Domestic Violence: Innocence Gone, Part I

Dedicated to the survivors of abuse. May you know that you are strong, you are amazing and you are more than enough.

The first time he wrapped his hands around my throat that night, I told him to just kill me because we are not coming back from this.

Prior to November 2017, my involvement in domestic violence was limited to my clients who were charged with various degrees of assault (when I practiced criminal defense) or my clients who were alleging the fault ground of cruelty in a divorce (as I continue to practice family law). Occasionally, I would have clients seeking a modification of a court order and their contact information was subject to non-disclosure because of a finding of family violence by the other parent. But, never, would I ever, think I would be a survivor of an abusive relationship. 

We were in Atlanta for the 4:44 Tour, staying at our favorite hotel–W Midtown and enjoying drinks made by our preferred bartender–Erica. I am unequivocally a wine drinker. I have journeyed to different regions of France for my love of the final product of fermented grapes. But, that day was different. I had my usual 2-3 glasses, but he, who rarely drinks, downed bourbon like iced tea. I was concerned because at one point he fell off the bar stool and had to be helped by my younger sister and hotel management and also because selfish me was hoping he’d sober up in time for the concert in 2 hours.  I’d been waiting 16 years to see Jay-Z in concert.

When we arrived to our hotel room, he begin texting another woman and purposely maneuvering to shield the message (why fam?). When I questioned him he begin yelling at me that it was not my business and how he gave up everything for me. Dating a man who is going through a divorce was my red flag as a divorce attorney and I ignored the sign–at some point he would blame his decision on me. We exchanged words and before I knew it, I was on the bed with his hands clasped around my neck. “You’re hurting me. I can’t breathe.” I managed to get out. “I know.” he says with a dead look in his eyes. 

I remember clawing at his hands and he just squeezed them around my neck harder. I thought I was going to die. I wanted to die. I told him to just kill me because we are not coming back from this. This was a man I loved. One I had sacrificed “my best years” (truth be told it was a year and a half, but situations like this have the ability to age you). I did not want to be without this person and I knew I couldn’t be with this person anymore. Innocence gone.

I am unsure what made him release me, but his eyes never stopped being cold. I cried and gasped for air and routinely begin to get dressed as if nothing ever happened, and as if that episode was our norm. He strangled me two more times over the course of the hour. The final time he straddled me on the floor and had one hand over my mouth and one hand around my neck. He would occasionally remove my hand for me to answer in the negative when he would ask, “You’re not going to talk back to me anymore?”

He threw me, my purse and my jacket in the hall. I was not completely dressed, but instinctively I ran. I ran so hard and I heard him running after me. He grabs me and grabs my purse and proceeds to drag me on the elevator. As we reached the lobby, he let go of me. I trailed behind and put enough distance between us to try to call 911 from the hotel phone. He had walked out of the hotel but upon realizing I was not following, he immediately came back inside for me. As he dragged me down out of the W and to the nearest Marta, I asked three men who were outside taking a smoke break to call the cops. They gave me a look like “we are not getting involved.” He dragged me down the street until I started crying that I was cold and my feet hurt. He finally called Uber. In the Uber he tried to hold my hand and hug me.  What. in. the. fuck? I cried the entire night.

I do not remember the concert. I sat in my chair crying the entire time (save for when Big Pimpin was played). He called me ungrateful and made me take selfies with him like nothing happened. In the Marta station at midnight he proceeded to berate me in front of passengers because I was not standing with him. When we returned to the hotel room he told me I might as well stay because he was not giving me my things so I could leave. Tired and emotionally drained, I slept. I slept until the morning when I tried to leave for my early flight back to Houston. He wanted me to stay. I stayed long enough to relay the events of the prior evening. He struggled to believe his actions until I showed him the cut on my wrist and the cut on the inside of my lip. He doubled over crying and apologizing and laying hands on me as if to pray over me. He begged me to leave on a later flight so we could reconcile. He had never laid hands on a woman. He said he needed me. He wanted to feel connected. That is the day the emotional abuse begin. I was pregnant.