He was a pest. Ignoring him made him angry but I couldn’t say anything because speaking would make him angry, too.”
“My family wanted me to keep quiet.”
“Getting my freedom back means taking his away.
Before I met Brittany Faye yesterday I knew nothing about domestic violence. I didn’t grow up with it and friends never talked about it. Abuse has only come up in three interviews for Our Southern Souls and two of those women asked to leave it out of their story. Domestic abuse was out of sight and out of mind.
Brittany shouldn’t have walked into Serda’s to meet me and tell her story. She shouldn’t even be hugging her two kids every morning. On May 11, 2015, the day after Mother’s Day, her ex-boyfriend and father of her children, found out that she was seeing another man and broke into her apartment seeking revenge. After a day of receiving harassing texts at work, she asked her brother, Antonio, to meet at her apartment just to be safe. She didn’t know her ex was hiding under the couch inside. The first two shots missed her, but the third shot killed Antonio. Her dropped to the ground, then her ex jumped on her. She survived but her daughter saw it all. Her ex immediately went to jail and will be tried for capital murder in August.
Her brother, Antonio, had recently turned his life around. He was the black sheep of the family like her and the man she wanted to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. He called her the day before her birthday every year just to make her mad and gave her a Mother’s Day card saying he loved her and was proud of the mother she had become the day before he died. He promised to protect their family, but she never dreamed that he would die protecting her.
We talked for hours about the punches, the bites and the bruises. The insults, the names, the control and manipulation. Believing the degrading things he said and having no one to say they weren’t true. Hearing she brought this on herself and she wasn’t raised this way. She lives in a culture where abuse is accepted and supposed to be kept a secret. She couldn’t talk about the smashed plates, kicked-in doors, or the holes in the walls the size of a fist. The restraining order against violence that didn’t work. Today she is scared of raising a son around a community of men who think using a gun is the only way to win.
They were teenagers when they started dating, 15 and 17. The first signs of abuse began five or six years later when he became verbally abusive and controlling. He always had to be right. Things got worse when she started standing up for herself and fighting back because she couldn’t take it anymore.
The courage to leave came when her young daughter said she was scared of the yelling and what her daddy did to her mama with his hands. Abuse is not the example Brittany wants to give to her kids, but getting away from their daddy wasn’t easy.
“Leaving the relationship makes the violence worse because he wouldn’t let go,” she says. “That is why women are scared to leave. That is why they don’t get help.
“I don’t want my kids or myself to be a statistic,” she says. “I am now a black single mom and my kids don’t have a daddy because he is locked up. A strong woman is coming out of this. She was there the whole time. I just had to find her.”
That strong woman is beginning to speak out and try to help others going through domestic violence. She is sharing her name and her story because “someone needs to speak up.” A month ago Brittany started HER Identity: A Purple Heart Foundation to use her experience to help save and restore lives of women also going through abuse. She wants to let them know that violence is not okay and they can speak out and get help before it is too late. Women can contact her at Brittany Faye on Facebook for now and she will have an organizational page up soon
“I was so close to losing my life that I have to speak for those whose story wasn’t told until they died,” she says. “Every time a man feels like he is silencing a woman by killing her, he is just opening up her vocal chords to the rest of the world. Every time a woman loses her life, her silence has been broken and her story opens up to the rest of the world.”
“Everyone wants to talk about domestic violence when a woman is killed. After it happens. Why can’t we talk about it today?”
If families will talk with me, I want to share the stories of women who were killed in domestic and gun violence over the last few years in Mobile. It is time to raise awareness now and maybe save a few lives before it is too late.
If you need help, Penelope House is a shelter in Mobile that provides safety and protections for victims of domestic violence and their children. They have a 24-hour crisis hotline, (251) 342-8994. There is the Lighthouse in Baldwin County: (251) 947-3414 main or 1(800)650-6522 Domestic Violence Crisis Line. You can also call 2-1-1 to connect you to the help you need anywhere in Alabama.
Here is a list of domestic violence shelters in Alabama.
Here are some warning sides of domestic violence and other ways to get help.