Chris Brown and Rihanna. I feel you.

The flutter of butterfly wings tickled my insides as I awaited his arrival. Have you ever noticed butterfly wings of happiness feel the same as fear? His love was wrapped around pain, frequently expressed with an open handed slap, a rough elbow to my side or fingernails digging deeply into my skin. A motion to reach for the revolver that was kept beneath the car seat packed more of a punch than his hands did. It was all very confusing. Love mixed with pain, never knowing what was in store for the day. It was like a rollercoaster in the seventh circle of Hell. Climbing to astounding heights and suddenly plummeting, fast and furious, stomach dropping. Dangerous. Torturous. My life.

I was sweet sixteen, a pretty girl, intelligent and bookish, with very few dates. An outsider looking in saw a girl that had it all, excellent grades, too many extracurricular activities to count and acceptance by all of the cliques because I refused to allow myself to be boxed in. Yet loneliness constantly plagued me. Inside I remained the shy, insecure, only child that was more often than not playing the violin or reading a book instead of learning the latest dance step. I suppose my flurry of activity kept me from finding meaningful relationships. He filled that void.

He was charming, handsome, well liked and known for his explosive temper. Unafraid of confrontation, ready to battle at a moments notice. Knowing that he was an undercover bad boy may have been one of the things that attracted me to him. The romance began quickly and without skipping a beat my world soon revolved around school, homework, and Him. The few friends that I had were systematically detached from me. His ubiquitous presence hindered girl talk with friends and our volatile behavior (fighting –that at times was physical) encouraged the few friends that we shared to simply drift away. We soon become our own private island. Isolated. Utterly and completely wrapped up in our own little world.

I believe our physicality opened the door for true violence. I vividly recall when we reached a turning point. I lay sprawled on the hood of his car with his fingers wrapped tightly around my neck, as my feet dangled off the ground. In that moment, everything changed.

And yet, I stayed. After my first attempt to leave I realized that staying was easier. By ending the relationship I opened myself up to his stalking, he lurked around every corner, wild-eyed and crazy. There was less danger in the possibility of his wrath than the guarantee. At one point I begged a mutual male friend for help but given our history he dismissed my request. It took me a long time to forgive that slight. I later learned that he believed we were up to our old antics but I know fear was evident in my eyes.

Convinced that no help was forthcoming, I resigned myself to play tiptoe in the tulips in my relationship for many months, never knowing what action would incur his wrath. After our “encounters” he would apologize profusely, tears streaming down his face, accompanied by gentle whispers of “I love you.” Gifts of jewelry or flowers were the norm.

This cycle repeated for six months and when he accosted me at school I finally went to the police. They were no help. During our “altercation” I split his lip and he was aways careful to leave no bruises on me. The victim became the criminal, he could have pressed charges and had me arrested for assault. Never mind he’d spent the better part of two hours slapping me repeatedly as I stood my ground. My only recourse was to stop talking to him and continue my life.

Easier said than done.

I suddenly found myself alone, a castaway with nothing and no one to lean on. When he wooed me with the magic words “anger management” and “therapy” I grabbed that lifeline and stayed on for the ride. This continued until the fateful day when he calmly said, “I’ll go to jail for you and no one else will have you.” His words were easily delivered; I believe a tear rolled down his cheek. Comprehension briefly escaped me but his allusion to a girl that lost her life at the hand of a lover placed the writing on the wall. He was ready and willing to kill me.

I tried to formulate an escape plan but it was impossible. I could not tell my mother, after our first visit to the police she believed the relationship was over. He knew my every move. He had people watching me and when a male friend came to take me to the movies for my birthday, all hell broke loose.

Someone saw us at the movies. A phone call was made. He arrived at my house as my friend was leaving and with the vein in his forehead pulsing he asked my friend to “talk” to him at the back of his car. I screamed No! My mother asked him to leave and a crisis was averted. You see my “beau” kept a gun in his trunk, so there would be no ‘talking.”

For the next couple of hours we stayed holed up in my house, I explained the situation as my friend took it all in. Around eleven my mother asked him to go, she didn’t know about the gun but figured He had gone home. Twenty years later the scene that followed is still vivid. My friend took careful dance-like steps to the car and I felt immediate relief when he made it in. My hopes were quickly dashed when I heard shouting and the screech of wheels hitting the pavement. An explosion of gunshots rang out in fast succession. The car whizzed by my door. He ran in pursuit, revolver drawn, shouting “I will kill you Mother Fucker!”

The rest passed by in a flash. Hysteria and mayhem ensued. My life was turned upside down. After taking my statement the police called me at every turn – we’ve arrested him; he turned over like a baby, this event likely the highlight of their career. Meanwhile, with conflicted emotions I knew this could have been averted, why did they turn a deaf ear to my cry for help?

I later learned that a “stakeout” had taken place. His friends watched and waited for the drama to unfold. Crazy. One girl knocked on my door and tried to coerce us to come outside. Funny, today she asked me to be a friend on facebook. The account was reported in the daily newspaper but few uttered a word. In my desperate silence I still remained alone.

When my grades went from A’s to D’s the guidance counselor conducted an intervention and the story came out. The school psychologist provided a sympathetic ear, an unbiased perspective and enabled me to let the healing begin, a welcome respite from the craziness that dwelled in my head. I’d love to be able to say that I was “cured” but I am unable to tell that lie.

Although I have never allowed a man to physically abuse me again, I have experienced relationships that entailed verbal and emotional abuse. I have never been ignorant about it, even when I was 16 I knew I was caught up in battered woman’s syndrome. I hate to say this but knowledge is not always power.

I am married now and the days of abuse are far behind me. I tell my story for several reasons. I hope that young women realize that this type of behavior is not normal, is not love and no matter what “they” tell you, abuse grips you like a vise and never completely lets go. I also implore those of you that have never experienced this to “judge not, lest you be judged.” You can cavalierly say “just leave” but my story and so many others have proven that these situations are most dangerous when you attempt to leave and it takes carefully planning to do so successfully.

Help is available to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hotline advocates are available for victims and anyone calling on their behalf to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Assistance is available in English and Spanish with access to more than 170 languages through interpreter services. If you or someone you know is frightened about something in your relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.


Erin said…
I applaud your strength in sharing this story, in having the courage to talk about times that most people like to brush under the rug. It can't have been easy, but I can see how much stronger you are for it.
Although I have no experience (thankfully) with domestic violence, I've had my own experience with violent crime, and for that reason, when the news of Chris Brown broke, my heart felt heavy for all the pain caused. The next day at school, a student told me that she didn't care if he did hit her, she'd still be with him because he's so hot. It took every ounce of strength within me to not shake her and ask her what she was thinking. Instead, I calmly explained why that was an awful thing to say, and why I hoped she didn't really feel that way.
mompaulak said…
You are so brave to share this to help so may ...thank you.
mompaulak xoxo
Anonymous said…
As a survivor of an abusive relationship, I thank you for posting your story. We must shed light on this, for our children.
Renee: Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think, no, I know that it will be of help to someone out there. It was brave of you to come forward. I am so happy that you escaped the circle of violence and you have found a nice man with whom to share your life. Everyone deserves that, yet not everyone is as lucky.
I am truly in awe of you! Your courage to share this with all of us is amazing! You no doubt will inspire others to seek help and to also see what beautiful things are on the "other side". Thank you for trusting your loyal readers. Big virtual hugs!
Not an easy story to tell I'm sure, but thank you for sharing it. There are many women that need to hear they are not alone... and you are helping.

Great writing as well. So well said!


That was really well-said. I think this phrase did a lot to explain why women stay:

"There was less danger in the possibility of his wrath than the guarantee."

What an awful experience to go thru. I pray that what you've written will help other women who are still in that situation.
joanofalltrades said…
wow...thank you for sharing that trageic yet triumphant story with us. It is so important for people to share their stories with others, so they feel like they are not alone. I'm sure with your following you have helped someone move a step closer to getting out of an undesirable situation. God bless you!
Kristin said…
Thank you for shareing your story. I too was in an abusive relationship as a teen. My parents finally stepped in and got a restraining order for me. Your honesty is appreciated.
Tooj said…
Renee, your story can be told a thousand times over. You are right - knowledge is not always power. Finding the way out of a dark tunnel can take time and careful planning. I think it's wonderful that you shared this story. Hopefully it will touch someone who truly needs to read it.
I respect your transparency. I'm all about that lately. And I'm so happy you got out of the relationship.

Seems like abuse touches almost every family in some way.

My BIO Dad beat my Mother all the time.

I was in a relationship that was controlling and would have turned violent had I stayed in it longer.

Thank you for your honest post.

Dana said…
I'm a fellow abuse survivor. You can read about mine here:

Thanks for sharing your story.

Mary said…
What an incredibly brave and inspiring post. I know your story and your words will encourage others. Very good advice. This is definitely a phenomenon not understood by many. Your insight is very meaningful.
T.Allen-Mercado said…
"There was less danger in the possibility of his wrath than the guarantee."

Genius. This is it succinctly. To anyone who has ever been abused by a lover, friend, parent-this is what keeps the perpetual ball of fire rolling, the fear or fear and how at times, it greatly outweighs the fear of action. What an evocative post, Thanks Renee.
Meghan said…
I am very sorry you had to endure that.
I am glad you got out of that awful situation.
What a stunning story. Thank you so much for sharing...we can only hope that it helps *someone*!


Best, Amanda
Mandy said…
Renee...As I read this with my hand covering my mouth, I could not help but think how incredibly brave you are. Thank you so much for sharing this.
Anonymous said…
Renee~ As a former victim advocate, this is a story I've seen unfold many a times...which is NOT to say I know how you feel, because I don't and I can't. However, there are many women and young girls out there right now reading your very post looking for strength, looking for hope, looking for affirmation that what they're going through is wrong and a positive outcome can be gotten with help and diligence. For all of those women, thank you for opening up and relaying your story.
My mind is racing all over the place on this post Renee.

Thank you for sharing and I hope that this article will inspire someone else going through this situation.

Please, if you would like to share your story on my radio show, I'd be ever so greatful. Contact me at The Cocktail Cafe Show, please let me know.

I'd love to have you
Threeboys1mommy said…
Oh honey, I'm so sorry you had to endure this. What a powerful yet painful experience to share. I don't know that I could have done that myself. Well done.
Anonymous said…
OMG!!!! What a story. I'm so glad you are able to share now. I couldn't believe that this goes on with teenager and I think it happens more often than not. Girls are afraid and so are the parents. It's a shame the police don't step in until it's almost too late. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope the right person at the right time reads it and draws strength from it and does something about their situation. It does seem easy to just say "Gurl.....leave his ass". But that's not always as easy as it seems. I'm glad you made it out and found a wonderful man who respects you and treats you as his queen.
ParentingPink said…
It seems Renee, that we are soul mates. At 16, i went through something very similar. In fact, that's why I went into the profession of "helping teens."

Thank you for sharing your heart felt story with us. I admire your strength and courage.
Ali said…
You are so brave. Thanks for sharing. I pray that your story helps other women who find themselves in similar relationships.
Lolita said…
Wow, Renee. I really admire your strength in sharing this story to help others...

Brandy said…
Thank you for sharing your story. It might inspire someone else to make a change in their life.
Southern Belle said…
Thank you for sharing your story. I went through the same thing when in high school and ended up married with a child. When our child was 3 years old, he left me. The best things he ever did for me was give me my daughter and leave me! Now, 20 years later, I have the best man on earth!

Your story is inspiring and I am sure your words give encouragement to those who are in difficult situations right now. I applaud you for having the courage and strength to share your wisdom on a topic that is difficult at best. I have never shared my story, but perhaps I need to find that inner strength someday.

Thank you for shining a light on a very dark story. May you continue to inspire others through your words!

Southern Belle
Miss said…
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It's so important that as survivor's of abuse, we get our story out there.

I'm glad you were able to be here today to write this.
Roberta said…
That must have been a hard thing to share, but thank you. I am sure you have helped someone in your readership with your story. I hope you continue to share your story and help some of our sista's out here.
Anonymous said…
What an experience! Thank God that you made it out alive and are now able to share this story that it may help someone else.
I'm so sorry that you went through this.
Lynn said…'s a true blessing that you are no longer in this toxic relationship. Having been through it and come out successful on the other end, you are just the type of woman to take this message to the streets and airwaves. Brava to you! Keep your head up beautiful lady!

My absolute best, Lynn
Shannon said…
I can't imagine how difficult it was to share that store and even more awful to go through it. Thank God you are no longer in such a relationship. Bless you for your honesty and I pray it helps someone else speak out.
Renee... What a powerful story. I'm glad you're safe now. And I'm glad you can share the message to not judge the women caught in the cycle. Good for you. And amazing writing.
Shenia Kirkland said…
You are so couragous; not only for making it through that ordeal, but also for being so transparent about your experience in an effort to help others. Thank you so much for sharing! Much Love! ~Shenia
Damn, girl. That was beautiful written and extremely powerful. Thank you for sharing it with us--I know that couldn't have been easy.
Ms. Bar B: said…
Thank you SO much for answering the question, "why wont she just leave him?" in your own personal way. I want to cry right now, because I can relate so much to this. I relate to the dealings with the police, which fuel my distrust of them when it comes to "domestic" situations, and I can relate to the fear and the uncertainty of what "could" happen if you walk away. I guess luckily for me, my abuser is mostly talk now that he can see the power that I force myself to have when in his presence, but under that mask of "strength" still lives the fear that he will over power me again in hopes of proving a point. In hopes of showing me that "I really do want it".

I thank you so much for sharing your experience with us and I hope that you know that each time a story such as this is told it DOES help a woman/man in the same/similar situations.

Did your male friend arise from the situation unharmed??
Anonymous said…
What you just shared was written so beautifully and eloquently. I couldn't have done it the same.

It's easy to just say get out of it. But when you're in it, it is not so easy. Especially when you are young and isolated. Which is how the abuser likes and wants it.

I hope someone reads this and gets the help they so desperately need.
Thank you for posting this! I too had a similar relationship when I was fifteen and remember him following me even after we had broken up- I couldn't go to the movies with my girlfriends without him showing up and making a scene. It is such a shame that women (not girls) put up with this behavior and I really hope that Rihanna has learned, at her young age, a lesson that won't ever be repeated!
Sherri Jones said…
Your story is a story I'm sure of many. I have not personally been in an abusive relationship, but I've know of some who have. I actually lost two friends to abusive relationships one while we were still in high school and another one to her husband. So my heart goes out to you and others that can't get away. I also believe that abuse is not just physically but verbal and emotional. I know many more in those types of situations.

I volunteer for a cause called Art With Heart which is a group that puts on a art auction every year and the money that is raised goes to the battered women's shelter through the United Family Services.

I encourage women to donate to their local battered women's shelter. Many of the women leave with only the clothes on their backs and they ususally have an average of 3 kids with them. So they always can use donations like clothes, furniture for their next home. If you belong to a group, donate your time and decorate a room or two in the domestic abuse shelter. Brighten it up for the women and their children.

Looking forward...
Yolanda said…
Renee what an incredible story- I applaud your strength and courage in not only changing your life but opening up to share to help others. I too am a survivor of a violent relationship, fortunately the police did listen and I was able to leave not only his life but the state we dwelled in at the time.

The hardest part for me afterwards was the judgement of others who couldn't understand how anyone could "let" that happen to them. Unfortunately its never quite that easy and getting out can sometimes be a literal fight for your own life. My heart truely goes out to Rihanna.
Anonymous said…
you're AMAZING.

thank you for sharing this.


I think that there are more people in the world (myself included) who just DON'T WANT TO share their story because it's scary to be honest sometimes.
Vodka Mom said…
Renee- that was an incredible, incredible story. My heart bleeds for the young woman traumatized, and cheers for the amazing woman she has become. You.

3 Bay B Chicks said…
Oh my goodness, Renee. I am blown away not only by your ability to express yourself and describe your experiences through your writing, but also how you ultimately prevailed in this situation. Amazing.

There are very few posts that I read and am rendered speechless. This is truly one of them.

Diva Ma said…
What an amazing story. I have to thank you for opening up and telling this to anyone that is willing to listen. Know that this story has in some way or another helped someone out there. So glad that you had the strength to overcome your abuser.
Execumama said…
Renee, I really appreciate your candor! I have been vicariously involved in domestic violence situation via very close family members, and I agree that it is usually not as easy as "just leaving".

Thank you for sharing, and I am happy that story has ENDED in your life and your new book w/ your hubs is void of that type of pain.
Classy Mommy said…
Renee - Wow. Thank you for sharing this story with us to help others realize they are not alone and so we can all know you better. I'm so happy you are now in a far better place in your life and that you've been able to leave this violence behind you as so many are not able to do so...
Rainee said…
Renee, it's Rainee, from Twitter. Big squeezes your way, sister. The more stories like yours get told, the more hope and courage it will hopefully give another girl in a similar situation. I'm so glad you're okay, and I'm just continuing to pray for you. U r loved, girl!
Luxe Tips said…

Amazing writing. Powerful story! I am so thankful to God you survived this ordeal. How courageous and brave of you to share such a personal story. Kudos to you!

Renee, I am so sorry you experienced all of that abuse. You are so strong for writing this, and I'm sure you have reached and helped someone who needed your words. *hugs to you*
Jenni Jiggety said…
Wow. Thank you for sharing that...

Sadly I can relate to A LOT of it from a relationship I was in when i was in college...

That which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger, right?
San Diego Momma said…
Thanks for sharing this story so honestly and bravely.

I was stalked for a short time and I recall how the police never did anything to protect me or even follow up on arresting the man who repeatedly broke into my apartment and broke down my front door.

Your experience is much more terrifying, but on some small level, I can relate.

I hope sharing the story makes you feel less alone, even these years later.
anymommy said…
Brave, brave. You were an incredible young woman then, to recognize how dire things were, and you are amazing now to share your story and help other victims.

A huge hug for you.
Renee - BRAVO! You were sooooooo young . . . this is so sad to hear. But you are a better person today for your painful past. This does happen to so many women . . . more than will ever admit.
CaraBee said…
Wow. I'll be the umpteenth person to say thank you for sharing this and to reiterate that you are such a brave woman. I have never been in an abusive relationship, but I have friends who have and it is an ugly thing. Kudos to you.
mommily said…
Thank you for your strength, eloquence & courage to light another's way. Your voice will touch & affect more than one woman. As evidenced by all these comments. x
Amanda said…
Thank you for sharing your story. Hopefully the more women who share their stories, the more women who will read them and realize they need to get out of the bad relationships they're in. I was a child of domestic violence, and I've felt the isolation. It's a hard thing to overcome.
Dori said…
Thank you Renee for sharing your story. I know I'm not the first to say it, but this was a strong, powerful post.
Stesha said…
Renee thanks for speaking out. It doesn't matter if you help 1 or 100
as long as you help!

Hugs and Mocha,
I have always admired your strength, Renee, but this story takes that admiration to a new level. I feel like I understand you in a way that I never would have been able to without reading this. Thank you for sharing your story. From the comments, you have clearly touched a lot of people, and I definitely count myself among them.
calinda said…
Renee, thank you for sharing this story. Thank you, not only because yur voice may be a lifeline for someone struggling tgrough abuse, but because you've put us ALL on notice. You've compassionately but firmly pointed out that it's also abusive to turn a blind eye, to refuse to help, and especially to collude in the abuse. All of these "helping the abuser" and "not getting involved" behaviors have become the norm and are especially dangerous. So thank you for EVERYTHING you've managed to so eloquently say.
Puanani503 said…
Reading your story touched my heart and I know what you were going through.I felt that pain, fear and loneliness in my first marriage also. I am so glad that you are no longer in that situation. I see that it has made you a much stronger woman and I applaud you for that. I've asked the young women in my class @ church to read your story also and gain some knowledge and inspiration from your story.

Much love and God Bless,

Your story gave me chills. How heart wrentching for you to go through all of that. I thank God you made it out alive. Kristin said to visit your blog, and I am glad I did. That Chris Brown story has all of us scratching our heads, why?
Denise said…
Thank you for sharing such a vivid account of your experience. I have a daughter, an only child who fits the personality description in your teen years. She's not very sociable and always with her nose in a book.
You have given me insight, I can invisage how this could happen. Changes are to be made!
Thank you so much
wow... goosebumps, Renee, serious goosebumps. Thank you so much for sharing.
Oh Renee, I can't imagine. Wow. I'm so glad you are ok.

Ali said…
Thank you for sharing your story, Renee. I know that it's kind of stereotypical to say that daughters are hard to handle and look out when they start dating but as mothers of boys, we have such a huge responsibility to turn out good, decent men. I applaud you for sharing your story and for raising a good young man.

I'm sorry for your negative experience with the police--sometimes because of the way the system is, there just isn't anything thing they can do:( And it hurts them too.
McMommy said…
So eloquent.
So honest.
So brave.

Thank you for sharing with us, Renee. And most importantly, I'm so happy you are ok.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for sharing. I know how difficult it is to put what happened into words, but I also know how powerful it is to do so. Thank you so much for sharing.
godsgiftmylife said…
I grew up in an abusive home and I know and understand how hard it is to be in that type of environment. Thank you for sharing your story!
What can I say that hasn't already been said. It took courage to tell your story. Thanks for that.
KC Mom said…
Oh my gosh, thank you for telling this story. You are a great writer and so convincing...I wish every girl could read this.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for posting this. I have a very similar story as well.

I feel for Rihanna, but a part of me thought, maybe now people won't say dumb comments like 'only stupid people get abused', that's not it AT ALL.
Brittany said…
You are so amazing. With each post I admire you more and more.
Funkidivagirl said…
You were so brave to tell your story; thanks so much for sharing.
Mrs4444 said…
Thanks for sharing your story. I can relate on a lesser level, but I know what it's like to be so co-dependent that you wake up in the morning and look at him to decide what kind of mood you're going to be in that day. I dated the same boyfriend for five years. Fortunately for me, he joined the military, and I got the space to see what I had been unable to see before. It took a long time to realize that those "butterflies" I felt when I saw him were really just an adrenaline rush from all the drama. I thank God that I lived happily ever after...
Mrs4444 said…
And I hope you do, too :)
Lisa @ Serah's said…
Renee, I am so sorry this happened to you and everyone it has happened to. Thanks for sharing your story as I'm sure it will help someone out there in a similar situation realize that abuse is not love.
Anonymous said…
Thank you.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing your personal experience. Abuse is real. It is tough when you know that it's wrong and that you deserve better but staying is easier than leaving. It's also hard to ask people for help because they don't trust you not to go back.

I'm glad you got your happily ever after. I hope I do too.
Denise said…
This is a tough post to write, I know because I have my own story and haven't actually written it all in one place - just bits and pieces, here and there, spread across time and place.

Thanks for writing your story, someday I'll write mine because of people like you who did it first.

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