The Victory of Self Realization, Self-Love and Self Worth.

By George L. Addison

“In the moment, as mad as I was, somehow, I was still shocked when he pinned me to the fridge with one hand around my throat, aimed his fist just so to knock me out, and released. Then he dragged me across the floor, took my keys, and left. Our two-year-old son saw all of it, and I will forever regret not getting out earlier, but I also know that my tenuous plans to get out hinged on getting into a place I could afford on my own, getting childcare, and crafting a life where no matter what he did or did not do, I could make it”

― Mikki Kendal

Each year in October National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is observed by millions of people. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of physical violence by a partner every year. 

  • Every 9 seconds, a woman in the U.S. is beaten or assaulted by a current or ex-significant other. 
  • 1 in 4 men are victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
  • As many as ten million children and adolescents witness violence between their parents or caregivers each year.

However, violence and abuse are both a problem that requires constant focus, awareness, and diligence daily.  I was one of those kids growing up in a home where abuse was a regular occurrence, and even though I didn’t grow up and start abusing women physically, I realized while becoming a mature adult male in American society that I didn’t escape the tentacles of domestic abuse and violence unscathed.

Through therapy and with the love and support of family and friends I came to understand how and why certain behaviors manifested themselves in my day to day struggles to be the best person I could be.  And I thank those individuals regularly for caring enough about me to tell me the things I didn’t want to hear, or that I didn’t want to see about myself up close and personal.  Its not an easy journey, and even knowing your challenges you will be hurt emotionally, and possibly hurt others emotionally as you try to navigate life. There simply are no guarantees…

That is why I’m excited to share this interview with Neisha C. Himes the Founder/CEO of the G.R.O.W. Foundation (Girls Recognizing Our Worth), and the Founder / Owner of, Neisha Christine Consulting, LLC, which provides domestic violence awareness & education consulting, workshops, and public/motivational speaking services.  The insight she openly and honestly provides will enlighten you about why we react the way we do when in an abusive relationship, or are attempting to get someone out of an abusive relationship.

I started out my discussion with Ms. Himes, by asking her who were the people around her during the period she experienced verbal and physical abuse.  I also asked if those people are still around her and what role did they play in helping turn her situation around?

Himes replied “There were people in my mind, who were there with me in my space even though they did not realize they were there. My family and friends were unaware of what I was going through, at the time. I refused to tell anyone what I was dealing with. I had moved here to Virginia from New Jersey, so my mother and sisters where not here with me. My father had moved to Virginia a few years before I did, and even he was not aware of what was going on.

Neisha C. Himes the Founder/CEO of G.R.O.W. Foundation (Girls Recognizing Our Worth), and the Founder / Owner of, Neisha Christine Consulting, LLC Photo Courtesy: N.C. Himes and the G.R.O.W. Foundation.

I am especially close to my mother and sisters and when you are in an abusive situation like I was, the weight of it all is humiliating. You feel ashamed, embarrassed, and uncertain about what to do because your mind will not accept that what you are dealing with is toxic. You find yourself refusing to accept that it is an abusive situation because you keep making excuses for it. For example, “he had a bad day,” etc., it is extremely hard to reconcile that thought with yourself, that you need help.

But my friends were there, and my family was there in spirit even if they didn’t know they were. And, I say that because they would check on me repeatedly asking how was I doing? What is going on? Even my friends in the spoken word community saw that I had stopped performing; I was not hanging out with them. They never gave up on me nor did they put me in the category of “out of sight, out of mind.”  It was them constantly asking me hey, what is going on? We have not seen you. You haven’t performed in a while. If I said I needed space, they gave me that space.  They never abandoned me and then when I came out and started telling those closest to me what was going on and what I had been going through, they immediately asked how they could help. 

I had lost my home for financial reasons, and I had my children living with my daughter’s father who also was like a father figure to my son as well.  I was mostly bouncing from place to place, couch to couch, hotel to hotel, garage to garage, wherever I could.  

I remember one of my friends that I worked with, but didn’t know what I was going through at the time was looking at my car and said “hey, you left your trunk open”.   I was rushing to work, and there was so much in my trunk, my clothes, shoes, non-perishable food items, etc.; my trunk was packed with belongings, and I guess in the mad dash to get to work I grabbed something out of it and forgot to close it. 

She abruptly asked me “what are you doing; are you living out of your car”? I then broke down and began crying. I told her that I was in this abusive relationship, that I had lost my home and I was staying with this person because he knew I needed him and his place to save money to get another home for myself and kids. It was also during this period that the relationship became physical.

I told her that I was in between places and that I was going through this abuse, and she immediately interrupted me and said “no, no, come and stay with me.”  I explained to her that I was dating this person and had moved in with him.  The abuse started out verbally and evolved into physical abuse during the last year and a half over a five-year period… so, I was trying to find a way to leave. Many of my items were in storage, and a lot were at his house and in the trunk of my car.   

My abuser was never the ex-fathers of my children… and I want to make that clear because often people assume that it was the children’s father, but this was someone I dated after the relationships. He was my current boyfriend at that time and illustrates how hard it was for me, even though I didn’t have children with this person or have children staying with us. I can only imagine the additional strain of having children there like many women do, and the extra challenges that would have created, making the situation even more difficult. 

I finally came out and expressed to my family and friends what was going on, I will never forget that moment and those who wanted to help me when I told them, and their response was what can I do?

When I think about that situation now, I recall the first year was filled with sexual manipulation and isolation.  But at that time, I didn’t recognize that.  The verbal abuse, gas lighting and more manipulation started about the second year and continued through year four.  The fifth year brought about the physical abuse.”

I reminded Himes that the Justice Department says most domestic assaults reported to law enforcement take place after the couple separates.  “The statistics are that women in abusive relationships are about 500 times more at risk when they leave,” according to Wendy Mahoney, executive director for the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Domestic violence is all about power and control, and when a woman leaves, a man has lost his power and control.”  I asked Himes was this true in her case.

She stated, “That’s typically when the abuse escalates because the focus is power and control over the victim.  So, they increase the intensity level of the abuse on the victim or partner.  When I moved in with him, I think he felt more in control.  He knew he had me in a place where he felt I needed to save money and I needed a place so I could get my kids.  Every time we would argue he would threaten me and say, “you got to get out.”  I remember him throwing my stuff out in a snowstorm and told me I had to leave, this was in February, and we were constantly playing this cat and mouse game.

The first time he physically assaulted me I had come home from work late that night, I worked late on occasion.  He began accusing me of being with someone else.  We started arguing, we started calling each other names.  At this point I was so tired of the name calling, accusations and the walking on eggshells that I said, “I’m done with this!”  This arguing and fighting had been going on for some years. I had been accepting this behavior from him all while I had been living with him.

I began arguing back… and because I argued back in these exchanges with him, I never saw myself as being in an abusive relationship.  I had this misconception of what domestic violence looked like and it was a victim cowering in the corner of a room and that it was all bad all the time.  But abusive relationships are not always bad.  You have good times, you have good moments, you have fun, not recognizing that’s just the honeymoon stage.  The explosion and reconciliation stages continue the cycle which is repeating and never ending.  But the first time he assaulted me I wasn’t at a point where I could leave him.

Like other survivors I’ve spoken too, you don’t want the relationship to end… you just want the abuse to end.  I was tired of his mouth, his words, and the way he was talking to me.  But in my head, I had repeatedly said I’m done, I’m done, I’m done only to always go back. And, because it hadn’t been physical yet, I didn’t think it was abusive.  Even when we got into that physical altercation the first time I ran out of the house and he ran out after me, and he was crying and I was crying, he apologized, and he asked me to come back, and I did.  Even though I was in disbelief, and my spirit was broken I believed him because I wanted too.  Secondly, I thought I have nowhere else to go and I must get my children back!  And so, I said I loved him, and I went back…” 

I asked Himes to reflect on the moment she was hit the first time, did she ever think about the phrase “If he ever hits me the first time I’m out of here, I’m going to do that or do this?”  At that moment were any of these thoughts in her mind.  Her instinct was to flee but when he approached her crying … did she recall hearing him utter those famous words that guys say “look what you made me do! I didn’t want to do that.”

She said, “Yeah, my first thought was I had to get out of there.  And I remember feeling confused, I was in disbelief.  And when you believe somebody loves you and then they do something that totally shatters that thought.  Even though he had been doing things that should have altered that thought before with his words and actions.  You’d think that when it becomes physical that you would leave.  “I have said those very words before, that if he ever hit me, I would leave.  I said to myself, “I wish somebody would!”

I’ve had friends in relationships where I said things like “why don’t you just leave” which makes me cringe now, hearing that.  But, I have said that.  And being in that relationship is totally unhealthy mentally.  It wasn’t like it was our first or second date and he hit me, and I said like hell NO!  We had been in this relationship for years, I had fallen in love, also at this point my self esteem was broken down to where I began to believe those words that he would say to me often. 

That “nobody is going to want me because I had two children from two different fathers.  He would repeatedly say I’m the one that’s here, I’m the one that’s for you, everyone else has abandoned you, those aren’t really your friends, all the words of self-doubt and breaking down my self-esteem.  Things he would implant in my mind every day.  I started to believe that, and, in my mind, nobody loved me more than him, even myself.”

I further asked Himes that after that first situation, was there any point that she felt like she needed to share her situation with her ex-husband, father or another male that never laid hands on her and that would render assistance?  Or was the shock from experiencing the abuse so overwhelming coupled with shame that it made her go forward instead of looking for someone to help?  

Himes said, “I wasn’t married to my ex’s. My relationships were cordial, but I didn’t feel I could share my dilemma and involve them. My days really consisted of going to work at 5am, get off work, go to my daughter’s father’s house, have dinner with the kids, help do their homework, see them off to bed, leave and find somewhere to go sleep. I remember being at the kitchen table one night with the children doing homework and my abusive boyfriend, at the time, didn’t know my routine. 

If he’d known, I was going there it would have been all kinds of accusations and trouble.  He thought that I was going to a girl friend’s house.  Everything I was doing at my daughter’s father’s house I was supposed to be doing at my female girlfriend’s house. Which I wasn’t, and I couldn’t tell him. 

I was doing homework at the table with the kids one night, it was raining outside and one of the kids was using my phone as a calculator and the boyfriend called.  They answered the phone by mistake. So, he hears a male voice talking in the background which is my daughter’s father and asked where am I, who I’m with, etc, and I say oh no that’s a television show.  I ran outside on the porch in a thunderstorm in pouring rain, and was under the porch awning getting wet in the process when my daughter’s father came out and asked what am I doing, why am I in the rain?  What’s going on?

I remember, wanting to tell him so bad at that moment… but I couldn’t.  I didn’t because I was ashamed, I didn’t want him to react because I know him and had he gotten involved there would have been physical consequences.  And if he would have been hurt or arrested it would have affected my daughter and son.  I felt my mess was my mess!  And I couldn’t involve anyone else.”

I also asked Himes, when she looks back on this experience what does she think was the biggest thing that kept her from reaching out to others?   

Himes said, “I think it was about my worth… all this time I felt I didn’t deserve better, and I thought that what was happening to me I brought it on to myself.  I also thought that if I had loved this broken boyfriend hard enough, or if I was more of this and less of that or if I tried harder to be what he needed he wouldn’t feel like he had to do what he was doing to me.  I believed he had to treat me the way he was treating me, and finally, I just believed I could change him.  Its so much that its very hard to put into words, but it’s a mixture of me behaving myself so I didn’t get hurt.

I sum this up for women, men and people of all different ages that say to me you look so pretty, you don’t look like you would go through abuse or look in the mirror and hate what you saw, but, domestic violence affects everyone no matter what you look like or how old you are, what gender you are, none of that matters.  You can tell yourself that you will never get into something like that, but by the time you realize you’re in it, you’ve been in it. 

So, it was a combination of things where I thought I deserved it, or I could change him.  I was ashamed, I didn’t want to get anybody involved, in my situation.  I felt I got myself into this and I’m going to have to get myself out.  But first, I had to believe that I deserved to get out, and that took a while.”

I went on to ask Himes, once she shared her situation how long did it take to put together a working action plan to heal before trying to help others with an action plan?

Himes replied, “There had been times during the course of this relationship where I tried to reach out to help strangers.  For instance, I remember a local college radio station had this thing where you would call in and tell a secret.  People would call in and say things like; I have a crush on my best friend or I’m about to quit my job or things like that.  And I called one time and said, “I think I’m in an abusive relationship, and I don’t know what to do?”  And the male host laughed, and the female host smirked as if to say why don’t you just leave?  I hung up the phone and just cried…

Another time I reached out I called a shelter, and I told them that I was in an abusive relationship, and they asked me had I been assaulted that night?  Assaulted currently?  I said no and the woman I was speaking with said that since I hadn’t been assaulted that night it wasn’t considered imminent danger, I explained to her that I was trying to avoid going home so I wouldn’t be assaulted.  And I asked if something had to happen to me first before they would help me?   And she said she couldn’t help me.  And I swore I would never call a shelter again. By the time my friend saw what I was going through, I had been hoping from place to place and it didn’t take long before she said come stay with her.”



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