Leaving isn’t that simple

I told you so.

Some relish taunting others with those four words, holding them over a person’s head like a morsel of food just out of a starving dog’s leaping reach.

Their cruelty grates, so I will not say them.

Deep down, I wished for all the world that my line of thinking was wrong.

While society tends to swallow lie after lie on the Internet or in a news industry that has little to do with true journalism anymore and still is so naive as to believe in the good of men, I became a cynic at such a young age because I learned early on of the evil for which these same men are capable.

Know what’s even worse? When you know the truth and still do nothing about it, instead opting to sweep all that evil under a rug like it doesn’t exist.

That’s what the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens and even the Atlantic County prosecutor’s office did to domestic violence victim Janay Palmer Rice.

Every last one of them failed her in varying degrees.

I don’t care that she married former Ravens running back Ray Rice and continues to defend a pathetic excuse of a man who beats her, I don’t care about the color of her skin because domestic violence doesn’t discriminate against a human being’s race or ethnicity and I don’t care about money or lack thereof because NONE of those things make abuse OK.

This latest case involving Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson “allegedly” beating his 4-year-old son with a switch or tree branch or whatever you want to call it 10 to 15 times, to use his words — probably more because he admitted he doesn’t keep count when he administers “whoopings” to his kids — and possibly using an extension cord on him in another instance just drives home the point I’m trying to make about abuse in its many forms.

An abuser has the kind of controlling hold over a victim that you couldn’t possibly even begin to understand or imagine in your worst nightmares unless you experienced it firsthand and believe me, I wouldn’t wish that hellish experience on my worst enemy.

They control all aspects of the victims’ lives, from money all the way down to, say, the clothes they wear every day. It’s like walking through a minefield, all the while knowing that they’re going to set their abusers off no matter what they say or do … or don’t say or do.

It takes unimaginable courage to break the cycle and leave. Many never do. It requires money, support and, yes, even planning to go along with that courage.

And, perhaps most of all, it not only requires SOMEONE, ANYONE to believe you — to believe IN you — but for YOU to believe in yourself.

Although we don’t know about every facet of Janay Palmer Rice’s life, I can try to help you better understand from a victim’s standpoint by telling you about parts of mine.

As a child, I couldn’t just up and leave because there was nowhere else for me TO go. I was trapped, like Peterson’s little boy. We didn’t have any power or control over our abusers, just like Janay Palmer Rice doesn’t have any over hers.

No one believed me, or believed in me after my young stepmother — who always has loved me as if I were her own but couldn’t legally adopt me or handle the financial burden of both my younger half brother and I because my father made sure she couldn’t — finally had enough and left him when I was 7… until a man named Billy Wright came along when I was 13 years old.

Billy was my biological father’s partner from 1985-91, and when he came to live with us, I finally had another champion who did his best to shield me from my abuser. He was the loving dad my father should have been, but never was to me.

Still, it took me 21 years and three days to finally walk away from my father for keeps on April 30, 1992.

My father stopped slapping me around and beating me on my bare legs with his belt after chasing me out of the house on my 12th birthday when we were living in the Philippines in 1983. I ran straight to a friend’s house, where I stayed for three days until I called to tell my father I was sorry for, well, existing.

You see, I was always sorry. He made damn sure of it.

I was sorry for being born, I was sorry for being an unwanted burden, I was sorry I wasn’t smart like him, I was sorry he thought I was fat and ugly, and I was most sorry for trying and failing miserably to earn the love that he should have given me freely as my father but never did.

And he held it all over my head, like that starving dog leaping for that morsel of food just out of its reach.

It was all a game to him, and I was just another pawn to be used.

I had to earn my keep from an early age, doing all the housework when I was 7 years old up until the time I left for good. When I wasn’t doing that, I was scrounging for food from our neighbors since all we ever seemed to have in the house was an endless supply of his booze and cigarettes.

And when he wasn’t making my life miserable, he was always fighting with my older brother. It was a constant war zone in our house, but that was the norm.

It took me a long time before I figured out that there was nothing normal about my home life.

Things were no better outside of it, either.

The kids at school made fun of me, bullied me, ostracized me. All I ever sought was some basic human kindness, and I couldn’t even get that in the world outside my home.

I had no voice, and I was cut off from the support system my stepmother had always been to me.

I was alone. ALL alone.

And I wanted to die, even tried to kill myself with a butter knife when I was 7.

Laugh all you want, but I was hellbent on going through with it. The only thing that inadvertently saved me that day was when my older brother accidentally discharged my father’s shotgun in the bedroom next to the bathroom, where I had holed up with the butter knife pointed at my chest trying to go through with it as I sat against the door.

Instead, I emerged from the bathroom to discover that the gun had fired because my father left the safety off.

Funny how things work out sometimes, huh?

From that point onward, I went into survival mode and always tried to laugh off the pain that was my everyday life.

There were those who called me a “savage” because I didn’t know any other way to be after my father dumped my older brother and I off at a children’s home in Alabama for 16 months when I was 9, so I sank deeper into myself. There still was another who used to enjoy chanting “you ain’t got no friends” to me every single day on the school bus several years later and got a bunch of the other kids to join in on the fun he had at my expense.

I was an easy target because I was a loner who wore threadbare, outdated, hand-me-down clothes, so I found ways to steer clear of the playground and cafeteria because I never had money for lunch or much food at home to make my own, anyway, until Billy came into the picture. I always hid out in the bathroom or the library to read in middle school and the band room in high school. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I actually came out of my shell and mustered up enough guts to sit with a table of friends at lunch.

I eventually learned to hide the hurt behind the “savage” the other kids at the children’s home had deemed me, but every cruel word and action cut me all the way to my soul.

I also learned not to show any weakness to a father who thrived on ripping my self-esteem to shreds and to rely only on myself as the years went by and he eventually ran Billy off when their relationship went into the crapper because nothing ever was quite good enough to keep the old bastard happy for long.

Unless he was making fun of me. And boy, was he ever a pro at that.

The shit of it was that no one ever saw anything wrong with that, except Billy and I.

Eventually, it was through the kindness of two roommates that I was able to get out of there. They moved out of our condo at the end of the month, that April in 1992, and told me they weren’t going to leave me at his mercy.

So I left with them, and that was that.

Victims very seldom get happy endings, though.

All I’m asking is that you don’t pass judgment on them for staying when leaving isn’t as simple as you may think.


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