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Home / Articles / Survivor Stories / I Frowned on Survivors of Domestic Violence Until It Was Me

I Frowned on Survivors of Domestic Violence Until It Was Me

A survivor opens up about an abusive boyfriend she met when she was a teen and says police failed to protect her

  • By Kimberly Gladden-Eversley
  • Oct 12, 2022
survivor of teen dating abuse

Names have been changed for safety. 

My best friend Lexi and I were inseparable. We did everything together, from homework assignments, club hopping and body piercings to psychic readings. I guess the only thing left was matching tattoos, but since I was too chicken, it never happened. Sadly, our relationship became estranged the day I found her shivering body lying on the floor as her eyes rolled back. Her abusive partner had beaten her badly enough to land her in the ER.

I remember thinking, this must be the end of it because I would never! Instead, I was next…

We Were Neighbors 

My parents owned a duplex in Brooklyn, NY and decided to rent out the upper half to Joyce, a single mom who had just won a custody battle for her three children. Despite her rough circumstances, my parents led with their hearts and decided to give Joyce a chance. Unfortunately, this decision remains one they will always regret. 

My parent's act of kindness invited criminal activity right to our doorstep. Joyce was an absent mom, and drug trafficking, gang violence and cop visits became our new norm. After years of keeping me sheltered, my 18th birthday marked the day my curiosity led to a 3-year relationship that seemed like it would never end.

How It All Began

Ray, the youngest of Joyce's children, wore his anger on his sleeves, credited to years of abuse under the hands of a corrupt foster care system. I was attracted to his inner rebel, which challenged my inner perfectionist. I was like a child who wanted to feel the stove to see if I'd get burned. For him, I was untouchable grounds; I was his landlord's daughter. Like my mother would say, "never crap where you lay," but for us, it was a challenge we couldn't resist. 

His bad boy image created a codependent relationship between us. I wanted to fix him; after all, I was studying to become a psychologist in college. I believed that I had the tools to mold him into the man he needed to be with late-night "coaching sessions" to job applications to get him off the streets. Unfortunately, things began missing—jewelry, money and, eventually, my sanity. 

The Effects of Gaslighting

After questioning the mysterious disappearance of my belongings, I was greeted with enough excuses to question my reality. Is it possible that I lost these things? Was it one of my friends taking them? Or, maybe Ray needed the money more than I did. The credibility within my voice slowly dwindled each time I would answer his call, as I secretly met him in hidden places and ignored that voice inside myself that shouted, "run!"

The more we spent time together, the more I lost myself. Ray's jealousy and resentment began to rear its ugly head, causing me to lose my identity and purpose. He'd insult me and then throw in a compliment to soften the blow. He'd make sly remarks and laugh to disguise his criticism as "harmless jokes." Eventually, I dropped out of school, lost my friends and was kicked out of my home, moving in with my sister in Queens. The bright future I envisioned grew dimmer each day and the mental abuse was only the beginning.

Ray would ask, "Do you know what it’s like to have a father who doesn't care about you or what it's like to be homeless and live on the streets?"

He continued, "Have you ever come home to an empty fridge and had to sell dope because you're hungry?" 

Hesitantly, I'd say no and began feeling debilitating shame about my "privileged" life. My nuclear family was considered an advantage in our predominantly single-mother Black and Hispanic community. 

My father wore a suit and tie, carried a briefcase and parked his BMW in the driveway. My mother was a homemaker, thanks to my father, who could afford to carry the financial load under a single income. Here I was, the girl next door who represented everything he wasn't and ever wanted.

The Great Escape

After promising my parents I would end this relationship with Ray, they agreed to invite me home if I went back to school. I tried to leave by avoiding him, but how? How can I avoid the boy who lives upstairs? The truth is, I couldn't. 

I remember the day we ran into each other as I returned home after re-registering for school. He rode his bike as fast as he could and quickly stopped in front of me. 

"You think you can just ignore me like that? I have a gun in my pocket and can shoot you right now."

As I turned to look at him, he gripped the side of his pocket to reveal the imprint of the gun beneath his jean pocket. I thought to myself, is he really going to shoot me in broad daylight?

I ran home as fast as I could and immediately called the cops. Almost two hours later, they finally arrived, and the only protection I received was a piece of paper. As directed, my father and I followed the steps to obtain an order of protection to ensure no contact. 

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I remember wondering how this would help as my father looked at the police officer and said, "that's it." Sadly, they reminded us that “their hands were tied, and there was nothing more they could do.” 

Enough Was Enough

I walked away feeling defeated until I received a call that Ray was in jail for selling dope. To celebrate my newfound freedom, my friend and I met at our favorite restaurant until a shadow came behind me before a sudden blow hit the side of my head. 

It was Ray…

"You think you're slick, out here with another man, huh? You thought I wasn't going to get out, right?" 

He stretched out his arm to hit me again, rupturing my left eardrum. After a series of ringing noises, the sound completely stopped, and I lost hearing in my left ear. My friend tried calling the cops, but they didn’t show up. This time I decided to show up for myself and fought back like never before. I took my purse and hit him as hard as I could. I grabbed his long hair and pulled him down, utilizing Taekwondo techniques I remembered from five years of practice during my early childhood. He grabbed the side of his face in utter silence, shocked by my sudden aggression. At this moment I knew—I’d taken back my power and I was ready to fight for the three years of my life that I will never get back. 

He ran off and I could hear cheers from nearby diners who witnessed and recorded our entire scuffle.  I was finally vindicated and this time I knew, if he returned, he would never meet the girl he once knew. 

He was left with a permanent scar on the side of his face, and I prayed it would serve as his reminder to never hurt another woman again. This was the last time I had to deal with his abuse, and sometimes I wonder, as I reflect on my friend Amelia, who was killed just a few months ago by her abusive boyfriend, what would've happened if Ray had pulled the trigger.

Would I have been just another face painted on a memorial wall with candles neatly lined across the sidewalk? Would I be another temporary Facebook post that would quickly disappear from everyone’s timeline because it's not as trendy as blonde hair and blue eyes?

Although law enforcement has failed Gabby Petito, her story mattered enough to trend for months while many of us were silently licking our wounds because "there is nothing more they can do."

Thankfully, domestic violence organizations like are working overtime to end victim blaming, social injustice and the excuses that continue to fail both victims and survivors. As for me, I will advocate for the survivors who deserve protection, support, and hope. Let’s not forget, it can happen to anyone.