For as long as I have been writing songs, I have always wanted to write one regarding rape culture and victim blaming. These issues are ones that I care about and want to stand against because they are very important to me personally. In the past couple of years, I have encountered people who don’t understand my level of concern and awareness when it comes to these particular topics; meanwhile, I am on the exact opposite side, wondering why they aren’t as concerned as I am. Truth be told, the experiences of my very own mother are what brought me so close to these issues. Since I, thankfully, cannot speak from first-hand experience, I would like to present this conversation between my mother and me.
Briana: Mom, would you be willing to chat with me about your life for my article?
Mom: Of course, I have nothing to hide.
B: Could you tell me about the people who hurt you?
M: Good Lord, I need a drink (she sips from her diet Sunkist can). Well, the first one was a police officer, my grandmother’s boyfriend; I was 4. Even back then, at that young age, I remember thinking, “But you’re a police officer,” and I was confused. But, enough about him. The second one was my step-dad; actually, his brother tried first, but I don’t even count him. I think [my step-dad’s] the sickest one of them all, and he’s still out there living life, being dad, being grandpa. With my step-dad, that’s when I was really confused, not in a child-like way. It’s when I first really felt that I was doing something wrong because that’s what I was told. I was “trying to cause problems.” I “really wanted it.” So, I guess that’s when the seed was planted that it was my doing; it was my fault. Even though I knew it was wrong –– that I didn’t cause this, that I sure as heck didn’t want it –– it’s still what I was being told at 13. It’s the first time I heard, “That’s all I was good for,” and it wasn’t the last. But, somehow I knew that wasn’t true, and that’s what I think other people may not have: that knowing that you deserve better. That’s the scary part. That’s when I started speaking out. “Hey, this is what’s happening.” “No, I’m not causing this.” “No, he’s wrong.” And I moved out because nobody listened.
B: This is still at 13?
M: That’s by 15. Moved out by 15 because nobody listened, but then I was known as the unruly, ungrateful, runaway child who just caused problems for everybody. I then lived in the streets, slept in cars, lived in a drug house; no, I didn’t do drugs. No, I didn’t drink or smoke, and I didn’t sleep around. I was still in school, and I had good grades, and I worked two jobs to pay $200 to sleep on a drug house couch. But I stressed my mother out so bad that I had to apologize to my step-dad for trying to cause problems and lying in order for me to come home at 17, so my mom could be at peace. That lasted about a year, during which I got my first “boyfriend.” He seemed great, considering I had lived in a drug house on the biggest gang street in the neighborhood. So, I guess I didn’t see all the little “warning signs.”
B: Warning signs like what?
M: Extreme jealously. His violent tendencies were so minute compared to the gang/drug life I was surrounded by. Before I knew it, I was being beaten for anything, like someone looked at me in a store, and it was my fault ’cause of course “I wanted it,” or for not putting corn in the rice. By this time I was married ’cause my mom wanted me to have somebody to “take care of me,” so she didn’t have to worry about me anymore. And, of course, I was pregnant, which put a lot of stress on him having to provide for his family. His stress was a big part of my beatings. Those were the obvious people that hurt me.
M: The real damage came from the people that you thought were meant to protect you: The mother that blames 13-year-old you for enticing her husband. The neighbors who heard you scream bloody murder and for help over and over and didn’t even come check or knock on the door. The police officer who is supposed to come to your rescue, but all he could do is say, “Why don’t you find somewhere else to go tonight? Because if you put him in jail, he’ll be out tomorrow, and he’ll be even more mad.” The pastor –– he’s the worst one –– who walked out to his church parking lot as I was being severely beaten and told us to take it somewhere else. When he came out, I felt shame for being “that” person. Those were the ones that let you down, that make you feel you’re really worthless. Those are the people who really break your spirit. Because of those people is why you stay in your situation, because you think you deserve where you are.
B: What would your advice be to someone in an abusive situation?
M: I guess it would be: Don’t be afraid to ask for help and make the change. Change where you live. Change who you talk to. If someone doesn’t seem to care, go to someone who does. Or, just walk away and keep on walking. Don’t look back.