A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Sabrina Sheppard
I was born Sabrina Agee, the granddaughter, and daughter of women who suffered domestic abuse. I was raised to believe it was a man’s duty and right to beat and degrade his wife or female partner. I became entangled in this vicious cycle until I could take it no more. Looking back on my life, I remember the times I saw my grandfather physically assault my grandmother, my uncles–both paternal and maternal–beat my aunts with their fists, and my own father degrade my mother by abusing her in front of us, their children. The violence in three generations of domestic abuse, mine being the third, was forever seared into my mind as the norm in male-female relationships.
I remember the time my mother ran frantically into the bedroom that I shared with my little sister, Bridgette. Mom was looking for somewhere to hide. She could not fit underneath the twin beds in our room, so she told us, girls, to come to get in between the mattress and box spring with her. We always did as Mom said to do. We lay in front of her waiting… for what, we had no clue. Daddy came storming in the room ranting and raving about the money. UH! OH! Mom did something wrong with dad’s money.
Looking through a little girl’s eyes, I see my dad with a mean look on his face and a two-by-four in his hand. He raises the two-by-four and hits the mattress repeatedly with the three of us under it. Bridgette and I cry out, not from our own pain, but for mom’s; she takes the brunt of the blows. Mom is crying and holding on to us for dear life. When dad gets tired of wielding the two-by-four over his head, he drops it and grabs mom by the leg, pulling her from between the mattress and box spring and away from my sister and me. He takes his work belt off and whips my mom like she is a child being punished. My first experience as a victim came at the hands of a childhood friend. Back in the first grade, riding home on the bus, he hit me, and I cried. I don’t remember doing anything to cause it; I just remember feeling sorry for doing it–whatever it was that made him mad enough to hit me. He was my “like-like” friend, and because I had always seen females in my family slapped around for doing something they should not have done, I believed he had every right. I didn’t know any better. The violence in his life followed him to his death in 1992 during a home invasion. Violence also followed me years later into my relationship with the father of my daughter. Our time together began like any other teen relationship… until I got pregnant. He changed almost overnight from a teen in love with a teen full of hate. He saw me as his property and treated me likewise. I was not allowed to participate in school activities, yet he socialized with other girls and attended all the senior class parties. After graduation, I went to a party with some friends, and he showed up. Seeing me there made him mad; an altercation ensued between us, and we were told to leave. I went home, and he followed me there. The fight started again, and we began to tussle on the floor. I thought we were “play wrestling,” but he was serious. He flipped me over his head and snapped my right arm; all I heard was a pop. I could do nothing but hold it close to my chest with my left hand. I cried as the pain shot up and down my arm. I told my mother that my arm was broken, but she said there was nothing wrong with me. He realized the seriousness of his actions and begged me all the way to the emergency room not to press charges against him. The Navy processed hin that weekend; stupid me, I wish I had notified the police. He was caught “absent-without-leave” by the military police a year after he enlisted. He has continued the trend of violence in his relationships, and today is a dead-beat dad of eight, including my daughter. My final experience with domestic abuse came at the hands of a homeless and jobless ex-convict. He seduced me with lies– lies I so desperately wanted to believe. I married him knowing he was homeless, jobless, and capable of hurting me. I did not find out until later that he was an ex-convict. After realizing my mistake, I sought to end the marriage, but he was against it. In retaliation, he proceeded to beat me in the parking lot of his brother’s apartment. No one came to my aid; the onlookers stood about and watched. Others who heard the commotion came outside their homes to see. I found myself facing the same degradation my mother endured from her husband, my dad. I prayed to God for deliverance from the attack on my body, my mind, and my life. I filed for divorce a week later. Domestic violence is still a part of his life. Because of it, his live-in girlfriend is serving jail time until November of this year. Today, I have been remarried for six wonderful abuse-free years, and I am the mother of two teenage daughters who has never seen a man raise his hand to me. By sharing my experiences with you, I hope to instill the knowledge and inspire the perseverance to put a stop to the violence in our families.