Love a Second Time Around

480112I wasn’t married but I was pregnant.  It happened when my boyfriend and I got frisky and ended up in bed.  I felt guilty afterwards because I was supposed to be a Christian.  I was raised in a strict Baptist family and having sex or getting pregnant before marriage was a no no.  So, to say that I wasn’t thrilled when I found out that I was pregnant would be a gross understatement.  Desmond took it a lot more calmly than I expected.  He told me that we could get married before I started to show.  I agreed.  I didn’t want my child to be born out of wedlock.  And, besides, Desmond and I loved each other.  I know that he would have eventually asked me to marry him because we had talked about it several times.

After he bought me an engagement ring, we went to see my parents first.  I told about pregnancy and they were understandably upset.  “Getting married because you’re having a baby isn’t a good reason for getting married,” my father told us.

“Marriage is such a big step,” my mother added.  “You better make sure that this is the best thing for you two.”

Next, we went to see Desmond’s family.  I could just imagine how thrilled they would be, especially, his maternal grandmother.  Right from the beginning, I didn’t feel accepted by them.  I think they all would have preferred if he had married a white woman.  Some of them quoted the Bible where it says “Everything after its own kind.”  I didn’t bother to tell them that God was talking to the birds, fish and animals not to Adam.  He hadn’t even created Adam as yet.  And the same God who made white people made the other races and in His image too.

The only person who was friendly towards me and didn’t seem to have a problem with my color was my father-in-law.  He was such a nice man.  I really liked him and I felt comfortable talking to him.  He didn’t judge me and he didn’t lecture us.  I knew that we had his support.

Fortunately, my father-in-law was with me when a policeman showed up at the apartment to inform me that Desmond had been run over and killed in a crosswalk when he was returning from lunch early that afternoon.  This happened in front of his office.  The policeman said that it was a good thing that I wasn’t alone because of the stress that such tragic news could on my pregnancy.  I knew that there wasn’t anything I could do.  Desmond was gone and I was going to experience the rest of my pregnancy without him.  It was one of the worst moments of my life.

I got support from my father-in-law and my family but it was hard having to explain why Desmond wasn’t with me.  At each appointment, it would be a different midwife, who would remark, “Is your husband not joining us today?” and then I would have to explain he was dead.  And it was hard going to prenatal classes with my brother or my father-in-law.   My pregnancy experience which should have been a really happy one was somber.  I kept thinking Desmond should be here.  When our daughter was born seven months later at 8lbs, it was her grand-father who held her in his arms.  As I watched them together, I tried to picture Desmond holding her in his arms.

Desmond and I had come up with boys’ and girls’ names which we really liked and I named our daughter, Nella after his mother whom he adored.  When I look at Nella, I see her father.  The same hazel eyes and nose.   Her hair was dark brown like his.  She was beautiful.  Desmond would have a very proud father and spoiled her rotten.

My parents fawned over her.  Desmond’s family, on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered to meet his daughter.  His father was the only one who was there throughout my pregnancy.  He came over to the apartment every other day to see Nella and me.  While I took a nap or relaxed in the sofa, he took care of her.  It was a real treat having him around.  I began to look forward to seeing him.  And I could tell he enjoyed being with us.

I don’t know when it happened.  It must have been gradual but, four years later, on a Sunday morning, I woke up and realized that I was in love with my father-in-law.  As I made breakfast, I wondered what he would do if he knew.  Would he stop coming over?  I couldn’t bear the thought of not having him around anymore.  I had to make sure that he never suspected how I felt about him.  I would act like I always did in the past.  I had to remember that he was Desmond’s father although he was a widower and currently not in any relationship.

It’s late afternoon now and Nella’s taking her nap.  My father-in-law is standing at the window, looking out.  He turned when I entered the living-room.  “Symone, I need to talk to you about something that has been on my mind for a long time now,” he said.

I could tell from his expression that it was something serious.  I sat down on the sofa and patting the cushion beside me, I said, “Tell me what’s on your mind.”

He came over and sat down beside me.  His eyes met mine.  I could tell that he was a bit nervous.  “I don’t know if I have any right to tell you this even now that Desmond’s no longer here.”

“Tell me what it is, Dad,” I urged him.  “I’m a big girl.  I can take it.”

“First, I would like you to call me Patrick instead of Dad.”

“All right, Patrick.”

“Symone, I know I’m more than twice your age but over the last few months my feelings for you have changed.”

My heart was pounding.  “What do you mean your feelings have changed?”

“I’ve fallen in love with you.”

“Oh, Patrick,” I cried and I threw my arms around him.  “You don’t know how happy I am to hear that.”

“You are?” he exclaimed when we parted.

Yes!  You see, I’ve fallen in love with you too.”

He held my hands in his, his eyes riveted on my face.  “I’m relieved to hear that,” he said.  “For the longest time, I have wanted to tell you how I feel but I was afraid of how it would affect our relationship.”

“I have wanted to talk to you about my feelings too but was afraid for the same reason.”

“My newly discovered love for you wasn’t the only thing I have been struggling with.”

I frowned.  “What else have you been struggling with?”  I asked.  “Are you worried about what the rest of the family would say?”

He shook his head at once.  “It doesn’t matter to me what they say.  What concerns me is what the Bible has to say about the relationship between a man and his daughter-in-law.”

“Yes, in the book of Leviticus it says that a man shall not uncover the nakedness of his daughter-in-law because she is his son’s wife—he, the father-in-law, shall not uncover her nakedness.  In fact, if a man had sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, both of them were put to death because they committed a perversion.  This doesn’t apply to you and me, though because nothing ever happened between us when Desmond was alive and even after he died.  Besides, I’m a widow now and according to the Bible, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, she is no longer bound to him; the laws of marriage no longer apply to her.  Then she can marry someone else if she wants to. That would be wrong while he was alive, but it is perfectly all right after he dies.”

Patrick released his breath.  “So, if I wanted to marry you, there’s no law to prevent us?”

I shook my head.  “No.  In-laws can now also marry provided they are both over 21 and any former spouses must be deceased.”

He pulled me into his arms then and hugged me tightly.  “I don’t think Rosalind and Desmond would begrudge us finding happiness with each other,” he murmured.

No, I thought, Desmond would want me to be happy.  He would want me to move on219_6910_cannes_apr16_281529 with my life.  And now, that was possible.  I had fallen in love with an incredible man.  Yes, I consider myself to be extremely blessed for having found love a second time around.  A year later, in spring, we got married in a small, intimate ceremony.  Nella was our flower girl.  She looked so adorable in her pale pink satin dress.  Now she has a new Daddy although she calls him, “Grandpa”.

My in-laws and family think it’s wrong for Patrick and me to be together and are concerned that our relationship would be very confusing for Nella.  He’s her grandfather but now he’s also her father because he is married to me.  We have told Nella about Desmond and shown her photos of him.  She knows that he was her Daddy and that he died.  We told her that one of these days she will see him.   And she’s fine with that.  She’s not confused about anything and she’s excited about the new baby brother who is arriving in three months.  That reminds me, I have to ask Mom to babysit Nella because Patrick and I have a prenatal class to attend this afternoon.

Sources:  Metro; Officer.com; Live About; Genetic Genealogy

Meg’s Story

The scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal – Gecko & Fly

thumb_233241_420_630_0_0_portraitI felt guilty.  Guilty because I’m not sorry that he’s gone.  He passed away a month ago from a second stroke.  It happened while I was at the grocery store.  When I got home, there was an ambulance and police cars in front.  Our grand-daughter had called 911.

I feel guilty because I’m not sorry that he’s dead.  Does that make me a heartless person?  It isn’t that I didn’t love him.  The sad thing is that I did.  Even though he didn’t love me, I loved him.  As a teenager, I used to read about unrequited love.  I never thought it would happen to me.  We met in college.  I developed a huge crush on him but he had eyes for my older sister, Elaine but she ended up marrying another boy.  On a rebound, Albert dated me and then married me soon after we discovered that I was pregnant.  We didn’t go on a honeymoon and I had to quit my job as a nurse.

I didn’t know that it was abuse because he didn’t hit me.  If he hit me, I would have left.  No, I didn’t get slapped or punched or shoved or anything like that.  Instead, I got talked down to at home when we were alone or in front of company.  I was embarrassed in public.  I could feel people staring at us and caught the pitying glances of both men and women.  I didn’t want their pity.  I didn’t want them to notice me.  I wanted to be invisible.  I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.  I wanted to be somewhere else.  More often than not, I wanted to be someone else.  I resented my sister Elaine because she had the marriage I wanted.  Her husband, Larry treated her like a queen.  I resented her because I knew that my husband would have preferred to marry her instead of me.  More than once, he said to me, “I married the wrong sister.”

He treated me with contempt.  I could see the disgust and dislike on his face when he looked at me.  And I often wondered why.  Why did he have such an aversion towards me?  I wasn’t ugly.  I was a good person.  I was a good wife to him and a good mother to our kids yet nothing I did seem to please him.  He disrespected me in front of our kids, embarrassed me in front of friends and family and in public and he became very controlling.  He controlled whom I talked to, where I went, my money and allowance.  He made decisions without consulting me, telling me that he was the breadwinner and the man of the house so he was the one was going to make all of the decisions.  I was Anglican but he wanted our kids to be Catholic.  He chose their schools.  I had no say in the matter.

Whenever he got upset, he called me names or criticized my cooking or the way I kept the house or did the laundry or ironing.  After a while nothing I did was good enough.  As the years went by, our marriage relationship was in a dismal state and I was glad when our kids moved out.  I didn’t want them to be subjected to my abuse anymore.  I should have left Albert after the kids moved out but I didn’t.  You see, he suffered a stroke and after spending a week in intensive care, he was moved to a care home to aid his recuperation.  Afterwards, he moved back home and I took care of him.  In spite of everything, I was still his wife.  I did it out more out of obligation than love.

Things didn’t improve as I had foolishly hoped.  He became even more controlling and demanding.  He demanded that I handed over all bank statements, receipts.  He timed my trips and forbade me from non-essential ones.  He belittled me.  He continued to criticize my cooking, housekeeping and appearance.  He accused me of lying about my whereabouts and of cheating on him.  No matter how much I denied it, he refused to believe me.  And he called me a good for nothing liar and cheat.  He even accused me of getting pregnant on purpose so that he had to marry me.  No, he didn’t hit me but his words were more painful and lasting than physical bruises.

If it weren’t for my faith, I would have given up a long time ago.  I kept telling myself that there had to be a light at the end of the tunnel and that God never gave us more than we could handle.  Things couldn’t continue the way they were going.  There had to be an end to this nightmare.  There had to be.  This wasn’t God’s idea of a marriage.  Marriage was a loving partnership between a man and a woman.  Woman was made from a rib from the man’s side which meant that she was his equal not someone he could treat like a doormat.  She too was created in God’s image.  They were supposed to be one–complimenting each other.  One wasn’t more superior than the other.

There were times when I wished I had never met Albert but then I think about our sons.  They are terrific, godly men and wonderful husbands and fathers.  I thank God for them everyday.  They had urged me to leave their father before he had the stroke and I wish I had.

Anyway, my marriage came to an abrupt end when Albert suffered another stroke and died a day later.  When I got home from the grocery store, I saw the ambulance and police cars out front.  I was numb as I watched the paramedics put him into the back of the ambulance.  There were tears on my face but I don’t know if they were tears of grief and sorrow.  My grand-daughter and I followed in my car.  We went to the hospital.  She stayed with me until the evening when her father picked her up.  I spent the night in the hospital.  Early the next morning, they came and told me that Albert was dead.  I called Andrew, our elder son and asked him to tell the rest of the family.  I went home, showered and changed and returned to the hospital.  I asked my daughter-in-law, Sandy to contact the same funeral home where my father’s service was held.

The weeks following were busy with funeral arrangements and other matters.  I was thankful when it the funeral service was behind me.  I wanted to return to some normalcy in my life.  I decided to sell the house because it was too big for one person and it was filled with a lot of painful memories for me.  I moved into a low-rise condo building in a nice neighborhood with a park nearby.  Weeks after moving there, I decided to join the Foster Grandparent Program so that I could help children who have been abused or neglected.  It feels good to bring love and comfort to someone else.

My life is finally what I always wanted it to be.  I’m a widow.  I don’t plan on ever getting married again.  I tried it once and it didn’t work out.  Now, I will just enjoy being a mother and grandmother and being a mentor.  I believe that I’m where God wants me to be right now.  I have recently written a book with the help of Greta, my daughter-in-law who happens to be a best selling author, called, Abuse By Any Other Name, about my experience as an older woman of domestic abuse and the idea that it isn’t really abuse if there isn’t any physical violence.  I want women to know that abuse happens to older women too and that it isn’t okay to stay in a marriage because he isn’t hitting you.  There are other types of abuse.

One of my favorite quotes is:  Don’t let your loyalty become slavery. If they don’t appreciate what you bring to the table, then let them eat alone.  I let my loyalty to my husband blind me to my reality.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.  Don’t wait until one of you dies.

Meg’s story is fiction but there are older women like her who are victims of domestic abuse.  According to The Guardian, more than 10% of women killed by a partner or ex-partner are aged 66 or over but they are the group least likely to leave their abuser and seek help.   For older women, domestic abuse often isn’t physical.  There is emotional, verbal and financial abuse.

Jess Stonefield, a contributing writer outlines the following ways in which older women can take back their power and begin to recognize — and fight — signs of domestic abuse in their lives:

Get real. Familiarize yourself with modern definitions of abuse and be honest with yourself about whether there is abuse in your marriage or partnership. Note the ways it has impacted your life. Name it. Acknowledge it. Allow yourself to grieve the parts of your life you have lost to it.

Speak up. Find a counselor or support group where you can share your story and find empowerment from others who have experienced and overcomesimilar challenges.

Define your options. It’s possible that you don’t feel comfortable choosing divorce or living on your own in this season of your life due to physical or financial limitations. You still have options. For instance, an assisted living community could provide the safety and shelter you need to recover your physical or emotional health. Women’s shelters, Adult Protective Services (APS) or friends and family may also offer short-term solutions. Make a list of possibilities and talk to a trusted friend about which might be best for you.

Get your finances in order. One of the main reasons older women choose to stay in abusive relationships is financial dependence. Many spent a large part of their lives in the role of homemaker and may have no financial savings of their own. Check out these tips for preparing financially before leaving your partner.

Be your own advocate. Repeat this sentence: “I deserve better.” Know that your voice matters. If a health care professional, member of law enforcement or even a son or daughter minimizes the abuse happening in your marriage, do not acquiesce. Be your own best advocate and refuse to take any less than you deserve: a safe, happy life and relationship.

Don’t be the forgotten victims of domestic violence.  Take action.  Protect yourself.

Sources:  The Guardian; Next Avenue; National Institute on Aging; Senior Corps; Gecko & Fly Quotes

Thomas and Tracey

 

My nephew, Sam and I were on a double date with a mother and her daughter. It has been a long while since I have even thought about dating again. Eight years ago I lost my fiancee, Brenda. She was killed by a drunk driver just weeks before our wedding. It took a long, long time to get over her death.

We were having dinner at The Ledbury in Notting Hill. That was Sam’s idea. He googled the best restaurants in London and picked this one because a co-worker had raved about it and the reviews were great. And he wanted to impress our dates.

I could tell by the way they were interacting with each other that Sam and Meghan liked each other. Meghan’s Mom, Nancy was a very attractive and easy going woman. I liked her a lot but I wasn’t attracted to her. And it didn’t help that I was trying hard not to stare at our waitress. She was very pretty–and young. On more than one occasion, our eyes met. And when I placed my order, her gaze seemed to linger on me before she turned away to get the other orders.

“I think she’s sweet on you,” Sam remarked when Nancy left the table to go to the washroom.

“He’s right,” Meghan agreed.

“She’s too young,” I replied.

“She doesn’t think that you’re too old,” was Sam’s quick rejoinder.

“Aren’t you the least bit interested?” Meghan asked.

“What about your mother?” I asked. “I’m supposed to be on a date with her, remember?”

“If you decide that you want to go out with the waitress, Mom may be disappointed but she’ll get over it in no time.”

“Let’s just enjoy our dinner and each other’s company,” I suggested, changing the subject. Just then, Nancy came back to the table.

We had a pleasant evening. Afterwards, we went to a nice, cozy bar for drinks and live music. It was after eleven when we left the bar. While Sam and Meghan went off to a nightclub, I took Nancy home. I was a Christian so going to a nightclub wasn’t an option for me and I could tell that Nancy wasn’t keen on going either. So, we went a walk along the boardwalk because it was such a beautiful night.

We talked about a lot of things. She told me about her husband, Jackson who was a cop. He died in the line of duty. Meghan was their only child. I told her about Brenda. And then we showed each other photos of our deceased ones.

As we walked back to the car, Nancy said to me, “I had a really, really great time tonight and I really, really like you, Thomas, but I don’t think I’m ready for another relationship right now. I still haven’t quite gotten over losing Jackson.”

“I understand. This is the first time I’ve been on a date since Brenda died.”

As I held the door open for her to get in, she looked up at me and said, “I think you’re ready for another relationship. I saw the way you looked at our waitress. You were attracted to her. And who can blame you? She’s a lovely girl, not just in looks but in personality. Don’t let her age stop you from asking her out.”

I smiled and reaching for her hand, I gently squeezed it. “Thank you.”

Outside of her flat, we said goodnight. She reached up and kissed me on the cheek. “Take care of yourself, Thomas.”

“Thanks, Nancy. You take care yourself too.”

“I hope things work out between Sam and Meghan. He’s a wonderful guy.”

“I hope so too because Meghan’s a terrific girl. Goodnight, Nancy.”

“Goodnight, Thomas.”

As I turned and walked towards the lift, I made up my mind that I would have dinner at the restaurant again tomorrow evening. Hopefully, I would get the same waitress and if not, I would make sure that I got a chance to talk to her. As soon as I got home, I took a quick shower and went to bed.

As Providence would have it, I got a table and the same waitress waited on me. I could tell that she remembered me. She smiled as she came over. “Good evening,” she said, “You’re dining alone this time.”

I nodded and smiled. “Yes, I am.”

“I guess you really liked the food.”

My eyes met hers directly when I said, “I came back because of the food and the service.”

She smiled shyly. “Thank you. Would you like Cranberry Juice?” It was what I had ordered the last time. I was flattered that she remembered.

“Yes, thank you. What’s your name?”

“Tracey.”

“I’m Thomas.”

“I’ll be right back with your Cranberry Juice, Thomas.”

“Thank you, Tracey.” I watched her walk away. She was breathtaking. I found it hard to concentrate as I studied the menu. I didn’t want to order the same dish as last night. I decided that when she came back I would ask her what she recommended.”

She came back a few minutes later and set the glass of Cranberry juice on the table. “Have you decided what you would like to order or would you like a few minutes more?”

“Everything looks so good. I can’t decide. What would you recommend?”

“Do you eat fish?”

“Yes, though not as often as I should.”

“Try the Cornish Cod.”

“I will, thanks, Tracey.” I closed the menu and handed it to her. “What time do you stop working?”

“Around 10.”

“When you finish work, could I take you out for a cappuccino?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“Good. I’ll wait for you at the entrance.”

“I’ll be right back with your order.”

After she left, I glanced at my watch. It was nine o’clock. I had an hour to finish my dinner. When it came it smelled and looked amazing. I couldn’t wait to tuck into it.

Tracey smiled that lovely smile of hers and said, “Enjoy your Cod.”

“I will,” I assured her and I did. It was the best fish dish I’d ever tasted. I savored every morsel. I skipped dessert and asked for the bill. I left her another big tip. When she came over to take it, I reminded her that I would be waiting at the entrance of the restaurant for her.

“I’ll be there in about five minutes,” she promised before she disappeared.

I got up from the table and left the restaurant which was almost empty. It was another pleasant night. I was a little nervous about going out with Tracey because she’s the first woman I can see myself in a relationship with since Brenda.

About five minutes later she came through the doors. She was wearing a red top and a knee length denim skirt. We walked to my car. On the drive over to the cafe, we talked about her. Her parents were Nigerian and they came to England when she was a baby. She’s an only child and is living with her parents until she graduates and gets a job. Next year is her last year at Cambridge. She’s working part-time as a waitress.

“I thought of volunteering at an orphanage this summer but I found out that most of the children in orphanages aren’t even orphans. Unsuspecting parents are sending their children to orphanages believing they will have better access to food, shelter and an education. That decision which was supposed to be temporary becomes a permanent. When they go to the orphanages they are turned away and sometimes, their children are at the windows seeing this. It makes me so mad that parents and their children are being kept apart so that those who run these orphanages can profit from their misery. Some of those children are sold into slavery, illegally adopted or remain in the orphanages where they are mistreated and abused. I have heard of cases of children being rented for a short stay and are used to tug at the heartstrings of tourists and volunteers, who feel compelled to open up their hearts and wallets to help.”

To say that I was shocked at what she was telling me is an understatement. “Isn’t there anything that can be done to help these poor children and their families?” I asked.

“I found out just recently that a task-force was launched to encourage well-meaning UK tourists and volunteers to stop visiting overseas orphanages. They know that tourists and volunteers mean well and that they want to help these children whom they believe are orphans but the task-force believe that by raising awareness they can safeguard the children’s futures. I have created a blog to speak out against Orphanage Tourism and to raise awareness. I’ve met students on campus who were in these orphanages and they have shared their stories with me which you will find on my blog.”

“What’s the name of your blog? I would like to check it out.”

A Second Childhood. They were robbed of their first when they were taken away from their families and we want to make sure that they have a second childhood outside of orphanages and in their homes again.”

I made a mental note of the blog’s name. We arrived at the cafe. After we were seated and placed our orders, I asked her, “Would you or one of the students you mentioned be willing to come to my church one Sunday and speak to the members about Orphanage Tourism?”

“Sure. Just tell me when and I will be happy to come and bring one of the students with me.”

Over cappuccinos, she asked me questions about myself. When I told her about Brenda, she reached out and touched my hand. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I can’t imagine what you must have gone through. I know that this is a cliche thing to say but she’s in a better place now.”

“Yes, she is.”

“The one thing that comforted me when I lost my grandparents is that one day, I will see them again.”

“Are you a Christian?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

I was relieved although, I have a feeling that even if she weren’t, I would still want to date her. “How do you feel about dating a man much older than you?” I asked.

“I don’t have any problem with it.”

I smiled and covered her hand with my other one. “Tomorrow evening I would like to take you out for dinner.”

She smiled. “Sounds good.”

We spent the rest of the night talking about all sorts of things and by our third date, I knew that I was going to spend the rest of my life with her.

While this story is fiction, orphanage tourism is not. It’s a real problem facing children in countries like Nepal, Cambodia, Haiti, Myanmar, Uganda, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Kenya. Children are not for sale. They belong in loving homes. Tourists and volunteers mean well but they are perpetuating a nefarious industry which is profiting from the most vulnerable in our societies–children.

Join the fight against orphanage tourism by not volunteering at or visiting or giving donations to orphanages when you travel abroad. Australia linked the visiting and volunteering at orphanages overseas to modern slavery. Be aware that not all children in orphanages are really orphans.

Sources: The Telegraph; ABTA;

Sherry’s Story

d0249233cc33125d63d8c2837c6518e1

I want to tell somebody but who will believe me?  Who will believe that the man who uses me for a punching bag is one of New York’s finest?  I’m just a former exotic dancer who had the misfortune of getting hooked up with the wrong man.  I guess I was flattered by the attentions of a veteran cop whose face has been plastered in the newspapers numerous times for his exemplary work, cleaning up crime and cracking down on drug dealers.  He has had the most arrest records and commendations than anyone else on the force.  He is a hero in the communities, feared by the criminal element and admired by his colleagues.

Yeah, who would believe that this man of the law was beating me up?  When we first met, I thought he was a real decent guy.  He used to come and watch me dance.  One night after I finished my number and was at the back of the club about to smoke a cigarette, he joined me.  He lit my cigarette and asked me my name.  I told him.  He didn’t introduce himself.  He didn’t need to.  I knew who he was.  To tell you the truth, I was surprised that he was talking to me.  There were other dancers that I thought were more up his alley.

“What are you doing here at a strip club?” I asked him.

He lit his cigarette, took a few drags before he answered.  “I’m off-duty,” he said.  “So, what’s fine looking woman like you doing in a joint like this?”

I shrugged.  “To make money.  Besides, I like to dance.”

“Do you have a man?”

I shook my head.

“How much money do you make?”

“There’s a man who comes in every night and he pays me $2000 to dance for him and then we would spend the  rest of the time talking.”

“Is that the man I saw dressed in the expensive suit and wearing a hat?  He reminded me of JR Ewing.”

“Yes, that’s him.”

“He’s married, isn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“I bet his wife doesn’t know what he’s been up to.”

I finished my cigarette.  “I’d better be getting back.”  I turned to leave when he caught hold of my arm.

“How about you dancing for me this time?”

“Sure.  Whatever you want.”

“And afterwards, we go back to my place.”

“Sure.”  We went back into the club.  I danced for him and then we drove to his place.

He lived in a nice neighborhood.  After his wife died and their kids moved out, he Tiriansold the house and moved into a penthouse apartment facing the Hudson River.  I stood at the window looking out.  He fixed the drinks and brought mine over to me.  In person, he was a very attractive man.  He looked younger than 55.  His hair was dark with touches of grey at the sides.  His brown eyes met mine.  For a long time, neither of us say anything.  In the background, soft jazz played.  And then, he suggested,  “Let’s go over to the sofa where it’s more comfortable.”

I followed him over to the sofa and we sat down.  We talked for a while and then he took my glass and set it on the coffee table next to his.  While he placed on hand on my thigh, he leaned over and began to kiss me.  I didn’t resist.  I was attracted to him.  The kisses became wild and passionate and we ended up having sex on the sofa.  After I got dressed, I was going to phone for a taxi but he insisted in giving me a lift home.

He dropped me home and there weren’t any plans to see each other again.  I was disappointed but then I asked myself, What did you expect?  He’s a cop and you’re a stripper.

I didn’t see him for a while and then one night, he showed up at the club.  He saw me with the rich married man.  I was sitting on his lap, talking to him.  After he left, my cop friend came over to me and told me to meet him outside for a smoke.  I got dressed and went outside.  He was waiting for me.  I walked up to him and was about to say something when he grabbed me roughly by the shoulders.  “You’re quitting your job right now.”

“But I need the money,” I protested.

He struck me hard across the face.  “You heard me.  You’re quitting.  Now, let’s go.”  He gripped my wrist tightly and dragged me behind him to the parking lot where his car was parked.  He opened the door and shoved me in.  I cringed when he slammed the door.  I sat in the passenger seat, holding my face, shocked as we drove off.

We went to my place and as I stood there, still in shock, he said, “Sherry, honey, I’m sorry I hit you.  It’s just that the thought of you dancing for other men drives me crazy.  I’m sorry.  I promise I won’t hit you again.  Forgive me?”

I nodded.  “Yes, I forgive you.”  He looked and sounded so sincere.  I wanted to believe that he would never hit me again.

He pulled me roughly against him and began to kiss me.  I kissed him back.  We ended up in bed.  He spent the night and left early the next morning.  I went to the club and told the manager that I quit.  He was understandably livid, especially since he knew that one of his best customers was the rich man who always asked for me.  I had no idea what I was going to do now that I was working at the club.

My cop had it all figured out.  Several weeks later, he asked me to marry him.  It didn’t seem to bother him what other people would think of him marrying a former stripper.  We got married and I moved in with him.  I wanted to find another job but he refused to let me.  So, I became a housewife.  I felt like a prisoner in our home.  I couldn’t go anywhere without him.  If I needed to go to the supermarket, he took me on Saturdays.  If I needed to go to the salon, he took me.  I don’t know how he managed to get away from work just so he could take me where I needed to go.  I guess when you’ve been with the force as long as he has, you can pretty much do whatever you liked.

We stopped going to the policeman’s ball because he felt that I was too friendly with the younger officers.  Two years ago, after we got home from the ball, he beat me because he said I was flirting with the desk sergeant, a young Nigerian man.  It wasn’t true of course, but my husband was blinded by rage and jealousy.  I was black and blue and had a black eye.  Once when I was in really bad shape, he took me to the Emergency but never left me alone with the nurse who tended to me.  And he answered all of the questions and as soon as the examination was over, we were out of there.

We went home and I was laid up in bed for a few days in bed.  He took care of me.  He apologized for what he had done and brought me flowers.  He told me that he loved me so much it drove him crazy to think that I would leave him for another man.  And as usual, he promised that he would stop hitting me and get help.  I stopped believing him.  I stopped hoping.

We hardly had company over and when we did, I had to wear long sleeves to cover the bruises on my arms.  There were times when I could hardly move because I ached all over.  During the day, it was a struggle to do the chores and I was always so exhausted.  At night, I lay there in bed, long after we had sex, staring up at the ceiling, wishing I could just go to sleep and never wake up.

We didn’t have any children because he didn’t want to have any.  He already had two from his previous marriage.  “Besides, I want you all to myself,” he said and then, he would take me into the bedroom and have rough sex with me.  Sometimes, he liked to pretend that I was under arrest so that he could hand-cuff me to the bedpost while we were having sex.  There were other kinky things that he liked to do to me  and wanted me to do to him.  I went along with it because I loved him and he was my husband.  He told me that he never  wanted to do these things with his first wife but he wanted to do them with me because I was beautiful and exciting.  I brought out the animal in him, he said.  And he was like a wild animal in bed.   Sometimes it was thrilling and other times it was terrifying.

Then he started to blame me for the abuse.  “I never hit my first wife.  In fact, I never hit a woman in my life until I met you.  You make me do it.  There’s something about you that drives me so wild with jealousy that I lose control and I hit you.  Do you think I like hitting a woman?  It’s your fault that I do it.  I love you so much it makes me go crazy just thinking of you with another man.  I swear if you ever leave me, I’ll find you and kill you.”

I began to hate him and wish that something bad would happen to him but I always felt guilty afterwards.  I couldn’t go on the computer because he was afraid that I would go into those chat-rooms and pick up men.  I had the Bible which my grandmother had given to me a long time ago when I was finished with the household chores, I sat down and read it.  It gave me comfort.  I quit smoking.  I began to pray every night when he was sleeping.  I asked God to help me.  I claimed His promise, “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

My help came through a neighbor who was out of sugar and she came by to borrow some from me.  After we exchanged pleasantries, she followed me into the kitchen.  As I reached up in the cupboard for the bag of sugar, the sleeves of my shirt moved back and the bruises on my arm were exposed.  As I closed the door and turned to face her, I saw her staring at me.  Her expression was grave.  “How did you get those bruises on your arm?” she asked.

“I bumped into stuff,” I lied.

“I’ve seen bruises like those before and I know that they are not from bumping into walls or doors or from falls.  He’s beating you, isn’t he?”

“Please, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Sherry, you need help.  It will not get better.  It will only get worse.  Do you have family or friends you can go to?”

“I have family and friends but I’m too ashamed.  And who will believe me?  He’s a cop.”

“I’ve known women whose abusive husbands are cops, doctors, professors and even judges.  And I’m sure someone in your family will believe you, especially when they see the bruises.  If you prefer, I can take you to a shelter where they will take care of you.  All you have to do is pack what you need and I will drive you there myself.”

“All right,” I said.  Maybe this was God answering my prayer.  I got what I needed and I walked out of the apartment.  I didn’t leave a note or anything.  When my husband came home that evening, he would find me gone.  My neighbor and I went to different shelters but I was turned away because they were full.  As I tried to figure out what to do next, I remembered Lucy.  Lucy still worked as a waitress at the strip club where I used to work.  She and I were good friends.  I let her stay at my place when she walked out on her cheating boyfriend.  She always told me that if I ever needed anything, not to hesitate to call on her.

I couldn’t remember her phone number off hand so I called the club and asked Bill, the bartender for it.  He seemed happy to hear from me.  It was he who got me the job at the club.  I called Lucy and she told me to go right on over.  My neighbor dropped me.  She hugged me and said, “Take care of yourself.  When you’re ready, get help.”

I thanked her and watched her drive away before I went into the apartment building.  Lucy was standing at door when I showed up and she hugged me tightly.  “It’s so good to see you,” she said.  “Ever since you got married, you’ve been a stranger.  Come in and tell me everything.”

We went over to the sofa and sat down.  I told her everything and showed her the purple marks on my arms.  “I had to leave him,” I said.

“Yes, you did.  The brute.  He thinks because he’s a cop, he’s above the law.  The first thing you do is to report him.  He belongs behind bars.”

“Who will believe me?  I’m accusing my husband who is an exemplary cop of abuse.  No, going to the police is a bad idea.”

“All right.  We won’t go to the police.  You don’t have to make any decisions right now.  You’re welcome to stay here for a long as you need to.  Whatever you decide to do, you have my support.  Are you hungry?  I’ll fix you something before I head off to the club.  When I’m gone, please make yourself at home.  Call me if you need anything.”  She got up from the sofa and went into the kitchen to fix me some supper.  I wasn’t hungry but I forced myself to eat.

“I should be home around 2.  I have a spare room.  You can put your things in there.  See you later.”  She hugged me and then she was gone.

It was a nice, modest apartment and quiet.  It was in the heart of Soho.  After I finished eating, I washed the plate and went into the living-room to watch some television.  I rested my head against the back of the sofa.  I must have dozed off because when I opened my eyes the room was dark.  I got up and turned on the floor lamp beside the window.  I stood looking out at the street below when I heard the key turn in the lock.  I glanced at the clock above the fireplace.  It was ten-thirty.  Lucy said that she would be home by 2.  Perhaps, she decided to check on me or she wasn’t feeling well.

I called out to her but there wasn’t any answer.  Puzzled, I started for the foyer when I froze in horror.  My husband stood there.  Fear and panic gripped me.  “What are you doing here?”

He came into the living-room.  “To take you home, my Love.”

“How–how did you know I was here?”

“A little birdie told me.”

“You’re lying.  Lucy wouldn’t have told you that I was here.”  And I knew it couldn’t have been my neighbor who brought me here either.

“Who said anything about Lucy?”

Then it hit me.  It was Bill who told him where I was.  He was the only one beside Lucy who knew I was here and I had begged him not to tell anyone that I had called.  He had promised to keep his mouth shut but somehow, my husband had gotten him to talk.  “Where–where did you get the key?  Did you steal it from Lucy’s bag?”

He laughed.  “Of course not.  I showed the landlord my badge and told her that I had a warrant to search this apartment.   If she had bothered to check she would have seen that the paper I showed her was the lease for my apartment.  Now, get your things, we’re going home.”

I backed away from him, shaking my head.  “I’m not going anywhere with you.  I want a divorce.”

His expression darkened and he grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me.  “You’re crazy if you think I’m going to let you divorce me so that you can run to another man,” he muttered through clenched teeth.  “I would kill you first.”

Although this wasn’t the first time he threatened to kill me if I left him, I was really frightened because of the look in his eyes.  I felt as if I were staring into the eyes of the devil himself.  I wanted to run for my life.  I shoved hard against his chest and managed to get free.  I headed for the door but he grabbed me back the hair and dragged me back into the living room.  He shoved me face down on the floor and raped me.

When he was finished, he stood up.  I lay there for a while, trembling and crying.  Then, I slowly got to my knees.  My back was turned to him.  He yanked me to my feet.  “Clean yourself up and get your things because you’re coming with me.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.  You raped me.”

“How can you call it rape when I took what is lawfully and rightfully mine?” He demanded.

I was shaking so much that I could hardly stand.  “You’ve beat me and raped me for the last time.  I’m going to file for a divorce and get a restraining order put on you.”

“Over my dead body.  You’re my wife, Sherry and the only thing that’s going to separate us is death.”

Then, I saw him pull out his gun and point it at me.  I screamed and then everything went black.

When I came to I was lying in a hospital bed.  I learned that the bullet caught me in the shoulder because I had moved.  If I hadn’t it would have gone straight into my heart.  My husband shot me and then he shot himself.  The police were called to the apartment when a neighbor reported hearing two gun shots.  The landlord told the police that my husband had shown up and told her that he had a search warrant for Lucy’s apartment.  The landlord believed him because she knew who he was.

I told the police about the years of abuse I had suffered at the hands of a man whom they had respected.  When they asked me why I hadn’t reported him, I told them that I didn’t think that they would have believed me.  After I was discharged from the hospital, I stayed with Lucy and went for counseling and psychotherapy which really helped me.  A couple months later, I decided that I had had enough of New York.  I sold my condo, packed up and left for Lisbon, Portugal.  Years ago at the strip club where I worked, I met a visitor from Lisbon.  He was a very nice man who gave me $1,000 each time I danced for him during the three weeks he was there.  I always promised myself that if I were to go and settle anywhere in Europe it would be Lisbon.

Lucy and I are in touch.  She is dating a guy she met on the tube.  I told her to bring him to Lisbon the next time she visited.  I’m not dating at the moment.  After being in an abusive marriage, I’m not ready for another relationship.  The men in Lisbon are very attractive but I want to remain single for a while.  I’m working at a boutique and love it.  I have become a member of an English speaking church where the members are like family.

I love living in Lisbon.  Sometimes, I wish that I had come here when I first thought about it and then I wouldn’t have met my husband or been a victim of domestic violence.  Then, I tell myself to forget about the what ifs and be thankful that I’m still alive.  My life could have easily ended that night in Lucy’s apartment if it had not been for the grace of God.   I was a victim of domestic violence and now I’m a survivor.  I have survived to tell my story.  Other women have not been so lucky.  I think about them often and that’s why I want to join in the fight against domestic violence.

There are times when I meet couples who are still madly in love with each other after thirty or more years of marriage and I’m filled with a heavy sadness.  That could have been my husband and me.  I sometimes ask myself why couldn’t he have loved me the way the Bible says a man should love his wife?  And I wanted to love him the way the Bible says I should but how could I respect a man who beat and violated me?  How could I submit to his violent and controlling ways?  He claimed he loved me but his love was was cruel, selfish, demanding, easily provoked and abusive.   I believe that if he really loved me he would have gotten the help he needed and our marriage would have survived.

Today, I’m speaking fluent Portuguese and am a volunteer at a Domestic abuse treatment center here in Lisbon.   God spared my life and I want to use it to help women who are going through the same thing I did.  It is my earnest prayer that one day very, very soon, domestic violence will be eradicated.  Marriage between a man and woman who love each other the way the Bible teaches could be a very beautiful thing.  Love shouldn’t hurt.  It shouldn’t kill either.

March 7, 2019 was a national day of mourning for victims of domestic violence in Lisbon.  Portugal’s Cabinet went out into the street to observe a minute of silence as part of a day of national mourning it decreed for victims of domestic violence.  According to police, 12 women have died this year in domestic violence incidents — the highest number over the same period in 10 years.  On the eve of International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a tweet that domestic violence is “a collective challenge” for society as a whole – National Post

Sherry’s story, though it is fiction, it is the reality for many women.  Some have survived domestic violence and others have not.  There are resources for women who are in abusive relationships and for the abusers as well.  Here is a list:

Victims of abuse often feel guilty as if they have done something to provoke their abuser or that they somehow deserve the abuse they receive. Abusers are often skillful at making their victims feel responsible. But no one deserves to be abused by another, and abusers are responsible for their own choices and actions – Bible Info

Join the fight against domestic violence.  If you are a victim, please seek help as soon as possible.  Your life depends on it.  Be a survivor not another statistic.  If you suspect that someone you know is in an abusive marriage or relationship, please reach out to that person.  October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Take action today for the many women who feel trapped in the vicious cycle of abuse and feel that there is no way out for them.  Domestic violence affects all of us.

Sources:  Huff Post; Bible Gateway; Bible GatewayTVO

Adopted

How do people feel when they find out that they have been adopted?  I once watched an episode of the soap opera, One Life to Live where a character named Destiny was devastated when she learned that her parents were actually her grandparents and that the brother she was so close to, whom she adored was actually her father.

When should adoptive parents tell their children that they are adopted?  Is there ever a right time to do so?  Wikhow offers the following tips:

Tell your child as early as possible. The earlier you talk to your child about their adoption, the easier it will be for them to come to terms with the idea. If possible, start talking to your child about their adoption while they are still preschool-aged.

Be positive when discussing your child’s adoption. If you speak positively about the adoption, your child will be less likely to feel upset or uncomfortable about it. Tell your child how happy you were to bring them into your family, and how much you love them.

  • For example, you might say something like, “Your mommy and I love you so much. We were so happy and excited when you became part of our family!”
  • Avoid saying anything negative about your child’s birth parents, since they are also an important part of your child’s story.
Keep your explanation simple and age appropriate. Eventually, your child will have plenty of questions about the details of their adoption and their birth family. When you first tell them, however, try not to overwhelm them with details. Instead, give them a very basic and straightforward explanation of where they came from.

  • For example, when talking to your preschooler, you might say, “When you were born, your mama couldn’t take care of you. So, your daddy and I decided to adopt you and become your parents. Now you’re part of our family forever.”
  • Don’t give your child details that might be confusing or upsetting. For example, if their birth parents were abusive or neglectful, now is not the time to bring it up.
Answer your child’s questions clearly and honestly. It’s natural for your child to be curious and anxious about their background. They may ask questions about what their birth parents are like, where they are now, and why they chose to put your child up for adoption. They might also ask questions about how they came to be with you. Answer these questions to the best of your ability, but keep your answers simple and appropriate to your child’s age or developmental level.

  • For example, your child might ask, “What happened to my other parents?” You could say something like, “They live in another town. Sometimes I write them letters to let them know how you’re doing!”
  • Be patient with your child even if they ask the same questions over and over again.
  • Try to anticipate questions your child might have so you can address them before your child even brings them up. This will help them feel more comfortable talking to you about the subject and bringing up questions of their own.

Once they find out the truth, do adoptees feel betrayed?  How do they cope with the truth?  I have read stories of people who found out later in life that they were adopted and were shocked, upset, angry, etc.  Finding out that they were adopted helped others understand why they always felt like they didn’t quite fit in.

Children may feel grief over the loss of a relationship with their birth parents and the loss of the cultural and family connections that would have existed with those parents.

There can also be significant concerns about feeling abandoned and “abandonable,” and “not good enough,”coupled with specific hurt feelings over the birth mother’s choice to “reject” the child” to “give me away” or “not wanting me enough.” Such hurtful and vulnerable feelings may be compounded should the child learn that the birth mother later had other children that she chose to raise herself – Mental Health Help

When it comes to sharing medical family history, it is difficult for an adopted child to do so.  It is a reminder that she is different from the others.  Many struggle with identity issues because they are no longer the person they thought they were.  Their parents are not their real parents and their siblings are not their real siblings.  They have questions such as “Who am I?” “Who are my real parents?”  “Am I ever going to meet them?”  “Why didn’t they want me?”  They feel guilty because they want to find out about their birth parents and feel that in doing so they are hurting their adoptive parents who loved and raised them as their own.

I have read stories where adopted children meet their biological parents and things don’t go well.  However, for some, making contact was better than looking at every stranger and wondering if that person was their mother or father.  Sometimes the hurt and pain that comes from knowing that they were given up for adoption put a damper on their reunion with their birth mother or father and many decide to severe any further contact.

Mother Worried About Unhappy Teenage Daughter

Adoption is a tricky thing but it could be a blessing.  I just read this story of a girl who knew that she was adopted.  It was never kept from her and she knew why her mother had given her up.  “I knew that my birth mother loved me so much that she wanted to give me a better life.”  Her adoptive parents were looking to adopt and they found her less than a week after she was born.  Growing up, her adoptive parents explained her adoption this way:  “We chose you.” To this girl, it was a “a wonderful way to put it to an adopted child.”

For some birth parents, giving their child up for adoption is a very difficult and emotional decision but they do it out of love.  They know that they can’t take care of the child and that it would be best for a couple who could to raise him or her.  For the adoptive couple, this is a gift, especially if they can’t have children of their own and want to be parents.

Not all adoptive children will see adoption as a blessing and will always question why their birth parents gave them away but hopefully, in time, they will accept that they were very fortunate to be placed in the care of people who have loved and raised them from birth.

Adoption is another word for loveAdoption.com

Sources: Medium; The Genealogist; American Adoptions ; The Guardian

Sophia’s Secret

GettyImages-150638370-56f7491a3df78c78418e3fd3

Jamie Grill/Tetra Images/Getty Images

My name is Sophia.  I have been living with a secret since I was eight.  It’s a shameful thing and every-time I think about it, I feel sick and I wish I could curl up and just die.  No one at school knows but I keep wondering if they could tell just by looking at me.  Do I look different?  They don’t treat me like I am but I feel different.  I feel that there is something wrong with me because of what’s happening to me.  Maybe if I were ugly or fat, he wouldn’t trouble me.  Every-time we are together, he tells me how pretty I am.  I don’t want to be pretty.  I don’t want him to notice me.  I wish I were invisible.

I wish I could tell somebody but who would believe me?  He keeps telling me that this is our little secret and not to tell anyone.  He warned me that no one would believe me anyway.  So, I keep quiet.  I lie there, staring up at the ceiling and let him do things to me.  I hate it but what can I do?  He’s my uncle.  He was my favorite uncle until he started violating me.  It happens whenever we are alone in my grandparents’ house.

During the day, I try to keep busy so as not to think about it and at night, I cry myself to sleep.  Whenever I visit my friends’ homes, I envy them.  They seem so happy.  They are not orphans like my little brother, Tony and me.  Our parents died in a car crash ten years ago.  We are living with our paternal grandparents.  I love my grandfather because he reminds me of my Dad whom I loved very, very much.  My grandmother and I aren’t very close.  She complains that I’m too much like my mother whom she never accepted.  She had wanted my Dad to marry an Italian woman.  My mother was Puerto Rican.  My grandmother is more partial to Tony because he looks more Italian and a lot like my father.

I wonder what she would say if she knew what her favorite son was doing to me.  One evening, I found out.  My grandfather and Tony had gone to a Baseball game and my grandmother had gone to visit a friend.  It was after seven when she got home.  She was at the end of the corridor when she saw Uncle Matteo coming out of my bedroom.  He froze when he saw her.  Then, he recovered, smiled and said, “Hi, Mama.  Sophia was just showing me the school project she’s working on for school.  She needed my input.”

My grandmother believed him.  She smiled as he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  “Have you eaten?” she asked.  “I can fix you a nice bowl of Tuscan Soup.”

He shook his head.  “No, Mama.  I have to go.  I have Maybe next time?”

She looked disappointed.  “Where are you off to in such a hurry?” she demanded.

“I have a date.”

“Who is she?  Do I know her?”

He shook his head.  “No, Mama.  One of these days, I will bring her here and she can have you delicious Tuscan Soup.”

“All right.  Run along.  Whoever she is, she must be special for you to pass up my soup.”

He kissed her on the cheek again.  “Ciao, Mama.”  He turned and hurried down the hall.  “Ciao, Sophia.”

I didn’t answer.  I stood there, happy to see him go.  I wrapped my arms around me, feeling dirty.  I felt so ashamed.  I wanted to run away and go where he couldn’t hurt me anymore.  I thought of my mother’s sister, Aunt Teresa.  I’m sure she would let me live with her.  Taking a deep breath, I turned to face my grandmother.  “Nonna,  I want to go and live with my Aunt Teresa.”

She stared at me.  “Why?” she asked.  “Aren’t your grandfather and I taking good care of you?

“I’m not happy here.”

“What do you mean?” she demanded crossly.  “We feed you, put a roof over your head and we let you do what you like as long you follow the house rules.  Do you think your Aunt Teresa can do a better job raising you?”

“Nonna, I’m not leaving because Nonno and you.”

“Well, it’s up to you.  I wouldn’t stop you.”  She turned and walked away.  I could tell that she was upset and I was sorry but I had to leave.   And I did that weekend.  My grandfather dropped me off at Aunt Teresa’s house.  He was sorry that I left because he would miss having me around but I think he understood.  He knew that my relationship with my grandmother was strained.  He promised that he would visit me with Tony every other Sunday.

My Aunt Teresa was more than happy to have me.  Her daughter, my cousin Natalia had moved out and into her own place so I got her room which was much nicer than the one I had at my grandparents’ house.  I settled in very quickly.  I helped with chores as I did at my grandparents’ house and I did some of the cooking too.  I wasn’t as good as my grandmother but I was improving.

One night, I had a nightmare.   I dreamed that I was back in my grandparents’ house and Uncle Matteo was in my bed.  His mouth and hands were all over me.  I woke up, sweating and shaking like a leaf.  The next morning when my Aunt Teresa and I were alone, sorting the laundry, I told her about the abuse.  She was visibly upset.  She hugged me tightly and I began to cry.  It felt so good telling someone.  I felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted off me.  When she drew back to look at me, she said, “The Bible clearly says,  that no one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations.  What your uncle did to you is criminal and he should be reported.”  And she reported him.

My Aunt Teresa had a friend who was a social worker come and see me.  She told me that I wasn’t to blame for what happened to me and that I did the right thing telling someone.  That made me feel better.  I started to live again and I began to read the Bible my Aunt Teresa gave me.  I started to go to church with her and I loved it.  I met wonderful people and made new friends.

My grandmother was angry with me and doesn’t want me over at the house anymore.  It’s on account of me that her son is in jail.  My grandfather was broken up about it and he apologized to me for not being there to protect me.  He swore that if he had known, he would have reported the abuse himself.  He and my grandmother are no longer together.  Tony has moved in with Aunt Teresa and me and my grandfather is living with Uncle Alberto and his family.

It wasn’t my intention to cause any trouble for my grandparents but I had to tell someone my secret.  And now I’m a part of a Youth Program called Give Voice.  It encourages teenagers and youth to break the silence about their own abuse or to report to someone they trust when they suspect that someone they know is being abused.  It’s a support group where we feel safe talking about our experiences and there’s also a mixture of fun and other activities.

I created a pamphlet for Give Voice which we hand out at schools, colleges, universities, libraries, shopping malls, on the streets, subways, bus stations, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, hairdressing salons, barber shops and other public places.  We want to get the word out that there is help out there.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Tell someone you trust.  Put your abuser where he or she belongs:  behind bars.

When it comes to any type of abuse, silence is not golden.  Tell, cry, yell, do whatever you have to but don’t keep silent.  Abuse should never be kept a secret.

Sources:  Government of Canada; Bible Info; Bible Gateway

Tamika’s Story

I was turning tricks since I was 15.  My father was in prison for manslaughter and my mother was a coke head.  I didn’t have any siblings.  I was the only child.  I thought of dropping out of school and finding a job so I could save up enough money to blow this city but I then I decided that I wanted to make quick money.  I was an attractive looking girl.  I’ve had many boys and men hit on me.  So the plan was that I would go to school during the day and turn tricks at night.  I knew exactly where to go.  It was a prime spot where rich men drove up in their fancy cars.  So, I started out walking the streets and getting into cars which took me to dark alleys.  I made a lot of money which I hid in a box under my mattress.  When I had enough, I would leave home and go to another state where I could start a new life.

One of my johns was a foreign businessman.  I met him when I was 17.  I suspected that he was German because of his accent.  It reminded me of Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List.  He took a real liking to me and several times he picked me up in his black sedan.  He didn’t take me to an alley but to a quiet spot on a bridge or at a lookout place where you could see the city below.  It got so that he didn’t want me to have other johns so I went only with him and instead waiting for him in the usual pick up area, I waited outside of The QG department store.  Then, he bought a fancy and very expensive penthouse apartment uptown and that was where he and I would go every night.  I didn’t mind.  He was very attractive, probably in his early or mid-forties and he was rich.  He bought me jewelry, a fur coat and expensive dresses.  I later found out that I was the first and only prostitute he had ever been with.

He was a very intelligent and he exposed me to the finer things in life.  He lent me books by German classic authors such as Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht and German-Swedish poet, Nelly Sachs.  He started taking me to the opera, museums and the ballet.  Sometimes we enjoyed fine dining and a couple of times we took weekend trips to Ocean City, Calvert Cliffs State Park, Deep Creek Lake and Chesapeake Beach.  We drew some attention wherever we went but he didn’t seem to care.  I always worried that I might run into one of my former johns, though.  Then, I figured that they would probably wouldn’t even recognize me because the lighting was always poor when I was with them or if they did recognize me, they would act like they didn’t know me.  I was glad that I was off the streets and that I had a man who was taking care of me.

There were times when we didn’t see each other because he had to go away on business.  I missed him like crazy and was always thrilled when he came back.  When he showed up at the penthouse, I would throw myself at him and we would kiss each other wildly and end up in bed where we spent most of our time.  I wondered sometimes if he was in a relationship.  I didn’t notice a wedding ring but he could have removed it.  I was afraid to ask because I was afraid of the answer.

When I graduated from high-school, I applied to three universities and got accepted to all three.  He offered to pay for my tuition.  I chose John Hopkins University.  When I told him that my area of study was Computational Medicine, he seemed a bit surprised.  I explained to him that I loved computers and have always been interested how human diseases are identified, analyzed and treated.  I showed him the books on Human Disease which I had borrowed from the library.  The whole thing must have seemed strange to him because I used to turn tricks.  I never had unprotected sex with any of my johns because I didn’t want to contract HIV/AIDS or get pregnant.  I never kissed any of them nor engaged in fellatio.  I was a prostitute but I had my standards.  I was lucky I was never met with any danger or violence as some girls have done.  I think Someone was watching over me.

One day I was in the kitchen fixing dinner when my mother stumbled in.  She looked awful.  “So, where you got them fancy clothes from?” she demanded.

I turned to face her.  “Mama, you have no right to go into my room without my permission.”

“Don’t you sass me, Girl.  I got every right to do what I want in my house.  Now, answer me, where did you get them clothes?”

“I saved up and bought them.”

“Where did you get the money to save up?”

“I got a job after school,” I lied.

“What job?  Where?  How come you didn’t tell me ’bout it before?”

I didn’t answer.

She came closer to me and studied me.  “You lyin’,” she said.  “Where did you get the money?”

“Mama, please leave me alone.”

“You been turnin’ tricks?”

“No, Mama.”  That was true.  I wasn’t on the streets any more.

“Did you rob somebody?”

I looked at her.  “No, Mama!  I’m not a thief.”

“Then, you got yo’self a Sugar Daddy.”

“Mama, you don’t know what you’re talking about.  I’m fixing dinner.  Why don’t you sit down at the table and have some?  You don’t look like you’ve eaten all day.” I tried to help her over to the table but she slapped my hand away.

“Don’t give me that,” she snapped.  “You’ve been holding out on me.”

“No, I haven’t, Mama,” I denied.

“Give me some of that money.  I deserve it for all them years I struggled hard to raise you after yo’ Daddy got thrown in prison.  Give me some of that money.”

I got angry then.  “So that you could waste it on drugs?  No, Mama, I’m not going to feed your drug habit.  You need help.”

She drew her hand back and slapped me hard across the face.  “Don’t you talk to me like that!”

I threw the spoon down, turned off the stove and rushed out of the kitchen.  I ran out of the house, hailed a cab and went to the penthouse.  I spent the night there.  When I went back to the house, my mother wasn’t there.  I decided that I would going to move out.  I had had enough of her and her drug problem.  I quickly threw all of my clothes and jewelry in the suitcase.  I put the money I kept hidden under the mattress in my satchel.  I went to get my fur coat but it wasn’t there.  I searched my room and the entire apartment but couldn’t find it.  Then, it dawned on me that my mother must have taken it.  She was probably could to sell it for money to buy drugs.  Hatred and fury welled up inside me and grabbing my suitcase, I stormed out of that miserable place I had called home for 19 years.

I moved into the penthouse and when my man came there the following night after returning from one of his business trips, I told him what had happened.  “I can’t believe she sold my fur coat,” I wailed.  “I loved it because you gave it to me.”

“Don’t worry about the coat,” he said.  “I can buy you another one.  But, your mother…she needs help.”

349bbcf7e2ce55539bc2af29d3a2fc11

“When I told her that, she slapped me.”

“She slapped you because of how you spoke to her, Tamika.  She’s still your mother and you should still show her some respect.”

I didn’t answer.  I lowered my eyes feeling a little ashamed.  I got up from the sofa and stood in front of him with my head bent like a school girl who had done something bad, standing before the principal.

“I have a friend who used to be a drug addict but now he’s a pastor.  Perhaps, I could get in touch with him.”

When I looked up at him, there were tears in my eyes.  I realized then that I was madly in love with this incredible man who wanted to help my mother, a woman he had never met.  “Thank you,” I whispered before I reached up and put my arms around his neck.

He held me tightly and then when he drew back, he murmured, “I want to marry you, Tamika.”

I stared at him, stunned.  “Why?” I asked.

Weil ich dich liebe.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Because I love you.”

I swallowed hard.  “I love you too, Dieter.”

He caressed my cheek with his knuckles.  “I want to take care of you.”

“And I want to be your wife,” I said in tears.

He smiled that winsome smile of his before he lowered his head and kissed me.

The next day, he officially proposed and two weeks later, we got married.  The penthouse became our home.  He relocated to the office in Baltimore.  In two and a half years I will be graduating from John Hopkins and am thinking of doing my Masters.  Dieter is very supportive and proud of me.  We have both decided that after I have completed my Masters, we will plan on having children.

His friend, Jakub, the polish pastor and former drug addict visited my mother and he was able to get through to her.  She’s now in a rehab center getting the help she needs. Dieter and I began to attend Jakub’s church where we were warmly welcomed by the congregation.  We began to study the Bible with Jakub and a year later, we gave our lives to Jesus Christ and were baptized.  Now, I’m actively involved Women’s Ministries and Dieter is an elder.  We are extremely happy that we found each other and Christ.  My mother is doing well and she is currently doing Bible Studies with Jakub.

I have learned that no matter where we are or how far we have fallen, God will always find a way to reach us.

Sources: John Hopkins; Adventist Mission