Rochelle didn’t look good when she arrived for her weekly interview. Immediately she started crying. Big sobs. “I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life,” she told me. “Jamail, the kids’ father, had to move out of where he was staying. Everyone knows I’m desperate financially so he asked if he could store his stuff in my place. He wouldn’t live there, he would just store his stuff and he would pay me for doing that. So I did it and now it is the worst mistake of my life. He’s not paying me any money, he’s using utilities, he stole my daughter’s apartment key and let himself in last night at about 2:00 in the morning. I was scared since it was dark and I was asleep. We started fighting. I told him he couldn’t stay there. The kids woke up and were scared. He hit me in the face and told me to call the cops if I wanted to. We started going after each other. He called me a whore in front of the kids. Said I was good for nothing. He said the rest of his homeboys had women who worked so their men didn’t have to. Then he said I was flirting with men and wanted to see my Facebook page and my cell phone.”
I asked Rochelle why she didn’t call the police for a restraining order. “I have too many things going on. I can’t deal with Child Protective Services now; they might call them. My car’s engine light is on; I have no money, and it is the beginning of the month; and I’m changing jobs. And I’m just hoping my mama is going to care for the kids like she now said she would,” Rochelle answered. “I am at my end. I want to kill him,” she then said. “I just want to kill him.”
Rochelle and I discussed the seriousness of having a violent man in the apartment. One who hits her, curses her, checks her email and Facebook, and accuses her of flirting, even though they are no longer a couple. This man has no job, no place to live, and rarely gives Rochelle any money to support his kids. And yet this same man has the nerve to tell Rochelle that his “homeboys” have women who go to work so their boyfriends don’t have to. He asks her why she can’t be like them. Of course, Rochelle does have a job, which barely supports her and her children. She certainly has no extra money to support an abusive ex boyfriend, even if she had the inclination to do so.
We continued talking about how this was a serious and dangerous problem, and way too common. We discussed how such situations can and do lead to someone’s getting killed. It is bad for the children to see and hear. Not only are they frightened, but it can easily reinforce the notion that it is acceptable for men to act like Jamail, and that women have no option but to endure it. More important, it can lead to someone’s death. There were some other topics I had wanted to discuss in the interview, but this was enough for one hour. I briefly mentioned the other topics, and again told Rochelle, “This is a dangerous situation. You need to keep away from Jamail.”Abusive men are often a complication in worlds like Rochelle’s. But achieving a split with them is difficult.