|Sisters Heather (left) & Antoinette (right)
By Erickka Sy Savané
Domestic violence is so prevelent in our society yet it’s so rarely discussed. Even this story I knew about, but was waiting to share during domestic violence month- though it’s months away- when people are more receptive. Then Rhianna had to clap back at Snapchat for being dumb enough to ask if she should be slapped by former boyfriend Chris Brown. They lost their mind, and nearly a billion dollars, and it’s still not enough. Black women get abused 35% higher than white women, and though we make up only 13 percent of U.S. women, we comprise half of all female victims of homicide. The majority are killed by boyfriends or former husbands. No, it’s not okay to abuse us or promote it on your platform. So there’s a good reason to talk about domestic violence in all its many forms. Author, public speaker, and mom, Antoinette White has been outspoken about how domestic violence has impacted her and her family’s life for over 15 years with the hope that people will be able to read the signs when a loved one is being abused, and know what to do about it.
It was over 20 years ago that Antoinette’s younger sister Heather began dating her high school sweetheart. He was charming and became the ‘dad’ to a special needs son she had by another man while they were on a ‘break.’ They would also have a daughter together. He was such a good father to both kids that her sister gave her son his name.
In fact, her family all knew Heather’s boyfriend and his family; and no one could deny that he loved her, so as a result, there were signs that they missed that she was being physically abused. Or better yet, that it was as serious as it was. Antionette shares,
“Once I was staying at her house and found them fighting in another room. When I tried to jump in to help, she stopped me and said, ‘I got this.’ So I thought she had it. We knew how to defend ourselves from my mom teaching us, and he was a scrawny guy. There was also the fact that he would sometimes call me up, whining about how Heather had bitten a plug out of his leg.”
But there was a darker sign that Antoinette missed as well…
One time, Heather’s boyfriend called and told Antoinette’s boyfriend at the time that if Heather ever tried to leave him he would kill her and himself too.
“Knowing him as well as we all did, we thought that he was just talking out the side of his neck. We never thought he’d do it. Looking back, we also didn’t take seriously enough that his mother had been killed in front of him by her boyfriend when he was a child.”
It would prove to be a critical mistake, because on the heels of Heather’s life coming together- she had just bought a new car, received a promotion at work, and made the decision to leave her boyfriend- he took her into their bedroom, along with their one-year-old daughter, and the special needs son who was now three, and killed both Heather and himself with a gun shot to the head.
Antoinette was devastated. It wasn’t until the funeral that a Cousin revealed that Heather’s boyfriend had held a gun to Heather’s head just a few months prior. Heather’s response to him? “You’d better kill me.”
“I was angry and blamed myself because had I known, I would have told her to run. But she never told me,” says Antoinette, who knows now that victims hide their bruises, and often isolate themselves, which Heather did. And though she can’t go back in time to help her sister, Antoinette is using her voice to show others that there are ways to help a loved one you suspect is being abused.
“First, don’t judge them or try to force them to leave. Let them know that you are concerned for their safety and there are places that can help when they’re ready. Offer them the domestic violence hotline number- 800 799 SAFE (7233)- so they can plan a safe way to leave.
Second, make sure they know that it’s imperative that they don’t let their partner know they are planning to leave. Statistics prove that 50-75% of domestic violence homicides happen at the point of separation or after the victim has already left.”
|Antoinette with her niece Quinn (Heather’s daughter)