In life I believe there are no mistakes, only life lessons. My name is Brittany Brown. I am a daughter, a friend, a student, a mother of a beautiful four-year old son, and last but not least, a survivor of Domestic Violence. I wear that badge with honor and am not ashamed to tell others the journey I have made to be here today with you. Growing up I didn’t know much about domestic violence. I was raised in a middle class family, went to a good school, graduated, and was accepted to San Francisco State where I had plans to help others and make my mark in the world.
In high school I never had a serious relationship. About a year into my college years I met a man who swept me off my feet. In the beginning he didn’t ask much of me but slowly I started to lose myself. My world became what he needed and wanted. The abuse started on the emotional and mental level by tearing up all my self-esteem. He could make me feel on top of the world, like a queen, or make me feel like a piece of trash on the floor.
He first became physically abusive six months into the relationship. He was especially abusive after he drank. He would punch me in my stomach and throw me into walls. He would always apologize with a big gift and promises he never planned to keep. I thought if I just worked hard enough and prayed hard enough he would change for me so we could be happy together.
I found out the fall of 2007 that we were pregnant with our child. We would argue more and he had no regard for my life or his child’s life. There were many times he would tell me he let me have our son and I should consider myself lucky. The further along I became, the worse the physical and emotional abuse got.
Six months into the pregnancy, we got into an argument. I was tired and hungry because he left me in the house all day while he took my car. By the time he picked me up, I was irritated and he was drunk. While in the car, he got tired of hearing me complain. He pulled out his gun and put it to my temple. Then he pistol whipped me in the head. I pulled the car over and jumped out. He ran after me then started to drag me while I was on the ground. He scratched and hit me but at least this time he didn’t hit my stomach. The police came that night and I begged them not to arrest him. I was scared of what he would do when he got out. They didn’t take him in, but he was furious. He blamed me for the reasons he had to beat me. He told me that if I would just listen to him, these things would never happen.
The months leading to my child’s birth were pleasant and I had hope for us again. When my son was born he supported me the best way he could. I was happy, but my happiness only lasted until our son was a month old. On our way home from a doctor’s visit, the father of my child took my phone and started questioning me about texts and names. I told him it was my phone and didn’t give him the answers he wanted. He reached over and choked me in the car until I blacked out.
Our child was in the back seat. Even though he couldn’t see anything, he could hear his mother’s cries for air and life. When we stopped at a red light, I went into action. I jumped out of the car, grabbed my baby, and ran to safety.
After that incident, I took a break from my abuser. I didn’t see him for a full month. That was the longest we were ever apart. It was a very calm and peaceful time without him.
My first interaction with STAND! was in the spring of 2009. I was working with East Bay works when my abuser came and made a scene. He yelled and cussed at me. One of the facilitators at East Bay Works directed me to Roxanne Ward, who works for STAND!. She encouraged me to come to my first STAND! support group meeting. I didn’t take it seriously. I thought I wasn’t like the other women there and believed that their stories were worse than mine. I went to a few meetings and left thinking I could manage without the safety net the STAND! support group provided.
When my abuser tried to come back into my life, he came armed with apologies and promises. I didn’t feel the same about him that I once did, and his words didn’t mean more than a grain of salt to me. Still, I wanted my family. I let myself believe him when he told me I couldn’t and wouldn’t do better than him—words that still haunt me to this day.
After we reunited, I tried hard to love him and show him the love he wanted, but it wasn’t there anymore. He proposed to me and tried to make us a family and give me the dream of marriage that I always wanted. When I started trying to become more independent, more problems erupted between my abuser and me. My abuser was losing control as I was gaining a sense of control in myself. I finally could identify myself as a victim of domestic violence and was okay with that title. Even though I could identify being a victim of domestic violence, I didn’t know how to resolve this problem and break away.
Although no one was asking him why he abused me, for so many people it was easy for them to ask me, “Why did you stay?” I stayed because I loved my family. I stayed because I wanted my son to have a father and mother. I stayed because I didn’t want to be alone. I stayed because I didn’t want to be another statistic: a baby’s mother. The man that you call my abuser was once a beautiful man who I believed loved me but now that man is gone, never to return.
For these many reasons I stayed, optimistic that things would one day change. The summer of 2010 was my living hell. I was always arguing and fighting with my abuser but he was winning these fights. For three months straight I had black eyes that I couldn’t even cover with make-up. I felt like my situation was hopeless and I would pray that he would wake up one day and just leave me alone and move on with his life.
The night of August 8, 2010 was the night that changed my whole life for the better. That night my abuser decided we should have a much needed date night. Because of our history and how so much had happened, we both held grudges against each other. This made it hard for me to truly
let loose and be the happy go lucky person I once was. We decided to go dancing but it wasn’t my night. All I wanted to do was to go home and watch a movie with my son. He was getting angry and threatened me: if we didn’t have a good night, I would pay for it. He didn’t lie.
We left the club and got in the car. Before I could even put on my seatbelt, he started to punch me in my face, on top of my head and then moved to my ribs and arms. My abuser was training to be in the UFC. When he hit me it was like a bag of bricks making contact with my body. I decided to take my seatbelt off so I could be more mobile to help protect my body from his punches as best as I could. He pulled over and walked to the passenger side where he proceeded to kick me in the ribs and back. Then he jumped back in the driver’s seat crying; in his mind, the only solution was to kill me. I was begging and pleading for my life and the life of our son.
He drove my car into a phone pole. He dragged me out the car by my hair, pulling big chunks out. He flagged a car for a ride and an unlucky bystander was willing to help. It was a two door Lexus; I was in the front and my abuser was in the back. I sobbed in the front seat while my abuser slapped me in the face telling me to be quite. Two minutes later, the police pulled us over and handcuffed all three of us. The police officer looked at me and through whispers I told him that my boyfriend had hit me. He took off my handcuffs and called an ambulance. Once I was at the hospital, I found out I had two broken ribs and had many contusions on my back as well as on top of my head. That night I decided to press charges against the father of my child. He was arrested and he spent 90 days in jail. He pled guilty. I filed and received a restraining order for both me and my son. The judge gave me a criminal restraining order good for ten years. It was filed when I was twenty-three years old and will stay good until I am thirty-three.
Even though my scars would heal, I felt lost and didn’t know what to do with my life. The fall semester was supposed to start in one week. I could barely move and I looked like a monster with all the bruises on my face.
I showed up to STAND! support group, this time still covered in bruises. I knew it would be the one place to go where I didn’t have to explain myself. This time, I was that person I thought I was so far from: I was abused and needed help. Once settled into support group, I met other women who didn’t judge me and accepted me. For so many people the solutions to my problems seemed so easy but they weren’t. They were extremely complex. Before my abuser got out of jail I applied and got accepted to transitional housing where they helped rehabilitate me.
The STAND! staff helped me identify what a healthy relationship was. They gave me parenting classes. They also offered Zumba and nutritious eating classes for me and my son. STAND! also offered the Rainbow room, which was my son’s first pre-school experience. There they helped my son identify emotions, as well as his numbers and letters. It was such a happy and healthy environment for a child to grow in.
The staff also treats the kids really well. They would inform me on everything from if my son didn’t eat his carrots to what new friends he made. The STAND! staff also made sure every
holiday was a happy holiday for the children. They brought in Santa Claus and gifts during Christmas. They also brought in Easter baskets filled with many goodies. I still remember my son receiving a fireman hat which he wore for two days straight.
STAND! held my hand through this rollercoaster I call life. They pushed and supported me to not just reach for the ceiling but for the stars. I recently graduated from the transitional housing program and now have my own apartment with my son. I graduated Diablo Valley College with an associate degree in administration of justice and certificates in Juvenile Counseling, Community Relations and Law Specialist. I recently have applied to St. Mary’s where I am waiting for a response. I plan to receive my BA in sociology. My goal is to spread my story to individuals like you. Hopefully this will impact you to help change your own life or to reach out to another. My dream is to help other women like myself. They are not victims, because victims are helpless, but survivors who fought to live new lives. My dream is to give them the hope that if I can do it, then they can do it, too. I won’t lie to them and say that the road will be easy, but what doesn’t kill you truly makes you stronger. Many people ask me if I could go back would I change anything. I say no. If I changed one thing in my life, I may not have a wonderful son who adores me or be the strong, powerful woman I am today. I truly believe your life experiences make you who you are and even though I had to experience some horrific things, I am here today and better for it. Not enough thank you’s could ever show STAND! how grateful I am for them taking a chance and believing in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. Not enough thank you’s can go out my mother and family for always letting me come home to them with open arms. It sounds so simple but true love doesn’t hurt. If you know anyone that may be in a situation that I was in, please don’t judge. Have open arms ready with love for them. Thank you.