid. And car. Went out and had fun. Once I saw that that was something you can absolutely do by yourself. So that's one of the major lessons that I learned.
Another thing I Iearned is to pay attention to people. I'm more cautious of my friends. I listen to tone in voice. I pay attention to body language. So I pay attention more to people and I also don't take stuff out on people as much as I used to. I take into consideration-- like if I go somewhere, let's just say I go to a store and the lady has a bad attitude. Nine times out of ten, it's something that happened at home and she's gone to work. And that's not something that she's intentionally trying to do. Somebody might have made her upset. The kids might have made her upset. You have to have a little bit more sympathy, empathy for people and understanding what a person goes through and not just considering yourself.
NSNC: We were talking about how it takes time for someone new to come in after you've been in the abusive relationship. How is, how is that process? How does someone go about getting to know you after you've been through something so traumatic?
Like I say, I think the first step is going to be honesty with the person. You need to let them know. And I think a lot of people are ashamed of the situation. Back then when I started dating, I was having flashbacks. I still had nightmares that he was trying to kill me. It was a lot. It's a lot for another person to deal with. Me and my husband, we did go to counseling together because he really wanted to know how can I make her more at ease being around her and her not fearing that I'm going to do something to her.
And another thing that can happen, I've seen it and I've talked to other women who have been abused, they become abusers.
So I myself, I had a boyfriend before my husband and I used to hit him. And he was like, 'What is wrong with you?' But it would just be a reaction. Like I'm going to get you before you get me. So a lot of times, the person who was abused becomes the abuser because that's what they know and that's what they're accustomed to. So you also have to be mindful of that too. Women do abuse men.
NSNC: You mentioned that you speak to young girls about domestic violence. When did you feel comfortable sharing your story with people outside of your family and friends?
It probably started around 2010.
NSNC: What influenced that decision to start sharing?
My daughter started growing up.
NSNC: Mm Hmm.
So once you have a daughter, that's your worst fear. Because it happened to me so why is my child not exempt from it. And also, I started working with Child Protection as well. And once you see how these young girls are not being shown love at home, so when they get to school, and the little boys say, 'Oh you're cute.' They let him touch on them. And if the little boy doesn't get what he wants. he'll start putting his hands on her. And the little boy is putting his hands on her because nine times out of ten, his mother is getting beat in front of him. So that's an action that he learned. So it's like a repetitive cycle. What I wanted to do was stop the cycle.
Another thing, I also tell young men, is if you see another young man put his hands on a girl, you have to say something. Say, 'Bruh, what are you doing? That's a girl!'
Nine times out of ten, if a man will put his hands on a woman, he will not fight a man.
NSNC: Yup. Yup.
NSNC: Did you have any conversations with your son about domestic violence or anything like that afterward?
I took him to see a therapist because I wanted him to go to therapy and see if he had blocked out anything. But the therapist said, 'I really think that he didn't remember him. But I did eventually tell him and he asked, 'Why did you go through that?' I was like, 'Well, you know, on one hand I felt that you needed a male figure around you. That's something that Paw Paw also said.' And he was like, 'I would have just been happy with you.' And I think that's another thing. As parents we don't understand that sometimes we want more for a child than what they're actually seeking.
NSNC: There are a lot of domestic violence stories in the news. Every once in a while there's some proof that comes out and then people always have these big conversations about domestic violence and people always say things like, 'Oh, well, why didn't you...? Why didn't she leave sooner? Or why did she stay?' 'We don't know what happened...' What would you say to people who have those types of questions?
And I get that a lot. In Baton Rouge, our domestic violence rates have increased dramatically. They've actually tripled. And it's always a single mother. It's always somebody that has three or more kids. The thing I tell people about 'Why?' Is because the person feels like they're ashamed. They feel like you're going to judge them. That's in the Bible, you're not supposed to judge people.
I have so many young girls and women in my DMs who say, 'Carla, how did you get out?' I had family and I had friends. But what's so scary about today is that families are not like they used to be, so you're less likely to divulge that information. Even though that information is private, you want somebody to help you and to listen to you. And with most domestic violence victims, the first time you tell them to get out, they're not going to listen. They're not. Most of the time, it does take something drastic.
There's a lady who was shot by her boyfriend in the bathtub, while her children were there. And now she is paralyzed from the neck down. And she told me that that was not her first time he hit her. But she was just scared. But she said she had nobody. And I said, 'What do you mean you had nobody?' She said, 'I literally had nobody. My mom is deceased.' It's all because they literally don't have anyone.
And the way the system's set up, it's crazy. Me and my sister went to drop off some clothes to the battered women's shelter. And when we drove up, we saw the kids playing outside. So I say, 'Can you do me a favor? May I speak with the director, please?' So the director came. And I said, 'Can I ask you a question? This is a battered women's shelter, correct?' He said, 'Yes.' I said, 'These are women who are hiding or are supposed to be hiding from the people that are abusing them. Why would you have the children this accessible to a person? You all don't know us. Why would you just have the children right in the front?'
Well, the first thing that they said was, 'Well, the state cut funding.' So they're not able to have them separated. Like they used to. So a lot of it is legislation that needs to be passed. I did go down and speak two years ago, so now we have harsher laws. They used to just get fined at first. But now they have to take domestic violence classes. They have to pay a fine to the victim and they also have to take anger management and go see a therapist. So it's something that everyone has to participate in.
It's so easy to say, it couldn't be me. If the person catches you at the wrong time in your life, it could be you.
NSNC: My mother was really adamant about talking to us about the signs, what type of things to look out for because my grandfather was physically abusive to my grandmother for a lot of their marriage so my mom has two daughters, so she was very adamant, you know, hoping that we wouldn't have to experience that type of thing. So one of the things I would hear growing up from her and a lot of other women is 'If he hits you once, he'll hit you again.' I wonder though, you're talking about therapy, anger management. Do you think it's possible for someone, an abuser to be reformed? Is it possible for them to stop abusing their partner?
I feel that anything is possible. However, I think it's also something that doesn't happen immediately. Like I told you that with Charles, we were separated for a couple of months and he lied and said he changed. That's not possible to get that out of you because when a person is abusing you, it's more underlying issues than them just wanting to hit you. It's stuff from childhood and stuff that they've seen, it's things that they've experienced. So, a person can do anything that they want to do if they set their mind to it. Would I just go back to a person that beat me? No. And they may be genuine in it, but I just feel like if I see that sign, that's not something that I would get back into. I do believe people can be reformed but... like with the Chris Brown situation, it's a lot of things that go behind that. If you are using drugs and alcohol. Chris Brown has Dad issues. It's a lot of stuff that comes with a person who abuses. You have to look at the situation in its entirety. So I would tell a woman, I wouldn't wait for that to happen. Because that wait could possibly be you in the coffin.
I need women to start coming together and supporting one another because it's a lot of girlfriends that talk to each other and hear that they're being abused and not say, 'Listen sis. We have to get a plan.' You have to have that person who has your back. And it's so heartbreaking because a lot of the women who are in my DMs, they literally have nobody. One girl is from the states and she's being abused and she's in Canada. And Canada doesn't have domestic violence places where she can go. I think about her all the time. I always DM her back, like, 'Are you ok? How are things going?' You have to make sure that you frame it right because you never know if he has her phone. And I tell her that whatever we discuss, you need to delete it out because that could be the thing that sends him over.
Nowadays men are not leaving you. Back in the day, they would beat your ass and that would be it. But nowadays, they are killing you. And a lot of it is from the anger that they have. A lot of men didn't have fathers, so they don't know how to treat a woman. And it takes years for you to heal. So you have to be mindful of everything. Don't jump into relationships. You need to know that person, you need to know their background. Take your time, get to know that man. Get around his family. Pay attention. A person is a reflection of the friends that they're around. Listen to the conversations that he has. When I was dating, I would always create scenarios. 'What would you do if your friend called you and told you he beat his girlfriend? You need to know his character. If he's like, 'Well what she did?' That's the wrong answer. You need to run. Run, sis. The answer you need is, 'There's no reason that a man should put his hands on you.'
If I could just touch one person, I'll feel like I've completed something.