The First Step

I didn’t know I was victim of domestic violence until the ‘Pretty Face’ challenge on Instagram until the fall of 2014.

Early one morning, I received a text from a friend who wanted to tell me her idea for the challenge and to ask my permission to use my photograph. She was tagged to do the ‘Pretty Face’ challenge on Instagram which consisted of posting pictures of yourself (at your beautiful best) and tagging other attractive people (mostly women- how sexist) to do the same.

Her challenge had a twist. She wanted to use this platform to showcase herself and her friends who are both beautiful, and also victims of domestic violence to say: being pretty isn’t enough; anyone can suffer from domestic violence.

I stopped. Was I a victim of domestic violence?

I recently read an article by Dee Barnes, a journalist from the 1990’s, who wrote about her physical attack by the producer, rapper, and Beats By Dre’s own Dr. Dre. Over the years, stories of Dr. Dre’s abusive behavior towards women have circulated, and Barnes took this opportunity to shed light on her story again after the recent release of Dre’s group, NWA, biopic Straight Out of Compton.

In 1991, Dr. Dre commented on the allegations by saying ,“[If] somebody fucks with me, I’m gonna fuck with them,” he told Rolling Stone. “ I just did it…. It ain’t no big thing — I just threw her through a door.” In Rolling Stone’s recent current cover story about Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, the rapper addressed assault claims again stating: “I made some fucking horrible mistakes in my life.”

I saw the film opening night, and thought it was great. I even wore my Dr. Dre Chronic t-shirt. The acting and cinematography were impeccable, and I recommended it to everyone.. However after reading Barnes’ article and watching an interview of singer Michel’le (Dr. Dre’s ex who has stated she also was a victim), I began to think of the misogynistic nature within our communities and society, the absence of these stories in narratives, and the overall lack of acknowledgment and discussion in general on such a prevalent issue. I thought of my own personal experience, and how difficult it is to acknowledge the existence of abuse.

I suffered in an emotionally, later to become physical, abusive and tumultuous off and never on relationship with someone I met in college at nineteen. I loved him, more than I loved myself. I stopped communicating with him all together this year at 28. I didn’t realize how fucked up it was, we were, until I started to moved on. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.

My friend was referring to a situation that happened in 2012, in which he and I were on vacation together. The altercation started at a theme park, and the tension escalated the rest of the trip. He did not punch or hit me. I still say that with pride, as if everything else that happened was acceptable.

I brushed it off, and only left for a night after receiving frantic calls from my sister, mom, and two best friends who told me to get the hell out of there. We never talked about it. He never apologized, and it never happened again. I put it in the back of my mind.

After receiving the text from my friend regarding the challenge two years after the incident, I ended up texting that same best friend I called after the altercation years before.

“Am I a victim of domestic violence?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

I ended up not allowing my friend to use my picture for the domestic violence ‘Pretty Face’ challenge post. I didn’t want people to know. I was embarrassed. I still have a difficult time saying that I am a victim. The word victim makes me feel like I’m powerless or damaged. I never want people to pity or feel sorry for me. The connotation of domestic violence seems much worse than what I experienced. That in itself is still my denial. The more I talk about it, and the more I express it, the more I realize I have a story and a voice. There is strength in vulnerability, and lessons from pain, even triumph. Sitting around talking with friends, you realize you are not alone. I realize it’s okay to accept that I have experienced abuse by the hands of a man and slowly, I am becoming more and more comfortable with that truth. My truth.

My friend wrote:

“Sadly, the women pictured are not even half of the women that I know who have shared personal stories of abuse with me over the years. These are just the small few who wanted you to know that their pretty faces haven’t always been so pretty.”

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