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October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Part III

Trigger Warning: This post is about sexual abuse and domestic violence. If these topics upset you or you don’t feel comfortable reading about these topics, please do not continue.


Things moved very quickly; I didn’t know how real love worked, so, even though there was an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, I somehow felt charmed and taken by him. He started visiting a lot. He told me horror stories about abuse – how an ex threw a pan at his head, how his stepdad stabbed him with a pencil. He told me how he felt uncomfortable living with his roommate because he had recently started shooting up heroin.

I felt sorry for him when he said his roommate kicked him out because he didn’t support his friend’s habit. This guy seemed sweet, kind, funny. Listening to him tell stories felt like a stand-up act in the beginning because he was such a fantastic storyteller.

I was, for lack of a better word, enchanted.

He texted me asking me who I was with or what I was doing. He felt clingy, and for once, it felt nice to be the one being clung to, instead of the clingy one. We quickly started dating. Things happened so fast – in a matter of days. Slowly, the clinginess devolved into possessiveness and jealousy.

He no longer asked who I was with, but instead he demanded to know who I was spending my time with. He felt he couldn’t trust me. He told me he was scared I would cheat on him. He told me he loved me a few days in. I trusted him; I could have sworn I saw absolute sincerity in his eyes.

We had moved in with each other soon (too soon), and he worked at a restaurant, I worked at a pharmacy. Things were fine. My best friend came over and had dinner with us. Things were good.

Then, we had our first real argument.

He screamed at me and called me names. Then, he tore open the front door in a blind rage and stormed out. I followed after him. He stood at the top of the stairwell, I scrambled a couple of steps below him, trying to block him from leaving. In a flash, I was tumbling down the stairs. I curled into a tight ball as I fell and smashed into the wall near the front door of my apartment complex.

He told me that I had fallen. That I had lost my balance and fallen backwards. Later, I remembered he pushed me. I sobbed from the pain, stood up, and looked behind me. The drywall was smashed into a perfect dent from the impact of my body colliding into it. I hobbled up the stairs, and that was that.

That was the first time.

Person in Blue Denim Jeans

Any time he got mad from then on, he used my head as his punching bag. I was a feisty girl, so I’d fight back verbally, sparring with him with my words. He began to isolate me from my friends and family, forbidding me from going anywhere without him except work. Eventually, my moxie weakened. I’d flinch at seeing his curled fist. The sound of glass shattering made me wince.

One night, I did something to upset him, and he threw a glass bottle at my head. It shattered against the picture frame behind me. I spent days brushing the glass shards out of my hair.

Another night, I asked him to clean the dessert plates for me because we were having company over. I was busy cleaning house – dusting and vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, getting the house in order. He ended up cornering me against the closet door and throwing glass dessert dishes at me until they were all broken.

But intermittently, he’d shower me with love. He’d make me biscuits and crispy bacon. We’d dance together in the kitchen. He’d make me laugh. He’d cook for me and bring me flowers and jewelry.

He’d shower me with drawings he made me. Then, in a heated rage, he would confetti the drawings and make his sketches rain down above me, laughing as I frantically scrambled to scoop the pieces of art up.

He gave me gifts, then broke them. I’d go to work and he had ransacked my apartment one day because I refused to give him a key. When I relented and gave him the key, my apartment was totaled.

For months, I lived this way. He’d punch holes in the walls and the doors. He’d scream, force sex upon me, put razor blades to my throat, call me awful names, stalk me at my job, frighten me with suicide and murder comments, and more.

Man Hand Oppressing a Hand of a Woman on the Wall

Finally, I was tired of living in fear.

I had tried to leave before, but it wasn’t easy when it was my apartment he was living in. It wasn’t easy when he was controlling where my money went and only allowed me a paltry allowance of my paycheck.

One December night, he was out with friends, and something in me snapped, and I told myself I needed to get out, regardless of the consequences.

The night before he had choked me, and according to a peer-reviewed journal article by Nancy Glass, PhD*, “women who were the victims of completed or attempted homicide were far more likely to have a history of strangulation compared to the abused control women.” I knew the facts: I knew abusers who had escalated from strangulation moved onto homicide or attempted homicide.

I locked myself in my bathroom, told him not to come home, and texted my parents, begging them to come get me.

Shockingly, it worked. The threat of the police being waiting there for him scared him off, and I haven’t seen him since.

Caveat

I know I make this sound disarmingly simple, and there are a lot of details I do not choose to include in this part of my story. I don’t describe the attempted escapes, the nights down by the train tracks where I was scared we were both going to die, the drugs, etc. etc. I don’t even describe how I got out of this situation in great depth.

This is, by no means, a prescriptive essay; this is me giving a broad overview of my experience with domestic violence. It capitalizes on a few experiences but does not explain the nuances or describe the aftermath – I do not talk about the nightmares or the extreme vigilance or the physical side effects. This isn’t the full scope of what can happen in an intimate partner violence-based relationship.

That being said, I will tell you what one of my counselors said when I called a hotline that went a long way with me. She said, “What a lot of people fail to understand is it is a relationship; it still has its ups and downs. He is not a monster. He is a flawed human being, and you are trying to love him, but love should not hurt. He might be loving you the best he can, but that might not be the love you deserve.”

This meant so much to me. It is easy to paint abusers as monsters, but hose of us who have loved an abuser know that they are deeply pained human beings. There would be times I’d look at him when he was sleeping, and I’d see a little boy – a hurt, sad little boy who was lashing out because he was scared.

Thank you for reading my story. Be sure to keep checking back – I will be posting resources later this month and a few more poems.

*Glass N, Laughon K, Campbell J, et al. Non-fatal strangulation is an important risk factor for homicide of women. J Emerg Med. 2008;35(3):329-335. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2007.02.065

Grieving

I will be postponing my series for Spooky Sundays and only the scheduled posts about domestic violence awareness will be posted.

Yesterday, I lost someone who was like a father to me. I’m still processing the loss. I’m going to take a break from my blog and social media for the time being.

I’ll write more when I’m able.

Thank you for your understanding.

Ps: He would want me to share with y’all that my short story “We’re Not Salem Here” is being published and I’ve been hired as a ghost writer for a novel.

Spooky Sundays: Interview With Patricia Stover

For the next few Sundays, I will be interviewing horror authors to celebrate my favorite holiday – Halloween. My first interview is with the author, Patricia Stover.

Patricia Stover is a Horror author from southern Oklahoma. Her works have been published with Scout Media Books and Music, The Horror Zine,  and in the anthology Café Macabre II. Her work ranges anywhere from short stories to novelettes and poetry. As an 80s kid, Stover was raised on horror. She spent late nights watching horror movies and series like Goosebumps, Tales from The Crypt, A Nightmare on Elm Street, anything with Elvira or Vincent Price and basically every cheesy 80s horror flick ever made. You can find her work at www.patriciastover.com or you can follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorjkenedy


Open Photo

I am not a horror author. I’ve only written a couple of pieces that could be considered horror, so I have to know – what scares you? What genuinely terrifies you?

In all honesty, a lot of things. This is why I write horror. There is no one answer. Especially with the past couple of years we’ve had. I’ve learned so much about the people around me. I think that thinking you know someone and then finding out that they aren’t who you really thought they are, that is really scary. People are scary. The way we treat each other is terrifying. Oh, and spiders. Screw those guys.

Who are some of your favorite horror directors?

You know what? I should probably pay better attention to what directors that I like. But I am not much of a snob when it comes to horror movies. This is a bit embarrassing to say, but I grew up in the 80s and I absolutely adore cheesy horror. I love slasher films and I love Y.A. horror films like Monster Squad. I have the DVD and I rewatch it and my Elvira Mistress of the Dark movie, over and over. I love The Lost Boys and Halloween. But some of the newer things I have enjoyed, some shows and movies – Midnight Mass. Boy, did that resonate with me. Growing up in a small town, that really hits home. I don’t get time to watch horror movies like I’d like because nobody else in my house likes them. So I have to sort of isolate myself to watch them.

Do you listen to music as you write? If so, what artists/genre of music and how does it influence your writing? If not, does the silence ever scare you since you write horror?

You know, I have a hard time with distraction. I like my silence. But I have never really tried writing to music. I might give it a try some time though. Who knows? Maybe it will inspire me.

Who are some of your greatest influences, and what about them influences you to write in the direction you write?

Growing up, I read a lot of King and Stine. You can definitely see that in some of my works. I love to write young characters. I think they are the most fun. Kids are so honest and brave compared to adult characters. But I always loved King for his complex characters. Each time I start a story, I try to start with the character. I think if I can write a deep character that people can really relate to, one that is not perfect, that has their flaws, that is what gets readers hooked. Because we all have our flaws. We are imperfect and we want to know that other people are too. We want to feel less alone in this crazy world. That is what books give us. Not just something to entertain us, but characters who help us feel less alone. 

“We are imperfect, and we want to know that other people are too. We want to feel less alone in this crazy world. That is what books give us.”

Patricia Stover, Horror author

 Paperback, hardback, or eBook?

Paperback or hardback. I don’t have a kindle or tablet or whatever. I grew up in the pre-internet era. I remember when computers first started to be a thing. Cellphones were the size of bricks and if you had a car-phone you must be rich. Plus, there is nothing like the feel of a vintage paperback in your hands. I love the old covers.

No photo description available.
One of the thrift horror books Patricia has acquired.

What got you into writing horror? How were you sucked into this macabre world?

I’ve always loved horror. I started watching horror way before I was even old enough to be watching it. I grew up watching Tales From the Crypt late at night and old VHS tapes like Night of the Living Dead and A Nightmare on Elm Street at my grandparents house with my cousins. I would be absolutely terrified, covering my eyes at the scary parts then begging my parents to sleep with them.

But I always came back for more. It was that thrill of being frightened, I guess. As for the writing part, I didn’t discover my talent for writing prose until college. I dabbled a bit with poetry and such in school, but I never really tried writing stories until college.

I was in my mid twenties and had taken my first creative writing course. My teacher was this quirky woman with loud outfits who encouraged me in my writing. I’ll always be thankful to her for that. I knew when she assigned a two page screenplay and I was like seven pages in and still not even near finished. I just knew I was meant to do this writing thing. I loved it. The thrill of inventing characters and creating the stories that had always been living inside my head. I had always had a wild imagination.

I daydreamed a lot as a child. But I had never known what to do with it. I just thought I was weird. So, I never told anybody about the daydreams and went on about life. It was amazing to finally find a blank page to put these dreams on. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me to write them down before that moment. Growing up, my school never really encouraged the arts. It was a small town and everything revolved around football and other sports.

How do your family and friends react to things you write?

I think my mom is proud, no matter what I do. But with everyone else, we don’t really talk about it. My son likes it though. Every time I order a book and it comes in the mail, he’ll ask, “Are you in that one too?” If I say no, he gets this disappointed look on his face. It’s too cute. I love that he is my biggest supporter.


Any reader who heads over to Patricia Stover’s Website and signs up for her mailing list, gets a free copy of “A Haunting of Words“, an anthology that features her story!

Phobia: What are You Afraid of?

You know what’s scary?

You haven’t bought a copy of Phobia! yet. Yes, you. What are you waiting for? It’s spooky season! You can buy an autographedcopy directly from me or go to my Works page and buy a copy from Amazon.

Either way, wouldn’t you like to be frightened this Halloween? What are you scared of? Maybe it’s murderous ventriloquist dolls. Perhaps it’s of heights or closed-in spaces.

Or maybe you’re like one of the several characters in my story, “Something Beyond”, who write to my main character because they’re scared of dying.

What are you waiting for?

October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Part II

Trigger Warning: This post is about sexual abuse and domestic violence. If these topics upset you or you don’t feel comfortable reading about these topics, please do not continue.

His flashing eyes and the bridge of his nose were exposed; he had a black bandana wrapped around his mouth like a bandit. He wore a pair of tight cigarette jeans and a thin cotton tee. He tossed ropes of fire around his head, his eyes glittering mischievously. Later, he told me that when he first saw me, his concentration shattered, and he burnt his hair. He blew plumes of fire. His kisses would later taste of kerosene.

I don’t know what it was about him, but I was hopelessly addicted to him when I first saw him. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. As he strolled past me, his lean, lanky body called out to me. I grabbed him, and the words poured out of me. I told him about my brother’s wedding and made up some story about how maybe he could perform with his fire poi at the wedding.

He grinned at me, scribbled down his name and phone number on the back of a business card, and inside of the small hookah lounge my best friend and I were, he sat down with his friends. I went back to my drink and my best friend, but every once and a while, I found myself stealing glances at him.

Sitting only a few feet from him, I sent him a text message. I giggled as I watched him read it. Then, I went back to my falafel and drink.

That night, when I got home, drunk on mixed drinks and the high of giving the cute performer my number, I grinned when he sent me text message after text message. We texted all night until I fell asleep, my phone battery drained.


I was just getting settled into my new apartment, unpacking, when my phone buzzed. It was him. The fire performer I had met last night. He texted me insistently that night. At the time, I thought it was cute. Now, I know better: he was love-bombing. I had low self esteem, so his relentless compliments and begging me to let him see me felt like flattery.

I had just gotten out of a relationship, and though it ended amicably, my heart hurt from it. This cute guy was interested in me; it was very obvious. My best friend was at my place, helping me with my boxes, and she encouraged me to invite him over. At her insistence and with the assistance of a cerveza, I suggested he stop by.

My best friend and I took a break from unpacking boxes when he arrived. We sat on the new, used couch I had bought, he slumped on the floor, his back against the couch. We chatted for hours, laughing like we had known each other for years. Each time I went into the kitchen for more cerveza, my best friend would whisper into my ear, “He’s so cute.”

Neither of us knew any better.

To be continued.

Spooky Sundays: a Series for October

All month long, in addition to doing my series of blog posts about domestic violence, I will be devoting Sundays to Spooky Sundays. I will be featuring four authors of horror stories: Patricia Stover, Kristen Holder, Donise Sheppard, and David Rosenblum.

Sometimes, I will include a horror/spooky prompt as well to encourage your creativity.

Hope you enjoy!

October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Part I

The poem “Leftovers” and beginning to share my story.

Leftovers

I was the blank canvas
you scribbled upon.

This was meant to be
beautiful;
you made it profane.

Pinpricks of stars struck
through a black velvet scrim.

(They sung hollow in my skull –
sparking, sizzling like live wires,
the kind they always warn you
to avoid.)

Your veins laced with poison,
the only thing poisoning me
was your love.

I thought I meant more than this,
tossed upon a soiled mattress
like a pile of rubbish.

All the while, writing desperate poetry
with my tongue.
I just wanted to write something

that would please you.
(Will any of this ever
please you?)

All these avenues I’ve ventured,
yet you’re the one who lingers.

I’ve always been a glutton
for punishment
(I suppose).

You’ve inflicted the greatest damage of all,
yet you’re too blind to face what remains.

Check later to read more of my story, hear more of my poems, learn some of the statistics, and discover resources.

New Beginnings: Part V

Part V of my short story New Beginnings. Part I is here, Part II here, Part III here, and finally, Part IV here. We left off with a roar of thunder and our narrator leaving home and everything she knew for Montreal.


Eric grabbed my arm, digging his nails into my jacket. I glanced down at his fingers and raised an eyebrow wordlessly. He chuckled. “Sorry. Storms make me a little leery, especially when I’m traveling.” I did not speak because I knew before it got better, it would get worse, but how could I tell a stranger that?

I chewed on my fingernail, scraping the black polish off with my teeth and trying my best to remain calm. Maybe it’s just a pop-up thunderstorm, I told myself, these things happen. That’s when the whispering began swirling around in my mind. The voices that haunted me every step of leaving home from pulling my duffle bag out of our closet to paying for the bus ticket. I couldn’t discern what they were saying, but from the way my heart was pounding in my chest, I could tell they were displeased.

“Do you believe in spirits?” I asked him.

“Like ghosts?” he asked, wrinkling his nose.

“Yeah, sure,” I muttered, “something like that.”

He looked around, then admitted, “Yeah, I do. Veronica swore up and down there was a ghost in the cellar of our old place. I never went down there, but she told me sometimes, when she was doing laundry… I don’t know how to explain it, but she said she didn’t feel alone.”

“Fool,” the voice hissed in my ear.

I shuddered.

“You think you can run,” it continued, “but you are dumb, girl.”

I remembered what my psychologist had said about grounding myself. I took a deep breath, feeling the air whoosh through my lungs. It wasn’t a spirit, I tried telling myself, it was a shattered part of my psyche.

But that thought wasn’t reassuring.

As I boarded the bus to Montreal, I could sense that, as well as Eric, my ghosts would be my traveling companions, try as I might to escape them.

Falling vs. Flying: just a matter of vision

Sam Diellor Luani, indie post-modern author, brought up how perspective colors whether you believe you are flying or falling – that depending on where you are in the atmosphere, your perspective could be completely different.

What a marvelous concept.

Lately, I seem to vacillate between believing I am floundering or flourishing. I go through these extreme poles of thinking. I have had a difficult past couple of days, but if you read my last blog entry, “Flourishing”, you would see that I was thinking of how far I would get. How different things would be.

I don’t want to inflate my blog with false promises, nor do I want this blog to become a diary, but I think sometimes, like Sam Diellor Luani stated it’s difficult to tell if you’re falling or flying.

I have said before I understand how Icarus felt – the sensation of soaring close to the sun only to plummet to the depths of the sea. But what if it wasn’t falling but just flying in a different way? Perhaps it is all variant, depending on where you are in the atmosphere.

I’m determined. I’m determined to see success, even if initially it feels as though I’m falling into an ocean after my wax-and-feather wings began to melt.

Flourishing

"if they woke at their wake
they might not recognize that woman
in the front making all that noise."

-from “waiting on you to die so I can be myself”, Danez Smith.

For so many years, I’ve figuratively tossed and turned the idea of displaying my authentic self to the public. For too long, I have feared what people would think of me. During my childhood, I was raised to be a people-pleaser. Any time I showed my real self, I was shunned, teased, laughed at, or stifled.

As I grew older, I found partners who I changed myself for, whether it was the metalhead who liked it when I spiked my pixie cut with gel and wore black boots with mini skirts or the stoner who didn’t care what I wore as long as I smoked a joint with him and wore the hemp chokers he made me.

A few years ago, I met someone who encouraged me to be the realest version of myself. He told me what he saw in me and encouraged me to chase that idealized version of myself – the artist with paint on her hands and lyrics on her soul, the girl with eyes bright and sparkling. He encouraged all aspects of me: my screaming emotions, my fiery passions, poet, artist, tarot card reader, whoever I wanted to be.

He taught me to accept myself. To treat myself like I treat my best friends. “To delight the dreamers when they see you,” he had said.

I have learned about surrounding yourself with people who love the authentic you. That’s how you will be successful, regardless of what’s in your bank account or what’s written on your resume.

I mentioned on social media that I have a new outlook. I am no longer waiting on others to die so I can be myself. I’m ready to flourish. I’m ready to be my favorite version of myself.