I Blamed The Victim, Too – Until I Became One

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“Mother Teresa would never marry Saddam Hussein.”

These words were spoken to a friend of mine in reference to me after the death of my 15-month-old son, Prince McLeod
Rams , during a panel discussion on family court. Four years ago, I would have believed the same thing. Since then,
I have learned that Mother Teresa is exactly the kind of person who ends up with Saddam Hussein.

Growing up with Christian morals, I believed that everyone was capable of good. I was taught not to judge a person by his
appearance. So when, in 2010, Joaquin Rams walked into my life, I was vulnerable to deception. Yes, he dressed like a thug,
looked much older than he claimed and was full of mystery. But he was also charming, intriguing and had such an intense look
in his eyes that he made me believe he was my soul mate. He told me he was a self-made businessman who was caring for his son
after the child’s mother died in an accident. In hindsight, his story appears to have been custom designed to appeal to me.
I wanted to believe what he said, and he knew it.

Abusers don’t start emotionally terrorizing someone on the first date. No one just comes out and tells you he is living off
the insurance proceeds and death benefits of women who have died violently around them. Psychopaths – as one forensic psychologist who testified on my behalf in court labeled Rams – are often charming and charismatic people who can talk their way through almost anything.

After I fought unsuccessfully for over a year to prevent Rams from having unsupervised access to Prince, my worst nightmare
came true: On Oct. 21, my son drowned during one such visit with his father. Three months later, Rams was arrested and charged
with Prince’s murder. Shortly after his arrest, it was reported that Rams had taken out over $560,000 in life insurance on
Prince. On insurance forms, court documents show, Rams claimed I had died in an “accident.”

This was all devastating enough, but as the details of the case seeped into the media, I got another shock: Many people blamed
me for allowing all this to happen. Most of this was behind my back, but some of the bolder ones came right out and asked
how I could have gotten into a relationship with such a person. Once, I was berated by a police captain for making “poor relationship choices.” I left the station in tears.

At first, I was stunned by this reaction, but as time went on I was able to think more critically about my situation. The
truth is, before meeting Rams, I could have made the same sort of victim-blaming statements. I, too, judged the victims of
domestic violence. I, too, believed that I could never be a victim. I was too intelligent, too educated and too savvy for
that.

I believed this until the day I looked in the mirror and realized that I had become a victim myself.

It shouldn’t be necessary for the tables to turn so horribly for someone to see this common attitude for what it is. This
misplaced blame undoubtedly hurts the victims, but it also helps offenders. They count on society blaming the victims, because
it focuses the attention away from their disturbing behavior.

When Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who imprisoned three young women in his home for years, made his notoriously self-justifying statement in court, his attempt to deflect guilt did not surprise me. He was simply repeating, albeit in an exaggerated way, sentiments that pervade our culture.

The day my son died was the worst day of my life. In the days following his death, I wanted to jump in the casket with him
and die, too. I blame myself every day for not disobeying court orders to protect Prince, for trusting Rams, for naïvely believing
I could never be a victim. This blame, however, is not going to bring Prince back. And it isn’t going to get him justice.

As I stood over Prince’s casket, I read him Dr. Seuss’s “Oh Baby, Go Baby,” one of his favorite books. I read about how he
would someday move mountains. Then, as the harsh truth set, my tears fell onto his body. I placed the book in the casket with
him, and made him this promise: “Mama will make sure you still move mountains. I will fight for justice so that your story
saves others.”

The promise I made to Prince will not be easy to fulfill. To prevent this sort of tragedy from happening to other children,
the tendency in our society to blame the victim must change. Addressing the attitudes of some family court judges is a good
place to start, but the problem goes much deeper – it lurks in the decisions of mental health professionals, law enforcement
officials and social workers alike, dangerously clouding their judgment and creating life-threatening situations outside of
the courtroom.

It is not comfortable to face these judgments while trying to change the system. But for as long as I live, I will continue
to tell my son’s story and continue to fight for children’s rights. I will do it for my son and the children who will come
after him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honoring Another Survival Date

prince   Two years ago, on October 21st 2012, I held my son in my arms as his heart stopped beating.  Just a few days ago, I sat in a Prince William County Courthouse and saw my son’s killer for the first time in nearly two years.  Many people expected that I would get some sort of sick pleasure out of seeing my son’s killer look like a demented serial killer out of a 1980′s cheaply made horror film; however, seeing him in that state only made my skin crawl more.  Possibly worse, however, was having to sit in front of Washington Post reporter Tom Jackman as he exclaimed how “juicy” he believed the story was on my son’s murder. His crass behavior was, in part, a sure attempt to get under my skin; however, in the two years since my son’s murder, I have often cringed at how callous many people connected to the case have been. Today, on this anniversary of his death, many people have wished me and my daughter well.  I appreciate all the love and support that my friends, family, and readers have shown me throughout the years.  I am reminded, though, on days like today just how many other people have been forced to live through terrible tragedies.  I am reminded of the choice I made two years ago – to live so that a piece of my son could keep living inside of me.  For those of you who were not following my blog a year ago, I want to share with you my post from this time period last year.  I hope this will help people understand how I view this day.  And I hope that my choice to spin a negative day into a positive one will entire others to do the same.


This past weekend (October 20th and 21st to be exact) marked the one year anniversary of the worst two days of my entire life.  While I am still relatively young, I am willing to bet that October 20-21, 2012 would have been considered astronomically bad by anyone’s standards – and even that seems like an understatement.  For those of you who don’t know, October 20th last year was the day that I found out my son had been murdered by his father.  It was the day I learned that I would never again see my little boy open his eyes, give me a hug, or say “Mama”.  All of my hopes and dreams for him shattered in that single moment.  A year later, I write this post reflecting over the past year.  I received more messages this past weekend from people telling me they were thinking about me than I received on what would have been Prince’s second birthday (which to me was a more difficult milestone).  My response to everyone who sent that message went something like this: “Thank you for your kind words.  Today is not a bad day though.  I will not be spending it thinking about the worst day of my life.  I don’t care to celebrate or commemorate this day.  I refuse to allow a date that a demonic man chose to terrorize me for the rest of my life.  This day was not a good day for my son and it was not a good day for me.  I do, however, see it as a day that marks strength.” Many people seemed confused with my response.  Maybe they were expecting me to curl up into a corner, and spend the two days crying as I forced myself to relive the nightmare that occurred just one year ago.  While I could have chosen that path, and I would not judge someone else who did, I continue to choose survival.  So instead of curling up into that ball and crying, I thought about all the things and people who have gotten me to this place of strength.  I will never say that the path I have taken in the last year should be followed by everyone who has endured tragedy, but it was my path and if my words can help someone then it is worth sharing. 1)  Find your people:  I put this one at the top of my list because without my friends and family I know I wouldn’t have survived this past year.  When my son died, everyone who knew him was devastated.  It rocked my family in a way that a family should never be rocked.  That said, many of my family members were able to rally around each other and we gave each other the strength to keep living.  In addition to my family, I learned who my true friends were.  As soon as I sent out the text message that my son was dying, several of them dropped everything and drove to the hospital just to be there with me.  One of my oldest friends got on the next plane from Louisiana to visit.  She listened to me, sat with me while I cried, made me laugh when I didn’t think I would again, and cooked when nobody seemed to have the strength to even think about food.  When chaos and tragedy strikes, find your people. 2)  Clean house on the toxic folks:  Throughout life its never a good idea to allow toxic people to hang around.  This is especially important during the hard times.  I found that there are some people who enjoy chaos.  They will gravitate around you during these times and make you feel worse.  If you find that someone is making you more sad or appears to be feeding off of your bad situation, drop them like a bad habit and move on.  In the past year, I have made no apologies about getting rid of bad people.  For example, two weeks after my son died, someone who I thought was a friend told me that I needed to “just get over it and stop talking about how angry and upset I was about what happened.”  After that conversation, I promptly told this person to lose my number and I truly believe I am better off because of it. 3)  Grieve your way:  In the past year, I can’t even count the amount of times people have tried to tell me how to grieve for my son or passed judgement on me for decisions I have made.  Many of these people have never lost a child and seem to project how they think they would feel if in my situation.  Recently, one of my coworkers lost his son tragically to a brain aneurism.  The child was six years old and he was devastated.  He asked me what he should be doing.  I told him that he needed to do whatever he felt he needed to do and that he shouldn’t let anyone tell him that what he chose to do was the wrong path.  That said, I would advise someone against doing something that was hurtful to themselves or others. 4)  Don’t be afraid to go to therapy:  Admitting that you need to see a therapist shouldn’t be seen as a weakness.  If a person broke their arm and just decided that surgery or casting it wasn’t for them, they would end up with a jacked up arm for the rest of their life.  If you find yourself in an emotionally unstable place, sometimes you just need to seek medical help and talk to a therapist.  I am not ashamed to say that after Prince died (and while I was in the throws of the custody war), I have seen a therapist regularly. 5)  Take back your happy:  Ever since I met Luc in February 2010, my life has been in some level of chaos.  He has tried to control and torment me.  While I believe he killed my son primarily for money, his secondary motivation was likely to destroy me.  He chose the first time he saw Prince after my birthday as the day he would drown him.  He intended for that day to make me sad for the rest of my life.  I will always miss my son.  I will always hold a certain sadness about the fact that he will never grow up and do the things he should have been allowed to do.  I will not, however, allow the man who killed him to destroy me.  I chose to take back my happy.  I chose to do this for myself and for my daughter. Finally, I leave you with one of the wisest things I heard after my son’s death.  I was speaking to the priest at my church.  I asked him why so many Christian people were telling me that in order to have peace I needed to forgive the man who killed my son and all of the people who allowed my son to be killed.  I asked him if I needed to forgive these people before finding peace.   Father John looked at me and said, “Hera, hold onto your anger.  It is that anger that will help get your son Justice.”  Father John went on to explain that forgiveness should be reserved people who can understand forgiveness.  It was clear that Luc had no soul.  Forgiveness would simply allow him to feel absolved for what he did, and possibly even allow him to continue to torment me.  So I will not be forgiving Luc.  It is a waste of my energy –  energy that should be used on happiness.  While I don’t forgive him, I also don’t dwell on him either.  I stayed angry for as long as I needed to in order to get the wheels of justice to turn. I would never tell someone else NOT to forgive someone who has hurt them.  I simply offer you an alternative.  If forgiving the person who has hurt you allows you to heal, then do it.  Just don’t allow that forgiveness to let them continue to hurt you.  For me, what was more important was learning to forgive myself.  This remains the hardest part of my journey.  While I know how hard I fought and how much I loved my son, there is still a level of survivors guilt and victim guilt that I will likely face for a long time to come.  As I continue on this journey, however, I will focus my efforts on life - on the legacy of my son through telling his story and helping to try and protect other children.  Soon, I will also focus on raising my daughter.  I am starting a new chapter of my life and Luc is not a part of that chapter. So next year, when my daughter is about a year old and the anniversary of Prince’s death approaches, I will think of strength and survival.  I will have survived one more year, and I will be thankful for all the wonderful things life has given me.  This is my survival date.


Next week my daughter turns one year old.  Looking at her sleeping next to me, I am still amazed at how fast this year has gone by.  Me and Stela didn’t spend the day today being sad.  We spent the evening playing, dancing, laughing, and reading some of Prince’s favorite books.  Today is my survival date.

How To Stay Sane In Family Court

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In a perfect world, two people who have a child together would stay together forever living happily ever after with their children.  In a next to perfect world, couples who divorced would both me mentally healthy people, who were both great parents, and they could work out a perfect schedule where the children would have access to both parents without having to uproot their lives every few days.  Sadly, there are many families out there for whom these utopia type worlds don’t exist.  There are many families where one, or both, parents are not mentally well – and the children are caught in a war that is fueled by a corrupt and broken justice system.

Every so often, I get an email from a parent in despair – a parent who is caught in a vicious cycle of legal abuse.  Our current Family Court System is designed in such a way that abusers are able to run rampant over their victims like spoiled children throwing colossal temper tantrums.  The children caught in the middle of these legal wars suffer for years, many never establishing an emotionally healthy situation.  For the parent who is being stomped all over by the tantrum throwing co-parents (who most likely has a personality disorder of some sort), the trauma can become overwhelming.  In the best cases, these parents become numb to the continued abuse.  In the worst cases, parents are driven to the point of even taking their own life out of complete despair.

Given that so many parents seem to be stuck in this endless cycle of abuse, I thought I would take some time this week to share some of the things I tell people when they reach out to me asking for advice.  I am not a lawyer, or a psychologist – I am just a mother who knows what it is like to live through legal abuse at the hands of a psychopath.

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD):  When I was in the middle of my Custody War, I felt like I was losing my mind.  I felt trapped in a hell that I can’t even begin to describe in writing.  I remember laughing out loud when my therapist told me that I was suffering from PTSD.  “What,” I asking laughing. “I don’t think you heard me correctly.  I am in a legal battle.  I am not a veteran of war.”  My therapist explained, however, that while I didn’t suffer from what is often reported in the media as causing PTSD, I was suffering from a form of repeated trauma.  One of the first things I tell parents in this situation is that they need to identify that they are under extreme stress, and they need to get help for that.  One of the worst things you can do in a situation like this is assume that you can handle this alone.  Not seeking therapy for PTSD is like deciding not to put a caste on a broken leg and then wondering why you can never seem to walk right again.

Find A Good Lawyer:  Now, in my book, what you look for in a Family Attorney needs to be different from any other types of attorneys.  For example, your business attorney doesn’t need to understand emotions or have experience with children.  While your Family Attorney is not your therapist, your attorney needs to understand how to deal with this highly emotional situation.  He/she needs to be the type of person who can deal with drama without adding their own layer of drama.  If your case has an element of Domestic Violence, reach out to local advocacy groups and get referrals for attorneys who have handled these types of cases before.  Never ever waste your money with a lawyer who doesn’t specialize in Family Law.  I made the huge mistake of dumping butt loads of money into an attorney who had no business handling Family Court cases.  By the time I realized he was a fraud, I had spent thousands of dollars and had to hire new attorneys to pick up the pieces.  Finally, lawyers will waste your money if you let them.  You need to be in the driver seat in this relationship, and don’t be afraid to assert yourself – you are the client after all.

Find What Makes You Happy:  Find activities that make you feel happy and calm.  There may come a time when you have to turn your child over to the other parent, and you do not want to be sitting at home crying the entire day.  If your situation is even half as scary as mine was, you are going to need to do some things to distract yourself so that you can be as calm as possible when the child comes home.  During the first unsupervised visit that my son had with his eventual killer, some of my friends took me for a spa day.  While I was still a bag of stress, I really appreciated that I was actively trying to relax with friends instead of sitting at home watching the clock.  Use this time to do things that you can’t do with your children.

Don’t Stress About Things You Cannot Control:  This was the hardest point for me to follow when I was going through the custody war.  I would worry about everything from what my son would be eating to whether he would have regular diaper changes, etc.  I would also spend hours worrying about what the judge would do.  One of the toughest things about Family Court is that there are so many things do don’t have control over.  Spending time stressing about those things, is time wasted.  Instead, try to focus on things you can change – like your mental health, your own finances, etc.

Focus On The Most Important Thing – Your Child:  I don’t have many regrets about what I did in my son’s life, because I know that I was the best Mom that I could be given the circumstances that I was dealt.  That said, I do have one really big regret that continues to haunt me.  For the majority of the 15 months my son lived, I was actively trying to save his life by making sure his father was never alone with him.  The fact that I couldn’t stop unsupervised access haunts me, but more importantly, I am pained by the quality time I missed with my son while I was on the phone with lawyers or stressing about the case.  While I am not sure there is anything I could have done differently, as I couldn’t have ever imagined it would end the way it did, I will never ever get back those moments.  When I would come home from work, my son would routinely hide my phone in one of his trucks.  He wanted me to pay attention to him, instead of spending my evening screaming on the phone trying to get someone to help us.  Spend quality time with your children.  Try to make the time when you have your children all about them.  Don’t wake up when they are 18 and realize that you spent their entire childhood fixated on the custody war.

In closing, know that you are not alone.  Millions of parents around the world are forced to parent in tremendously terrible situations.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a deep breath, step back, and count your blessings.  Even after suffering the worst case scenario with the death of my son, I often have to step back and realize that I have a lot to be thankful for.  In the midst of the worst abuse of my life, I had the chance to be the mother to a beautiful little angel.  I will forever be thankful for every single second I had with him.  Hang in there Mamas and Papas.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.

 

 

 

 

Choose Love Over Hate

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“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; The fruit of the womb is a reward.”  - Psalm 127:3

 

Almost a year ago, my daughter was born.  I fell in love with her from the moment I knew she existed.  Every time I saw her on the sonogram (usually in the middle of her trying to suck on her hand or foot), feel her swift kicks to my ribs, or even just think about her – I felt as if this small family of ours was meant to be.  If you have read my story, you also know that nearly two years ago my son Prince was murdered.  Though I have lived through one of the worst tragedies I can imagine, part of honoring my son is knowing that I must also continue to choose love and happiness.  My decision to have my daughter was one of the first steps I took on my personal journey, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.  Many reading this have also been through tragic experiences of all types – ranging from domestic violence, child abuse, and the terrors of Family Court.  Tragedy should make us stronger, but it shouldn’t define us or take away our ability to choose love despite the hate.

Sharing the news of my baby girl was a positive experience, and I have received overwhelming support from my readers.  Many readers reached out with private messages thanking me for telling my news, and wished my daughter and me the best.  One reader in particular mentioned that she, too, had thought about being a single mother by choice.  She worried, however, about the judgments she would receive from negative and bigoted people – some of who were in her own family.  Before responding to her, I thought a lot about what she said and how I felt about mine and my daughter’s own future given the society we live in.

I made the decision to have my daughter knowing that not everyone would accept our alternative family.  For me, the most important part of my decision was making sure that my daughter would come into this world with a lot of love and support.  After thinking this reality over for a significant amount of time, I realized that I had grown up the child of an “alternative” family.  My parents got married in the late 1970s.  Since my parents are not of the same race, their marriage wasn’t even legal in all 50 states.  And many times, even though it was legal didn’t mean it was socially accepted.  I distinctly remember classmates of mine who asked me why I hadn’t come out with spots since my mother was white and my father was black.

I will never forget the day when I first realized my family was different.  The girl next door and I were good friends.  We were both five years old and attended the same school.  She was having a birthday party where everyone had planned to bring their own cabbage patch doll.  We were both excited about this party and had talked about it for months.  On the day of the party, I ran out of the house with my doll and proudly marched up to her garage with the rest of the children.  As I went to walk through the door, my friend stopped me and said, “My mom said you cannot come to the party because you are black and black people steal things.  You are not allowed in my house.”  While the rest of the kids went inside, I stood on the sidewalk alone with my doll.

After that incident, I ran home and told my parents about what had happened.  “But I am brown Mommy!  My skin isn’t even black,” I explained with clear confusion.  I remember seeing the anger and pain in my parent’s eyes as they attempted to explain racism and bigotry to their innocent five -year old daughter.  I am pretty sure the reality still didn’t sink in that day; however, over the years my parents did a wonderful job explaining to me that being different wasn’t a bad thing.  I learned to embrace my unique background and the reality that I would often be forced to be an ambassador for my race and my unique experience.

My daughter was born into a family that is different, and not everyone will always accept the path that I have chosen.  She will likely encounter many bigoted people throughout her life. It is my job as her mother to teach her that her unique story is a blessing, and an opportunity to change the world for the better.   For the reader who was contemplating having another child, and for the many others who believe that an alternative family (be it two moms, two dads, one mom, one dad, etc) is the best choice for their family, my advice is as follows:

Children are a blessing.  They deserve to be showered with love from a strong community of people – regardless of gender, race, or whatever particular label you happen to be using at the moment.  Don’t ever let narrow mindedness, bigotry, or hate factor into your decision to have a child.

And for those of you who are trying to rebuild your lives after tragedy (even if you are still in the tragedy of Family Court), choose to live with happiness and don’t let this tragedy rob you or your children of your lives, happiness, and future.

 

Saving Forgiveness For The Forgivable

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Early this week, I read an article about a woman who forgave her rapist in open court.  To give you some quick background on this story, Jane Piper was raped and beaten in the back seat of her car 11 years ago.  For 11 years, she had been mulling over some choice words for her assailant.  After all this time, she chose to tell this vile man that she forgave him.  What was most intriguing to me, however, wasn’t her statement of forgiveness, but the things she said with it:

“I acknowledge that you did these disgusting things to me, for whatever reason…and I forgive you, human being to human being.  Do you want to be a better person?  Do you wish that you hadn’t done this stuff?  Who is the person you once wanted to be?”

As I read the above quote, I had to physically bring my hand to my mouth so not to scream at the computer screen as I read these words.  ‘human being to human being?’ I thought perplexed.  Here this woman was talking to this rapist as though he was the same type of human as she was.  She was projecting her own human construct of normal onto a man who clearly wasn’t normal.

Victim’s Statement:

I was drawn to this woman’s story because, I too, have thought a lot about what I will say to my son’s murder if I ever get the chance.  I often go from thinking about how I will describe to him how vile he is, trying to show him with my words how much he gave up, or to just wondering if there is any point in wasting my breath on such a hopeless, useless, shell/waste of space.  Jane Piper had 11 years to think of what she would say to her attacker.  While the article I referenced doesn’t explain her thought process, I can only imagine that she mostly forgave him for her own benefit – and not his.

From my own jaded perspective on this issue, I sat at my computer and imagined the things I would have preferred reading as the title of this article (instead of the focus on how amazing it was that this woman forgave a psycho):

1)  Judge grants rape victim the right to kick rapist in the nuts, rendering him unable to have children, before she forgives him.

2) Instead of issuing a victim statement to the rapist, rape victim decides to use the platform to bring attention to how rape needs to be prosecuted more often.

3)  For the first time in the history of the world, rapist shows that he has been rehabilitated by suggesting the community stone him as punishment for his crime.

I could go on and on, but I think you get my point.  While as a victim, I would never get on anyone’s case for how they choose to move on from a crime.  I am happy for this woman that she has been able to move on, while still believing that everyone is capable of good.  That is amazing optimism that I hope to one day believe to be true.

Personal Responsibility:

I hate to break it to the optimistic people out there, but most prisoners don’t feel bad about what they have done.  Many are not able to accept personal responsibility for why they are in jail.  While there are likely some people who feel bad about what they did, I would argue that this is not the majority.  Have you ever heard someone tell you that most people in prison claim they are innocent?  Well, it’s because they cannot take responsibility for what they have done.  If you cannot take responsibility (and I don’t include people who simply admit guilt to lesson their sentence), forgiveness will be lost on you.

In addition to Jane Piper’s addressing her rapist as an equal, she also asked him questions that I found intriguing.  The questions she asked were built from 11 years of likely doing the same exercise that I have done on many occasions.  The question she seemed to be searching for was “why”.  While I don’t know her true motivation here, I can assume she forgave him because she no longer wanted to harbor anger, but she still wanted the closure that an honest response that she believed the “why” question would give her.

I recently had lunch with one of my ex “Luc’s” other victims.  He told me that one day he would like to confront him about all the terrible things he had done to him.  He said he didn’t want to talk to him, but that he wanted to just ask him “Why”.  I told him that I understood his need for answers, but that he needed to understand that while he certainly had the right to ask the question – he might need to prepare himself for never hearing the truth.

Attempting to Understand Crazy:

Many times in the past few years, I too have played the “why” game.  I go over and over in my head and try to make sense of why someone would kill their own child.  This game often takes me in circles down a rabbit hole of badness, until I realize that there is no way to jump inside the head of a psychopath.  I think it is dangerous to attempt to look at people who do scary and vile things as though they are rational players.  When we try to pigeon hole these people into our own safe mental constructs, we under estimate their dangerousness.

While Jane Piper had good intentions in forgiving her rapist, I pray that she forgave him knowing that he might have been unforgivable.  I pray that she knew that she might not ever get the answers to her questions, because her rapist might not even know the answers himself.  I fully support the idea that victims need to let go of the anger (though I am not there yet), but I challenge society to understand that in order to protect ourselves from truly monstrous people, we need to realize that not everyone is capable of good.  Not everyone can be rehabilitated, and not everyone is worthy of forgiveness.

 

 

 

The Vicious Cycle of Child Abuse In The Black Community

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Let me start by letting you all know that I consider myself a black woman; therefore, I believe I qualify as a member of the so-called “black community.” That said, I believe the black community is as diverse as saying “the American community”, but I digress.  This past weekend, I had the privilege of being a guest caller on the radio show Cole And The Cure.  This show has a large Black American audience, and is based in Tampa, FL.  While some people might argue if Tampa counts as “the deep south”, the callers certainly considered themselves southern.

The show focused on the issue of Child Abuse.  Mr. Cole, the host, called me to participate after reading my blog from last week on Adrian Peterson.  Before addressing the audience, I had a chance to listen to many callers’ views on spanking.  I have to admit, I was shocked and appalled at what I was hearing.   Several callers claimed that “whooping” a child was just a part of black culture, and blamed police for intervening in the way Peterson decided to “discipline” his child.  Others claimed that while Peterson shouldn’t have left a mark, they believed it was ok to beat their child.  Even the co-host admitted that when she first heard the story she believed that Peterson was just “handling his business” as a parent.

Out of all the callers, however, I was most concerned when a woman explained her belief that you should beat your children young, because they were too young to understand reason.  She went on to say that since police officers beat prisoners, she is just getting her children ready for the real world by hitting them when they “step out of line.” So after the show, I went straight to my computer and jotted down some take away thoughts about the state of the black community:

Are are raising our children to be prisoners?

 Do people actually think that because prison guards use physical punishment, using this same type of behavior on your child will stop them from becoming a prisoner?   I firmly believe that if you hit your child in an attempt to curb violence, you are going to likely spur the very thing you are claiming to be trying to stop.

When I was a teacher in California, I was told during one of the State training sessions that the State of California used third grade writing assessments to project how many prisons the State would need to build in the future.  Now I won’t get into the obvious parallels they were making between the education of third graders and prison projects; however, the debate on child discipline vs. abuse had me thinking about this statistic.  Was there something to this?  Not only was the State making a judgement on children ending up in prison, many parents were raising their children as if it was a forgone conclusion.

The Impact Of Violence At A Young Age:  

One of the most disturbing things about the radio show was the common believe that people should hit their children as a form of discipline when they are “too young to understand reason.”  This was shockingly illogical to me.  Imagine being a child who is not yet verbal, and you hit or bite someone.  In response, because you are too young to be reasoned with, your parent decides to hit you with a switch.

(Let’s take a moment of contemplative silence to think about the irony here…)

Do you really think that this child, after being smacked, is going to “learn his lesson”?  This poor kid is likely to be intensely confused by the fact that you were angry about him hitting someone, and your response was hitting him.  By showing your child this odd form of discipline, or child abuse as I would call it, you have effectively taught your child that when you are upset – the logical response is to hit.

Psychological research shows that a child learns to form attachments before the age of five.  If your form of discipline involves intentionally inflicting pain on your child, I would like to challenge you to think about the life long scars that you are forming that might not present in a physical mark.

Social Responsibility:

Another response that I heard on the radio show was this idea that “spanking my child is my business”, and “I know the difference between spanking and abuse”.  People often hear about my tragic case, and insist that the way they choose to discipline is not at the level of what happened to my son, and therefore, they don’t have to worry about it.  My response to these people is this:  While many things that happen behind your doors at night is your business, you better hope that police don’t take the stance that child abuse is not something for police to get involved in.  Many people like to believe that this issue is not impacting them, however, there are many abusive parents who hide behind the idea that their form of discipline is their business.  By propagating this crap that police should stay out of your form of discipline, you are putting children at risk of being hurt or killed.

Slavery And Child Abuse:

I anticipate that many folks will not want to hear this, but just because you were beaten…your parents were beaten…and your ancestors were beaten does not mean that you need to continue the cycle.  Charles Barkley, in all his idiotic wisdom, defended Adrian Peterson by that, “every black parent in the south” whoops their child.  Barkley went on to say,  “Every black parent in the South is gonna be in jail under those circumstances.  I think we have to be careful letting people dictate how they treat their children.”  I have news for you Charles:  There was a time when it was legal for white people to beat black people too.  I am thankful that the government stepped in, and dictated that black people have Civil Rights and should not be owned and abused as property.  If that hadn’t occurred, both you and I would be in a field picking cotton, or serving as an unpaid hand in masters’ kitchen.

 

I cannot say how my son’s father was raised, or what created the monster who killed my son Prince.  I do, however, know for sure that violence begets violence.  Until we are man and woman enough to break the cycle of violence, these terrible things will continue to happen in our society.  Many of you are likely thinking that my stance against child abuse comes from having grown up in a cushy non-abusive environment.  That is not the case.  I am the first person to stand here and say that while I was hit as a child, due to the same cultural acceptance of child abuse, I am strongly against it for my child.  My child will be raised to respect me, and not fear me.  She will be raised to understand that she is entitled to the same Civil Rights as an adult.  She will not be raised to assume that one day she will be a prisoner, and she will understand that violence has no good place in our society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ray Rice – The Child Of An Adrian Peterson

 

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson

Almost a year ago, I wrote about a terrible tragedy - the murder of Adrian Peterson’s two-year old son.  In the past week, you would have to have been hiding under a rock not to hear about how this same man, who lost a son he never had the chance to know, was now being indicted for abusing his four year old son.  I cannot accurately describe the rage I felt when I heard this story.  I defended Peterson a year ago, and was sad for him that he never had the chance to know his child who was murdered.  Now, after seeing the graphic pictures of his four year old son’s battered little boy, I want to spit on this poor excuse for a father.

Close to home:

For those who are familiar with my story, you know that I am intimately familiar with how it feels to lose a child.  I also know the pain of learning that your child was murdered as the result of a horribly abusive incident.  I simply cannot understand how a man whose child was murdered in this violent way can justify raising his hand to another one of his children.  As I read more and more about the story, I felt as though I had entered some strange alternate reality.  I couldn’t believe how bold this man was to believe he would not have to face the law after what he did.  In case you missed it, the following text messages show Peterson’s reaction to what he did to this innocent child.

(The following are text messages he sent the child’s mother after returning the child from a visit.)

Mother: “What happened to his head?”

Peterson: “Hit his head on the Carseat.”

Mother: “How does that happen, he got a whoopin in the car.”

Peterson: “Yep.”

Mother: “Why?”

Peterson: “I felt so bad. But he did it his self.”

(The messages go on with Peterson describing how he was “disciplining” the child for cussing at a sibling.)

Mother: “What did you hit him with?”

Peterson: “Be still n take ya whooping he would have saved the scare (scar). He aight (all right)”

(Translation in the event you cannot understand Peterson’s poor use of the English language:  “If he had not tried to escape me when I was beating him up, maybe he wouldn’t have gotten a scar.  He will be alright.”)

Public Reaction:

When I heard about Peterson, I was appalled, and I regretted ever believing he would have been a good influence for any of his children.  What is equally appalling is the reactions that I have heard from people after the news that Peterson had been indicted.  People came out of the woodwork to defend child abuse.  Since Peterson used the term “discipline”, many folks believed this gave him a free pass to beat the shit out of his four year old.

Here is a sample of some of the vial things I read in response to the felony that Peterson committed against his son:

1)  “If it left bruises and welts, okay fine, charge him. I’m just waiting for the anti-spanking brigade to use this to push their parenting ideas on others. While everyone has their own ideas about punishment, I don’t think using a switch constitutes abuse.”

In what reality does beating a child with a stick NOT cause bruises and welts?  How about I have you grab a branch off of that tree so I can hit you with it, and let’s see if you still think this doesn’t constitute abuse.

I am not in the business of giving random unsolicited parenting advice (ok, maybe sometimes I do – but you all have the choice to continue reading or not).  It isn’t my business whether you choose to give your kids veggies for breakfast, sleep train a certain way, or wait until they are older for kindergarten.  That said, I will ALWAYS stand firm against child abuse because your abused child is going to turn into an adult who thinks abuse is an acceptable behavior when you are upset with someone.  Whether or not you choose to abuse your child is not a personal parenting decision.  It is something society has a right to judge and speak out against.  And yes, I am from the anti-spanking brigade.

2)  “This is insulting. Why in the hell would he be charged with anything for this? He is a parent and can discipline his children however he sees fit!!!!”

Just because people like this disguise child abuse with the term “discipline” doesn’t make it any less illegal.  Newsflash, you don’t have a right as a parent to abuse your child.  Period.

3)  “No big deal, my Mom/Dad did the same to me.”  And one of my favorite variations of this argument:

“I was spanked as a kid. I think I turned out fine. I am 23, and even to this day, my mom wouldn’t hesitate to slap me across the face.”

This quote I have seen in several different locations.  This argument is just as silly as saying, “well, it isn’t a big deal that my husband beats me…I mean, my Dad beat my Mom and she didn’t get killed.”  Wake up folks!!  Just because you were abused as a child, doesn’t mean you should continue the abuse just because it happened to you.  I also wonder what sort of respect you have for yourself, and for your mother, if you are 23 and your Mom is slapping you in the face.  Congratulations for surviving an abusive childhood, but please stop the cycle.

Alarming Parallels:

I could go on for pages with the amount of people who were defending this sorry ass human.  Wasn’t just a few weeks ago when we had to watch another football player knock out his wife in an elevator?  After the way people reacted to Peterson, it shouldn’t shock us that domestic violence has become so damn common.  So many people seem to think its ok for an adult to hit a child (which nobody would argue is a fair fight), but when a grown man beats a grown woman we wonder why she is staying in the marriage.  Why do we have such double standards when it comes to children, yet we are all appalled and confused when we see story after story about children getting murdered by their parents?

Finally, I hope that in the past month you all are able to see the parallels between these two stories.  Here you have two men for whom violence appears to be the norm.  I bet if we asked Ray Rice how he feels about Peterson’s situation, he would likely say something like, “I don’t see why it’s a big deal…I mean, my Dad and Mom made me get my own switch before they beat my ass.  I call that discipline.”  Sure Ray, and I bet you also call what happened in the elevator a love tap too right?

Domestic Violence: Our Definitions And A Victim’s Denial

 

Ray Rice and his wife Janay Palmer.  Picture taken from jacksonville.com

Ray Rice and his wife Janay Palmer

 

In the past week, many of you have likely heard a lot about Ray Rice being released from the Baltimore Ravens, and being indefinitely expelled from the NFL.   For those of you who haven’t heard what happened, a video of Rice beating his wife in an elevator forced the NFL to make the call – one that many people have said should have been made some time ago.  I am not going to argue about the NFL, and its domestic violence problem.  I would like to, however, focus on another related issue that is close to my heart.  While Rice has his fair share of haters now, because he is clearly an abusive ass who in my opinion deserved to have his career shattered, his wife is also catching some serious heat.  I would like to describe what happens in a relationship before physical abuse occurs, and why many abuse victims do not believe they have been abused.

What is the scene that comes to mind when you hear about someone who has been a victim of domestic violence?  If you are like I was four years ago, you probably envision a women in a hospital bed with hear face beaten beyond recognition, while her husband explains to the doctor how his klutz of a wife fell down the stairs.  Or maybe you imagine that someone like Ray Rice started beating on his wife after the first date.  While many women suffer at the hands of physical abusers, there are many more who suffer a  discrete and insidious form of domestic violence – emotional abuse.  Often times, it is the less obvious forms of abuse that lead to situations like the elevator beating that occurred at the hands of Rice.

When I first fled my ex’s house (two weeks after my son Prince was born), I refused to believe I had been a victim of domestic violence.  I was proud, and even after of the terrible things he put me through, I didn’t want to admit that I had stayed in an abusive relationship for as long as I had.  I held onto this belief that I hadn’t really been abused for longer than I should have.  It makes me terribly sad when I see other women who have suffered abuse remain in denial.

Through the Eyes of a Child:

It is often hard to assess your life situation while you are deep in the throws of a terrible situation.  Many abused children do not believe they have been abused.  Even though most schools talk about violence, and try to get children to report abuse, it is often hard for a child to see their situation as abusive if it is they have ever known.  For example, I once asked the child of a known abuser if he had been abused by his father.  He said, “no my father was not abusive – he was just strict.”  Upon further questioning about the term “strict”, the child revealed details about how his father had stripped him naked, and put him out in the cold as a form of punishment.  He also mentioned how his father would “spank” him, often leaving bruises.

While this child was uncomfortable with the idea that he had been a victim of child abuse, he didn’t hesitate to explain how afraid he was of his father.  He had spent his entire life being afraid of his father, so this was his normal.  To him, child abuse was not something normal; therefore, he assumed that what he experienced was just a “strict” parent.

Parallels and Revelations:

As I heard this child speak about his experiences with his father, I felt a flood of emotion.  The thought of him not identifying as a child abuse victim seemed crazy, but in that moment I realized that I needed to come to terms with my own abuse history.  How many times do we hear women who say things like, “he is really a great guy, he just gets upset every so often.”  Just because the dude doesn’t punch you in the face, and cause you to have frequent trips to the ER doesn’t mean the abuse you have endured doesn’t reach the threshold of domestic violence.

I give you the following examples, and I ask you to think about whether you would consider these things “abusive”:

Lechery: Does your husband have a problem keeping his man parts in their appropriate place?  Is he that guy at the party who is hitting on the other women in the room right in front of you?  Does he constantly talk to you about how many women think he is attractive?  Any man (or woman) who cheats on their spouse with a complete lack of regard for their emotions (not to mention their health, i.e. STD risk) is an abuser.

Insulting:  Does your partner belittle you in private, or even in public?  If your spouse purposefully says things with the intention of making you feel bad about yourself, this is abusive.

Rages:  Do you feel like you frequently walk on egg shells for fear of being yelled at?  If someone is screaming at you on a regular basis, and you find yourself scared to communicate with this person for fear of being verbally attacked – this is a problem.

These are just a few examples of domestic violence that don’t result in bruises, and likely are gateways to this sort of behavior in the future.  Loads of women could likely identify with the three examples I have included, and they would also identify with remaining in the relationship after such abuse.  While it might be controversial, I argue that Janay’s staunch support of her husband is just another example of what millions of women do on a regular basis.  She is in the throws of an abusive relationship.  The abuse that she is experiencing is seems so obvious to everyone else, but at home Janay has an abuser in her ear explaining away every bruise and pleading for her public support.

Janay’s statement over social media should look alarmingly familiar to those who have experienced domestic violence:

janayinstigram

As I read her post, I could almost imagine Ray standing over her shoulder writing it.

 

It is really easy to feel strong when you don’t have to face that person on a daily basis.  Many people cannot imagine what it is like to be afraid every single day, and wonder how you will get out of the situation.  It is not always easy to walk out that door.

Victim Doesn’t Need to Define You:

One of the reasons I had such a hard admitting to myself that I had experienced an abusive relationship was the fear I had that this would somehow define me.  People often ask me how I have been able to survive the Lifetime-esque life that I have had.  The best advice I can give on that front is that you can choose to not let these things define who you are.  Just because you have been abused, does not mean that you need to remain a victim.  In order to take back your identity, it is important to follow the following steps:

.  Face the reality by admitting to yourself that you are being abused.

.  Get yourself out of the abusive situation

.  Understand how you got there to begin with, so not to repeat the mistake.

So when you read the media reports about this incident, and the others that will likely follow, imagine yourself in this woman’s shoes.  Even if you don’t think it could happen to you, I am living proof that it can.

 

Reflections On Pregnancy

 

My giant stomach, while pregnant with my daughter.

My giant stomach, while pregnant with my daughter.

This week, I am releasing a post from the Cappuccino Queen vault that had been archived.  I wrote this post while I was pregnant with my daughter.  I hope you enjoy my reflections on pregnancy. :)


 

By the time this blog post is posted, I will be on the way to the hospital to have my little girl.  As I enjoy my last warm cup of coffee on a Sunday morning (which has become a routine for me), I reflect on the last ten months I have had with my daughter.

Yes, I said ten months – I will never understand why people insist on saying women are only pregnant for nine months when 40 weeks is really ten months. I digress…

Here are some things that this pregnancy has taught me that I thought you all would enjoy:

You really do forget:  Though the last month of my pregnancy of Prince was terrible, I vaguely remember people assuring me that as soon as I saw him I would completely forget.  I can only just now remember wearing the same Muumuu and flip flops during the last weeks leading up to Prince being born.  When my male coworkers raised an eyebrow about this inappropriately casual choice of dress, I would constantly remind them that I had gotten my big butt out of bed (even though I could barely walk) and this was the only thing in my closet that would fit.  I would also show them my swollen feet and dare them to say something about my flip flops.  Needless to say, my coworkers never said a word about my hideous outfit.

As I waddled around in those last few weeks (in the height of what was one of the hottest summers in the DC area), I swore that I never wanted to be pregnant again.  Then, something amazing happened – my son was born.  As soon as I looked into his chocolate chip brown eyes, I instantly had a form of Mama amnesia.  All of a sudden the entire experience was colored by rainbows and butterflies.

So while I swore I would never get pregnant again (and was considering adoption for any future children), when I made the decision to have my daughter I was still under the influence of Mama amnesia.  I thought, ‘eh, it wasn’t so bad the first time.  Sure, I was huge and a bit uncomfortable toward the end…but it’s temporary and all worth it at the end.’  It wasn’t until I found myself doubled over in the parking lot at work throwing up for what seemed like the sixth month in a row (yet still gaining weight) that the memories from my first pregnancy started coming back to me.  ‘Really?!?!  Did I really forget this?  Damn, I guess I really did,’ I thought.

Babies are different – even in utero:  Though I had suffered from a healthy dose of Mama amnesia after my pregnancy with Prince, I didn’t forget some of the more pleasant things about pregnancy like learning my son’s personality.  Until my pregnancy with my daughter, I didn’t even think about how different a baby could be even before they were born.  For example, my son was very laid back – both before and after he was born.  I would be at work and he would gently punch me in the side, and after playing tag for a few minutes he would stop and fall asleep.  While he occasionally lodged his feet in my ribs, it didn’t take much manipulating to get him to realize this was not cool with Mama and he would move.  When I would walk and jog during my pregnancy, this seemed to lull my son to sleep.  He continued this trend on the outside with his love for the baby swing while watching Ann Curry on The Today Show.

My daughter, on the other hand, is a yoga baby.  She is always moving, bouncing, dancing, and stretching.  She loves to show off during business meetings by making my entire stomach shake.  When I turn the music on in the car, she actually seems to have favorite stations which I can assess by her level of movement.  Unlike with Prince, my walks and workouts don’t lull her to sleep.  Instead, this wakes her up and makes her think its time to dance.  When she stretches and finds a spot she likes, she is not easily moved.  They are both very different, but I find myself falling in love with her little fire of a personality even before I have officially met her.

Society and pregnant women:  One of the most intriguing things about being pregnant is watching the way the world treats you when it becomes obvious you are growing a small person inside of you.  With Prince, I didn’t “show” until I was almost six months.  With my daughter, however, it seemed that as soon as I peed on the stick my hips spread and I was forced into maternity wear.  I tried to hold out in telling my job until I was well past the first trimester; however, my college -aged sister didn’t hold back in giving me some tough advice.  “Hera, you are throwing up everyday and getting fat.  You are going to need to tell them soon because its getting obvious,” she said with the clear tact of someone who had never been pregnant.

After telling people at work, it was funny how many of the men began to move way out of the way as I walked down the hall – as if touching me by accident would cause me to give birth immediately and right in front of them.  This only seemed to get more hilarious as I got bigger.  People who tended to have a scowl on their faces would act more friendly when they started to see me waddle (note:  this I appreciated).  Finally, many people treat pregnant women as though they shouldn’t be doing anything themselves.  Carrying a package, pushing an office chair, or even grocery shopping on my own elicited gaping stares and constant offers from complete strangers to help me.  Given my tendency toward independence, I often found myself smiling and saying, “It’s ok…it looks heavier than it is.  I got this.”

Being single and pregnant has been great:  I used to be one of those women who was terrified at the idea of being a single parent.  That was, of course, until I experienced being in an abusive relationship.  One of the reasons I stayed with Luc for so long was because I had convinced myself that it would somehow be worse to be single and pregnant than with a man who clearly didn’t give a damn about me (or anyone else for that matter).  When I was pregnant with Prince, I would come home from working a full day (while Luc had been sleeping and playing xbox) and Luc would ask me to rub his feet.  I would cook him dinner and take care of him as if he was the person growing the baby.

Being pregnant and single has been great in comparison to the stress I was under being pregnant and living with a demon.  I come home from work, put my feet up, and thank God that I am not sleeping next to a psychopath.  I feel empowered from my decision, and I am confident that I can be a great mom regardless of my marital status.  I am less stressed out this time around, and I am extremely hopeful for the future.  Looking back on what I faced during my pregnancy with Prince makes me sad.  It makes me sad that it took me so long to realize that I could do this on my own.  It makes me sad that I spent the majority of Prince’s life being scared, anxious, and confused.  That said, I am not that woman anymore.

The best decision of my life:  In the past three years, I have lived through some bad times.  I have made some astronomically bad decisions (the most obvious being my relationship with Luc).  There is one thing I can say, however, without a doubt – my decision to have my daughter has been the best decision I have made in my entire life.  When I first started telling people about my choice to have another child, I was not met with over whelming positivity.  Many people made ugly judgements, and told me that I needed to wait.  A lot of people in my life insisted that I was making a decision driven by grief, and that I would change my mind.  Having been a victim of societies belief in what was appropriate, I chose my own path instead.  I had never felt stronger about anything in my life.  I knew that it was the right time to make this decision, and I didn’t let anyone’s prejudice stand in my way.

During the last ten months, I have gone through my fare share of pain – both emotionally and physically. Getting to know my daughter in this last ten months, however, has kept me living.  It has allowed me to have hope for the future, and it has proven to me that I have come out on top and stronger in the face of tragedy.  Some of my close friends have told me that my daughter will be lucky to have such a good mother.  Every time I hear this I respond by saying, “I am the lucky one.  I am pretty sure this little girl has saved my life.”

Finally, the best moment of pregnancy happens when it’s over.  As I hit the publish button on this post, and head to the hospital, I feel almost delirious with excitement about meeting my daughter face to face.  I remember the moment I met my son as if it were yesterday.  There is nothing more incredible than meeting someone for the first time who you feel like you have known your whole life.  That is what meeting my children feels like it me.

 

 

 

Michael Brown’s Murder And The Death Of Justice

 

Michael Brown, who was set to begin college in August 2014

Michael Brown, who was set to begin college in August 2014

 

On August 9th, Michael Brown was shot six times, twice in the head by a Ferguson, Mo police officer.  While it has been a couple of weeks since this happened, many heavy emotions continue to rush through me about this incident.  I am stunned, afraid, ashamed, and I have a deep anger burning inside of me that I cannot begin to describe in writing.  I have sat watching the news, at times in complete shock that these events are taking place in my own country.  As a nation, we have a tendency to pass judgment on other nations for the atrocities that occur between their foreign borders.  What occurred in Ferguson, and continues to occur across our pious nation, is something we should all be ashamed of.

Media Spin:

While the media seems to be doing an effective job of covering how peaceful protestors are being gassed and beaten by police officers, they are also making sure to focus on how they believed Michael had been using drugs and had robbed a store. (Note: there has been no definitive evidence that there was a crime committed, and Michael Brown had no prior criminal record.)  Having been a victim of a violent crime (my son being murdered), I am the first person to stand in line to watch criminals be prosecuted.  That said, this officer had no clue that a crime had occurred.  He saw an unarmed black man, and decided to kill him in cold blood.  Even if we were to accept that Michael had done something wrong before he was murdered (which I don’t really believe he did), since when do robbers get sentenced to a firing squad before their trial?  If we are going to start doing things like this as a country, I would kindly ask that we start with murderers and rapists – not a young adult who decided to make the poor choice of stealing a pack of cigarettes.

I would also like to address the fact that the kid had pot in his system.  (And yes, I still think 18 year-olds are kids.)  From reading some of these articles, it would appear as though the media were trying to make references as though the kid was hopped up on crack and acting aggressive.  I have never done any drugs, but from what I know about weed it doesn’t seem as though the kid would have been acting particularly aggressive from having some of it in his system.  Having weed in his system should also not be seen as an excuse to why the kid should have been gunned down.

The Aftermath:

Another disappointing, shocking, and appalling issue that has come up during this tragedy is how many criminals take advantage of bad situations and make them worse.  Store owners in Ferguson didn’t have anything to do with the police officer murdering Michael Brown.  Seeing people rioting in the streets, and ruining businesses in their neighborhood infuriates me.  This sort of behavior is not justified, and will end up hurting the very people that are most impacted by this level of police brutality.

Police Accountability:

Those of you who have followed me from the beginning of my blog know that I have experienced first hand what it’s like to be mistreated by police officers.  Just weeks after I fled an abusive and dangerous man, the police arrested me for removing something I owned from a house that I had been paying for.  After paying thousands of dollars to an attorney to clear my name, I forced a police investigation.  While the Police Captain admitted that his officers had not handled the situation appropriately, or even within their own policies, he refused to hold his officers accountable in any way that would stop the same atrocity from occurring in the future.  I firmly believe that the Prince William County police have a problem with corruption.  I am hopeful that the police officers who allowed my ex (who is now in jail awaiting trial for the murder of my son, and the murder of his ex-girlfriend) to remain a free man, by turning a blind eye to his crimes, will some day be exposed for their unethical behavior.

While some people have chosen to have sympathy for the police officer who shot Michael Brown, I am not one of them.  I believe that the police should be treated as common citizens when they commit crimes.  It is injustice at its worst to see police officers behaving poorly, while obtaining the shield of safety merely because of their badge.  If someone without a badge had murdered Michael Brown, in cold blood, he would be in jail awaiting his trial.

Despite what has happened to me and my family, as a result of police activity, I am not one to believe that all police officers are bad people.  There are many officers who take their oath seriously – people who accept the job to serve and protect.  Criminal police who abuse their power bring shame to the profession.  They also bring shame to our entire justice system.  Police officers are people too, and when they show themselves as criminals – they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Racism remains a problem in America.  Stories like the murder of Treyvon Martin, and now Michael Brown, prove that we still have a long way to go as a country before we can say that we don’t have a race problem.  I am disturbed that in 2014 our police officers are still gunning down unarmed black men in the streets, and trying to justify their actions afterward.

When I saw Michael Brown’s parents on television, my heart ached for them as I looked into their eyes.  I saw the same look that I had in the days after my son was brutally murdered.  I saw sadness, despair, hopelessness, and anger.  I have not taken to the streets in Ferguson, however, I am thankful for the people who have peacefully done so.  I know first hand about how, even when the murderer is held accountable, it doesn’t take away the pain of never being able to hold your son again.

I waited three months before my ex was finally arrested for the murder of my son.  Those three months were arguably the worst three months of my entire life.    Every single day that my son’s killer walked free, I felt as though another piece of me died.  The flame of justice that had burned inside of me was extinguished.  I pray that the Brown’s will get to see the justice that they deserve.  I stand with the thousands of peaceful protestors who are demanding justice – and demanding our system to practice the core of what it is that we as a country preach.