May 16, 2013

When Our Guilt Interferes With Our Ability to Seek Justice. ~ Paula Carrasquillo

{Editor’s note: If you are a victim of domestic violence, please reach out for help: National Domestic Violence Hotline.}

Twenty-three years ago at the age of 18, I was strangled, kicked, beaten, smothered, had my life threatened and my family’s life threatened and had a gun held to my head.

The perpetrator was my then 18-year-old boyfriend.

I didn’t come from poverty or ignorance (and even if I did, it shouldn’t matter). I was an honors student. I earned a merit scholarship to college. I was an athlete. I had a loving family and lots of friends who liked me and whom I liked. I thought my boyfriend was a good guy. He had friends who liked him. I liked him, as well…at first.

I was too afraid to tell my father about what this boy did to me. I was terrified that my father would end up killing him and spending the rest of his life behind bars. I opted not to tell my father or my mother.

I decided to tell the police instead, but that didn’t go well either.

One night in the late hours of a warm summer evening in 1990, my boyfriend stole my car keys and chased me along several residential streets, kicking me from behind. I could not out run him. I tried. After what seemed like about an hour of being chased and kicked continuously and begging and pleading with him to stop, I finally started screaming loud enough for the neighbors to hear.

This seemed to work. My boyfriend got scared, tossed my keys in my direction and took off on foot back in the direction of his parent’s home.

After many minutes of searching and digging, I was able to finally find my keys in the darkness among the twigs, leaves and garbage piled in the gutter. I anxiously walked back to my car not knowing if, at any moment, my boyfriend was going to jump out from behind a house, a shrub or a parked car.

Once safely inside my car, I locked the door and thought about my options. Telling my parents was out of the question. I feared what they would do to him in retaliation. I also feared what my boyfriend would do in retaliation to their retaliation!

I was raised to believe the police and/or someone in authority would help me when I was in danger. So, I drove straight to the police station.

I walked into reception disheveled and frightened. Although I would describe my then 18-year-old self as healthy, pretty, smart and well-liked, I didn’t feel the least bit confident walking into the police station. For one thing, I had never been to one, and for another, I had never spoken to a police officer in my life.

I approached the reception window. The officer behind the glass looked up from his paperwork and asked, “What do you want?”

His words echoed a few times in my head.

What do I want? What do I want?…I guess I wanted help.

I said, “I want help. I want you to arrest my boyfriend.”

The officer chuckled and laughed at me. I became instantly confused.

Why is he laughing at me? This is serious. Does he not believe me?

So, I repeated, “Will you please arrest my boyfriend? He tried to kill me.”

From behind the glass, the officer asked, “How did he try to kill you?”

I remember opening my mouth, but words were hard to find. I started crying hysterically. I couldn’t form a complete sentence to save my life! I vaguely remember mumbling and wiping the tears and snot from my melting face.

The officer interrupted me and said, “If you can’t control yourself, I can’t help you. How old are you?”

I screamed, “I am 18, and my boyfriend just tried to kill me!”

The officer, who was still seated behind the glass, said, “If you expect me to help you, you need to be more respectful, young lady.”

I stood in the reception area with the intense fluorescent lighting beating down on my face and tired eyes. I was so confused.

Can’t he see that I have been running in the dark along the streets for hours trying to get away from my boyfriend? Can’t he see that I have dirt and mud all over my knees and the palms of my hands from repeatedly falling after being kicked from behind? Respect? I respect him. What is he talking about? What is happening?

I started crying more. I put my hands over my face and backed up and sat in one of the plastic chairs along the wall.

From behind the glass, the officer spoke again, “If you can’t control yourself, I can’t help you.”

Control myself!? What the fuck was this asshole saying to me?

My tears turned to anger and frustration.

I dropped my hands from my face and spoke sternly, “I need you to take down my name and the name of my boyfriend.”

The officer retorted, “I don’t need to do anything.”

I needed the police, but the police clearly did not want to help me. In that moment, I knew I was defeated.

Rather than prolonging this pointless conversation, I turned and left. I hopped into my car and drove home. If the police couldn’t protect me from him, I needed to protect myself from him.

During the entire drive home, I plotted and planned ways to get my boyfriend to break up with me. Even at 18, I knew it had to be his idea. I was too afraid to break up with him myself. I feared the ramifications of my rejection of him.

Within a few weeks of the police-station incident, I cut my hair really short. I stopped wearing make-up and started wearing clothes that didn’t fit me. I resembled a homely 12-year-old boy more than the attractive 18-year-old girl I had been so proud of becoming.

I made myself ugly and it worked. He broke up with me soon after I started my freshman year in college that fall.

One would think I felt free and relieved. One would think I would feel like a brave and courageous survivor.

One would be very, very wrong.

For nearly 23 years since the incident, I felt more like a failure than a survivor for not speaking up.

I told no one of the details of that night or any of the other abusive nights with my ex-boyfriend. The guilt of remaining silent engulfed me. Although I am, by far, not the only female he has ever assaulted, I was the first. With each story passed along to me over the years about another girlfriend or friend or brother or officer assaulted by my ex-boyfriend, the guilt became more and more intense.

Many may assume I somehow asked for the treatment I received when I was 18. One might ask, “What did you do to instigate him?”

That’s kind of like asking your child why the bully bullied him. Uh? Because he’s a bully!

There is no reason why I ended up being beaten by that boy. He is a perfect example of why rehabilitation does not work for many offenders, especially serial offenders of domestic violence and relational assault.

You see, he was arrested again just two days ago for assault. My sister forwarded me the news link, a common occurrence that happens about every two or three years. I have many notices of his arrests over the years in my inbox and files.

At age 42, this man cannot and will not change. He has been in and out of jail and prison for the past 23 years and everyone seems to keep giving him chances.

I swore I would never be involved with another man who beat me or threatened me. And for the nearly 20 years that followed, I chose to be with good boyfriends, caring boyfriends.

Then, at the age of 38, I invited a sociopath into my life. Once I escaped that abusive relationship, I vowed to never be silent about what happened to me, because silence helps no one except the perpetrators.

We cannot blame the police, the courts, the lawyers or the victims for the violence against us. The finger-pointing must end. It’s everyone’s fault for not taking the appropriate actions to see that the violence ends and is prosecuted appropriately.

We need to start blaming the criminals and stop feeling guilty about throwing down punishments that fit the crimes.

Otherwise, the criminals will continue holding us hostage and laughing at our humanity.




Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and on her blog.



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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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