PREGNANT and STRESSED OUT: My child saved my life, but the NFL Super Bowl commercial makes me feel victimized all over again BOOK EXCERPT (www.TheSingleMomClub.com) – I enjoyed my pregnancy. To be able to say that after all that I went through is a true testament to God’s grace over my life. That’s why seeing the NFL’s Super Bowl commercial made me feel victimized all over again.
I remember thinking: “How can this be happening?” as I was flying across the room while pregnant with my fiancé’s child. I remember thinking, “God, if you save my baby I promise I’ll leave him” as I crawled on my tummy through the hallway to another room, shut the door and called 9-1-1. I remember how fearful I was when the EMTs came to the apartment and asked how it happened. “I fell.” I said. It was true but I didn’t say I fell after being beaten by the man who promised to love me forever. When they put me in the ambulance and shut the door, the male EMT said, “Okay, lady. You’re safe now. We know exactly what’s going on so tell us, what really happened?”
New York City – where the NFL is based – is notorious for taking children from mothers of domestic violence for “Failure to Protect” the child from domestic violence. Yet, despite releasing a million dollar Super Bowl commercial, the NFL shows that is continuing to remain clueless on what it really takes for women like me to survive domestic violence. My child is lucky to be alive after our abuser punt kicked me in the stomach. My child was born premature with low birth weight as a result of the domestic violence and we have half a million dollars in medical bills to prove it.
Like nearly all domestic violence promotional ads or material, the commercial offered absolutely no real help for victims. The commercial did not say the NFL is funding a national housing drive for women in cities where the league has teams. The commercial asked people to look for domestic violence, did not tell them what to do if they found it, tell the women where to go after they report it, offer financial or housing assistance if they left.
Because my child was not yet born, I was cautious to say much of anything. They worked on me at the emergency room both to ensure that my child was going to be okay and to get me to talk about what was going on. I’m not sure why I didn’t spill the beans. I do remember saying that I was afraid of him but I needed to get my stuff from the house. I knew that once I could get out I would.
The first couple times I tried to escape were unsuccessful but less than a week after the hospital trip, I managed to get to the police station, get to a domestic violence shelter and begin a new life. I had to make sure I had all of my paperwork, my money and some clothes to leave. I left everything else behind and never looked back. I never let him touch me again.
Looking back now, I realize that my child saved my life because if it wasn’t for my child I might have stayed in that relationship. Up until the moment he hit me, things had been very good but I knew I was not the type of woman to stay to wait for it to get worse.
The next few years would be a roller coaster of trying to “get lost” and prevent him from finding us but I managed to do that. In the pages that follow, I will reveal how I healed myself, overcame extreme stress and managed to enjoy what was left my pregnancy. I will also show you how I went from domestic violence victim to domestic violence SURVIVOR and how you can, too!
The above is an excerpt from the new book, “PREGNANT & STRESSED OUT: My journey to the other side,” which will be published this spring.
Are you pregnant and stressed out? Here are a few tips to cope.
Tip #1: Get out! If you can safely leave, you should seriously consider it. I say consider it because there are other things to consider like where will you go? who will know you’re there? how will you get there? If you are able to safely leave, be sure to take your ID, as much cash as you can, important papers like birth certificates, immunization records, insurance information, etc. If you have a joint banking account tied to your abuser, be sure that you avoid using those cards because you could be easily tracked but if you have to use the cards to rent a hotel or something be sure to call the bank and tell them what’s going on and to ensure that your abuser isn’t given information. If you can, go to a store like CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens and buy a prepaid VISA gift card to use for purchases that require a credit card. If money is an issue, try to think of free resources that you can use to help get you to safety.
Tip #2: Consider calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline. I only recommend that you consider this. I don’t fully recommend it because if you report that a child was also hurt it’s possible to have the child protective services called and you could find yourself in another situation. But if this is a matter of life and death, you should consider calling the hotline anyway and let the chips fall where they may. Getting to safety can be the only concern in life or death situations. Advocates are the backbone of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and … to take your calls through our toll free, 24/7 hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Child welfare can say you didn’t do enough if you don’t leave. They can say you didn’t do enough if you stay. It’s a damned if you and damned if you don’t situation that only you can decide. Whatever you decide, trust yourself and make the decision as fast as possible.
Tip #3: Getting help sounds wonderful when domestic violence organizations are writing grant proposals. Many talk a good game but rarely do more than force victims to open public assistance accounts to be reimbursed for the time the victim stays at the shelter. Many also hire some of the rudiest people on the planet although others are simply the most helpful people on earth. You will never know until you try it. The process to get into a DV shelter is daunting sometimes. You have to retell the story, give a lot of personal information, abide by shelter rules for living and cooking, and the clock begins to tick. Many DV shelters allow victims to stay 45-90 days and then you’ve got to move on. Look for a DV organization that has a housing component, if possible. Look for one with lots of community partners to help the victims move from shelter to their own apartment. With all that you have going on, it can be difficult to move on if the DV organization doesn’t help you with childcare, job opportunities, finances and housing.
Tip #4: Consider sharing your story and starting a Kickstarter or GoFundMe account to help with finances to help you stay away from your abuser for good. Start a journal. Create a blog. Start an online radio program for domestic violence advocacy to tell your story. The healing begins with you. Creating a blog, writing a book or in a journal could be a first step.
BONUS TIP: Prior to becoming a DV victim, I held so much faith in DV organizations. I truly thought they were helping every woman/ child who needed it. Unfortunately, I got to see a dark side of domestic violence including a woman who was the housing specialist at the DV shelter I stayed in for about a week. She told me straight up she expected me to pay her under the table for finding me an apartment, despite the function being her job description. Also, some of the workers I encountered were people most wouldn’t trust to be janitors in a school but these people ran the DV shelter overnight and on weekends. They wielded extreme control over the residents. If you walk in and it doesn’t feel right, you may possibly be able to ask to be transferred.
The Aegis domestic violence shelter run by Paladia was a tragic place that stored mattresses outside, uncovered from rain and other elements, gave expired baby food and had bed bugs. The company wanted the million dollar grants but did not really want to help the women. It was a miserable place where I lasted less than a week before I left to go to a really nice place. But it became really clear that I was going to have “get myself out” because the housing reps at the Domestic Violence shelters were used to under the table bribes and other illegal things.
Victims of Domestic Violence can access Aegis by calling the domestic violence hot-line operated by the New York City Human Resource Administration, which is also the licensing and funding Agency for Aegis. Said another way, there will no one to complain to because complaints about DV shelters have to be reported and HRA does not want to risk its own funding so usually the women and kids leave amd have to start all over again. Aegis didn’t have an elevator so moms had to pack their strollers up many flights of stairs with their babies in hand. The staff refused to help becUse of “insurance” issues but it felt more like out of laziness and indifference. I was actuslly placed with a woman who was related to my abuser. That was the final straw. I left and never looked back.
When I finally got out to safety, it was NOT because of any money, help or service of a domestic violence shelter. It was solely because I took it upon myself to make my own escape plan. Safe Horizon was no help. They only give clients referrals and paperwork. NYC’s HRA was zero help. If you are unlucky enough to survive domestic violence in NYC, you will likely end up on welfare before the NFL or the City of New York helps you move on to a safe home.
There is an organization which works to help mothers whose children have removed from their care after domestic violence. Many abusers in New York City regularly used the family court to harass and control their victims and children. They call in fake child welfare calls, make up allegations and NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) eats it up. They are quick to accuse the mothers of “Failure to Protect” and the kids end up in foster care while the abusers walk free. The mothers end up fighting to get their kids back because ACS has a $3 billion budget and uses it to influence family court cases. ACS offers virtually no help to mothers. The family support unit of ACS is supposed to offer housing help, childcare vouchers, transportation, employment services, etc. but does so in just 10 percent of cases. No one checks. No one helps the kids wrongly placed in foster care, many of whom are abused while in foster care. Children in NYC stay in foster care 54 months (4.5 years) on average, which is twice the national average!
While the NFL wants us to feel it cares, moms like me know that nothing could be further from the truth or more hurtful.