The National Domestic Violence Hotline shared that: On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year. On October 13, 2001, I was one of those 24 people. It is hard to believe that so much can happen around the world in 60 seconds. When you see your life flash before your eyes, 60 seconds can seem like an eternity.
My 60 seconds started shortly after my 18th birthday. In short, I was four months shy of my 18th birthday, when I met a guy while working as a cashier. He had a different persona that I had yet to encounter at a young age. After I had finished ringing up his purchase, and he paid, he came back into the store with a note for me. Inside the note read “Call me, if you don’t ... have a good life :)” Sometimes I wonder if my life would have been great, had I not been so inquisitive as to who this mystery man was. I know the saying is curiosity killed the cat, well in my case – that curiosity almost cost me my life!
After deciding to make the call, he and I became better acquainted. I had learned that he was 37, and had recently been released from prison. I was not too hell-bent on the prison release, as I felt that a person has a new lease on life after they have paid their debt to society, Granted he told me he was in prison for 20 years for murder, my naive and loving nature gave him the benefit of the doubt. Roughly a month into our meeting, he treated me differently than some of the other guys I had met. He would do things like wine and dine, buy me gifts, give me portions of his check to spend at my own will. This was life!
Upon his release from prison, he lived with his mom. He was saving up for his place. Now that we had started dating – it was our place. Once I turned 18, he had the apartment and lease already handled. My mom had no idea I was dating a guy 20 years my senior, nor did she know I was moving in with a man either. I remember the bogus story I had fed her the day I was moving out” oh mom, and friend of mine will be moving into an apartment and asked me to be a roommate.” My mom rolled with it and did not ask any questions. So, I packed up as much of my belongings as I could, grabbed my fur baby, Sassy the cat, and called a cab to take me to my new home.
Having our place was life! I perfected my cooking skills and learned how to maintain a home during this time. Heading into the New Year, I found out I was pregnant. Ecstatic as we were with hearing the news, we set out to schedule doctors’ appointments to see how the pregnancy was going. Due to my diabetes at the time, we wanted to make sure I was in good health. About a month into the pregnancy, I suffered a spontaneous miscarriage. We were both devastated by the news. We made every attempt we could, to have another baby.
About a month into trying to conceive again, he and I had a huge blowout. I don’t remember the details, but I do recall telling him that morning “This will not be your day!” Actually. It ended up not being my day. As we were arguing, he began hitting me. We fought from the bedroom, bathroom, and living room. Once we were in the living room, he opened up the front door – I started fighting more to not be placed outside. In my head, I thought of the scene from the movie, The Color Purple. Where the sisters were separated and thrown out the house. The part that was in my head was to hold on to something. I did not have a sister or a friend to hold on to; I didn’t even have a wooden pole (as in the movie), but I held on to that door frame for life! I was not successful, as he overpowered me, and was still able to throw me outside… Like last night’s trash. Now outside with a tear-soaked face, and barefoot. I cried and yelled out to anyone… anybody! “Help!” “Help me!” I heard some voices from afar and headed in that direction. Behind our apartment, was a different set of apartments? Two Maintenance men heard my call for help. I went over to them and told them what just happened. One of them contacted their rental office, and ask that they send police to my address.
Once the police arrived, one knocked on the door, as the other talked outside with me. After their investigation into what happened, He was arrested for domestic battery and other charges. Later in the week, I had become sick. I was staying with my dad, step-mom, and siblings during this time. An ambulance was called, and I was rushed to the hospital. From there I found out I was pregnant. During our numerous court appointments, the judge granted permission for a no-contact order, but contact could be made if it involved anything about the child (prenatal/appointments/delivery). On January 7, 2000, our first son was born. After four days of labor, he was invited to come for the birth of our son. Sadly, he was told that due to his drinking and disorderly behavior, he was not allowed in the delivery room. I was unaware of any of this going on – after all, I was about to give birth. After my cesarean section, my mother told me that security had to escort him out of the hospital, and I was now placed on a no information status at the hospital. His threats of killing people in the hospital weren’t taken lightly.
I know I mentioned living with my dad earlier, but in all actuality, I did not grow up with my dad in my life. That being said, I did not want this for my son. He and I regained contact about 3 months after my son was born. With that contact, came some intimate contact too. In May 2000, he had a get together at his home. After the guest left, I went to check on my son sleeping. While in the bedroom, he questioned me about some males’ numbers on my phone… From there the beating started again! With his brother just in the living room, I was tossed around like a Raggedy Ann doll, from the bedroom to the bathroom. Once in the bathroom, he flung me from the bathroom door to the shower. With cold water now covering my body, he helped me up and apologized. He helped me gather my items and son, and had his brother take me home. Once home, I called the police. He was arrested once again. This time I went to stay at a domestic violence shelter, as I did not want to bring harm to my mother in her home. During my stay at the shelter, I took a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant. On, January 3, 2001, our youngest son was born. Thinking again of my lack of a father in my life, I allowed him to be in the boys’ life again.
On October 13, 2001, I had invited a male friend over. I just was not feeling safe in my home. The friend and I, sat in the front room talking, watching TV and playing with my youngest son. Renting my first apartment, I didn’t have a lot of fancy items in my home, such as the lining for my sheer curtains. So, you could see into my home from my patio door. The friend and I decided to finish watching tv in the bedroom after I place my youngest son to sleep. At some point, we dozed off, shortly after coming into the bedroom. I started hearing a popping sound of some sort. I assumed it was the pot on the stove, I used to fragrant the house with. As I get out of my bed, I see a familiar face dressed in all black from head to toe – black gloves, black shoes, black pants, and black hat. I noticed something shiny in his hand. I began yelling “NO!” the “friend” woke up saying “She did not tell me, man.” My ex hits him in the mouth and told him to leave. I heard the door shut once, heard it shut twice. In the meantime, I am getting stabbed repeatedly. I had an aware system ion my home from a security company. The courts thought this was a good fit for me and my home. When triggered, the police are notified that my ex was at my home harming me. During the fight for survival, the key chain fell near me. I was able to sound the alarm – “b—-, you calling the police on me?” I heard a voice in my head say “Play dead!” he stabbed me one final time on the side of my abdomen, and I played dead. Motionless, lifeless… “Dead” I felt his presence over my body for what seemed like an eternity.
“OUR HELL CAN BE THE NEXT PERSON’S SURVIVAL MANUAL”
Once he finally ran out of my apartment. I got up, ran to check on the boys and shut their door, went to lock my front door. As I am heading back to my room, I notice the kitchen window opened. I went to shut it and saw a crowbar and hammer in the grass. I called my mom and alerted her to what just happened. I am looking outside for the police to arrive – I called 911. Oddly, it took a minute for them to pick up my call. As I am looking outside for help to come, I notice my “friend” driving back up. He is exiting his car when an officer is pulling up behind him. EMT arrived and rushed me to a local trauma hospital. During my ride, the female EMT kept shaking me to stay awake, “fight, and don’t fall asleep!” Her voice was the voice I needed to hear – to FIGHT! When I arrived at the hospital, I was greeted by medical staff, cutting my clothes off, poking and prodding every piece of my body. I felt violated again, but this time the violation was needed. They made sure no organs were hit, gave me nine stitches to my chin and other areas.
Sadly, he was on the run for eleven months. I stayed in the house a lot: not knowing where he was, was my greatest fear. While on the run, he robbed his brother at gunpoint. He finally was arrested, and the trial preparations could now start. During the trial, he did not testify. Thus, we could not bring up our past DV cases, his criminal record, or the children we shared. His defense: we had an argument outside, where the “friend” and I had a knife to attack him with, he and I tussled over the knife, and that’s how I was stabbed. The jurors heard from a detective, myself, and others during the trial. There were pictures to collaborate with the story we all said. However, in a jury amongst his peers, twelve people found him not guilty. After the trial, his public defender told the twelve members “you all f—– up, this was a guilty verdict all day long!”
Since 2001, I got married in 2005, I have earned two degrees in criminal justice, I have spoken to other battered women/survivors and anyone with a listening ear. I am an advocate for domestic violence. Helping to raise awareness, and help those in need of finding safety and means to leave their abusive partners. It was my goal to go to law school, and help influence better practices in the criminal justice system, but due to health reasons, I had to put that goal on a halt. “24 people in one minute!” On October 13, 2001, I was one of those. Today call me a survivor!
Niesha is currently battling Stage 5 Chronic Kidney Disease and is hoping for a donor. She is Blood Type B, but her center does paired exchange; Meaning if someone does not share my blood type, they’ll be matched with someone who doies. If interested in helping Niesha, contact 317-944-4370 and ask for the donor coordinator for Niesha Neal.
We thank Niesha for her courage in telling her story.