As a child, Jacqueline would make up silly songs about things that scared her. That coping mechanism didn’t keep her safe as a young adult. Instead it was a burst of courage after years of emotional, verbal, and physical abuse that finally allowed her to break free.
How did you meet him?
We met in middle school and we talked then – we both had crushes on each other. He said he was too scared to talk to me.
When she was 19, she ran into him again when she worked at a retail store.
He followed me on instagram and I didn’t know who he was. I looked on his page and remembered him from 8th grade. We didn’t say anything to each other, but a couple of days later I saw him when I was at work. The store was closed and he yelled my name through the gate. I didn’t recognize him until I walked up to the gate and saw him. We started talking again after that. It started out really good. We got along really well. We just clicked, I guess.
How long were you together before you saw signs of abuse? What were the first signs?
I didn’t see signs until we moved in together. And it wasn’t really a sign of abuse. He wouldn’t work and he was basically a bum. He was using me but I didn’t really see that. But then one day we got into it. He didn’t put his hands on me, but he flipped the kitchen table over. He threw it up so high it hit the ceiling. His friend was there and told him to calm down. That was the first real sign of violence.
Before that, he had started to isolate you from your family and friends. Tell me about that.
It started when I worked at Forever 21. He took my car, so I couldn’t do anything except go to work. He dropped me off and picked me up. I was with him every second when I wasn’t at work. I couldn’t go anywhere else. I couldn’t do anything on my own. After a while he wouldn’t let me hang out with my best friend because he said I’d be doing what she was doing (she hung out with a lot of guys). Then he wouldn’t let me come to my parents’ house unless he was with me. If I was there – and I was lucky to be there – he would call and cuss me out the whole time. He’d say I acted like he didn’t exist when I was with my parents. I was with him 24-hours a day so when I was with my family I didn’t want the phone glued to my ear talking to him. If I stayed over there too long he’d get mad. If he was in the car in the driveway, he’d say “You know I’ll come in there and get you.” Anytime I texted my mom, I had to show him what I said. Or he texted her acting like it was me. I hate him.
Did it escalate? Like baby steps into bad stuff?
At first he just broke stuff. He punched a hole in my TV. He broke one of the doors where we lived. He broke my phone. One day we were in the car with my baby and I was driving. He had just gotten out of jail and while he was in jail I saw he was talking with other women online. I told him I didn’t love him and that he was crazy. He threw his phone out the window and said he didn’t care about any of them, that all he cared about was me. He then threw my phone out the window and shattered it. I pulled over to get it out of the road and to see if it could be fixed. But when I stopped he slammed my head into the driver’s side window. I got out of the car after he did that and he took my son out of the car. He left us on the side of the road. I didn’t have a phone so couldn’t call anyone. I was in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t know what to do. I was just standing there with no car and a one-year old baby. I stood there for about 20 minutes before he came back. I guess people thought I lived in a nearby house. But nobody was home at the house. I couldn’t walk anywhere with the giant car seat.
What kept you from leaving then?
He apologized and I was stupid. I didn’t think it would happen again. He made me think it was my fault for telling him I didn’t love him.
He lived at his grandpa’s house in Nashville after we lost our place. I went over there and we got into it because some girl texted him at 1:00 a.m. and asked him to come over. He got mad at me for getting mad. He took my phone as I was trying to leave and threw it. I had my son with me and finally found my way home without the GPS.
Jacqueline then described many other incidents of violence with the perpetrator.
Once we were at his cousin’s house and he was drunk. He found some boxers that were his boxers. He said I was cheating on him and he did everything but hit me. He pushed me down, pushed me against the wall. Because he found some boxers that were his.
Another time he threw his phone at my foot and I had to walk on crutches. It wasn’t broken, but it was a bad bruise.
He broke my phone yet again when he found out he had fathered another daughter. They had gone to court for a custody hearing. I wasn’t there because I was working. Afterwards he spent the day with the baby’s mother and said he was at his cousin’s house. I found out he was lying – and I didn’t care that he was seeing his other daughter and her mother. But he got mad and again threw my phone – shattered it. He got mad because I found out that he was lying to me.
The night before the baby pageant, he head butted me. I had a black eye from that, so I couldn’t take my children on stage for the pageant. I don’t even know what he was mad about. He had me pinned up to the wall and head-butted me.
He was mad another time and cussed me out in front of my dad. He spit in my face. I told my dad to call the police. They didn’t arrest him because he hadn’t physically touched me that time. Spitting in my face wasn’t enough.
Tell me about the verbal and emotional abuse.
He always told me I was fat and stupid and no one would ever put up with me. He said nobody would want to be with me because I have two kids. He said I was stupid and dumb and would never understand how to keep a man.
What was it like having a child with him?
It was bad. When I was pregnant he always threatened to take custody of her if we ever broke up. He used her to keep me. He tried to act like he would take her away from me if I left him. He would always say, “Your family is not going to raise my daughter because then she’s going to turn out like you. I don’t want her to be anything like you.” He was just mean.
He wouldn’t let my mom in the hospital to visit me the day after she was born. It was bad. He was mean to me in the hospital after birthing his child. I don’t know why but I remember being in the hospital crying. The nurse asked if she needed to make him leave because I didn’t need to be stressed after having a c-section. I said no, it was okay.
His name is not on the birth certificate because of state law. Your divorce had not been finalized. Are you grateful about that?
Yes. It adds a layer of protection for my daughter. If we needed to get away, we could without going through courts. If I have to keep her away from him because of his violence or for any reason, he’ll have to go to court and get a DNA test. He has no legal right to her.
How did he treat your son?
He didn’t treat him bad, but he’d yell at him. He was usually okay, but he did get mad if I was up and getting the kids ready for day care and they got loud. Instead of helping, he’d yell at us for being too loud while he was trying to sleep. He tried to control every single thing for no reason. I think my son hates him because he was mean to me. He always made his mommy cry. He would say, “He’s mean to my mommy.”
Tell me the worst thing that happened. Jacqueline started crying.
A lot of times if you went into my apartment, you’d see holes in the walls. He was always breaking things. It got where it didn’t phase me anymore. The week before I left him, he had a gun. The kids were in their rooms asleep. We were talking and he was mad about something. I was so tired of it and I said he made me want to kill myself. I felt so worthless. I felt I’d be better dead than with him. He brought the gun in and tried to give me the gun and kept saying “DO IT, DO IT. You want to kill yourself, here you go. DO IT. You want to kill yourself, just do it!” Then he said, “That’s right you’re too scared.” He stopped for awhile, but then he threw the loaded gun at me and said, “It’s loaded, all you got to do is pull the trigger.” It was just scary because there was a gun involved.
I had already decided for some time that I was going to leave him but had to wait for the right time. Every time I decided to leave, he’d always apologize and I always fell for it. I always thought he’d change and I’d give him one last chance. When he did the thing with the gun I knew I had to get out or I would die.
A week later I woke up and the kids were with my mom. I was getting up to go get them, but he picked up the TV and yelled, “Get up right now or I’m going to smash your head in with this.” It was a big box TV, not one of the small ones. That’s when I was done. I decided I wasn’t’ going to have my kids around that anymore and I wasn’t going to be around it anymore. I had hidden my car keys in my bra. I knew if he saw me walk out with my keys it would be bad.
My mom brought the kids over and he walked out the door first. I thought he was going to get the kids out of the car, but he kept walking. I ran back in the house grabbed my purse and work uniform and signaled to my mom to go. I left in my car and she followed me with the kids still safely in her car.
He texted me and asked where I went. I told him I’m gone. I was done. He sent me all these messages of him crying and begging not to do this to him. But I was done.
What would tell other women to watch out for?
Breaking objects first, because it will escalate. If they’re violent enough to break your phone or something in your house, then they’re violent enough to put their hands on you. I went every day with him screaming at me. Literally every day. He told me I was an embarrassment because I was so fat.
I think you’re beautiful.
Thanks. If they do it once, they’ll do it again, so don’t accept the apology and think that it’s going to never happen again because it will. If you let them get away with it one time, they’re going to think it’s okay and keep doing it. If you stay with them after they put their hands on you, they’ll do it again and again.
Know your worth. Nobody deserves that. Even if you feel like you’re the worst person in the world, you’re not. That’s how me made me feel that I didn’t deserve anything better than that. Living with something like that can tear you down so much. I probably would have killed myself if I didn’t have kids, honestly I would have.
So your kids saved you.
Yes because I didn’t want my son to ask “Where’s my mom? Where did she go?” I didn’t want him to have to grow up and find out the truth. I didn’t want him to think his mom couldn’t stay strong enough to stay there for them. I didn’t want to mess them up. I didn’t want to not see them grow up. Because I love them. I would just think about my parents and didn’t want them to feel they should have done more. But there wasn’t anything they could do. I thought of my family and my kids, I couldn’t do that to them. I wanted to do it to myself but just couldn’t.
Did you have a village of people who influenced you, who made a difference?
Yes, if I didn’t have that support I wouldn’t have felt safe leaving him. Because of the people standing by me, I knew they would protect me. I was able to break away because I knew I had somewhere to go and people who supported me.
Now that it’s over, do you feel better about yourself? How’s your self-confidence?
I feel I’ve grown so much. I would never fall for something again. I’m so careful now. If I was with someone and they did something wrong, I’m done with them. It’s so crazy. I’m so picky now. Before all this, I felt like I had to be with somebody to make me feel complete. But now it’s just like I don’t need that. I’m good by myself. I don’t need anybody else to make me feel good about myself. I don’t need someone else to validate it anymore. Because I lived with that horrible person for so long making me think I wasn’t anything. But I am.
What’s the lesson learned for you and for other women who find themselves in a soul-crushing relationship?
In a way I’m happy that I went through that because I learned a lot about myself. I feel I was with him for a reason and that was to teach me to love myself and put myself before I put other people. I put everyone else first and now I put myself and my kids before anyone else. Nothing else matters. Before I felt like a piece of me was missing. Now I’m full. There are no empty spots anymore. If I was to be with anyone else, they would just be an extra piece. I’m good where I’m at so if you’re going to be with me, you’re extra. If we break up, I’m still whole. I love myself now where I didn’t before because of going through all that.
Last week while Jacqueline was talking with him after agreeing to give him a ride to his new job, he told her he was taking her car again. She told him no, so he knocked her to the ground where she hit her head and blacked out. When she regained consciousness, her vision was blurred and her phone was gone. A witness (a HERO) called 911 and he was finally arrested and charged for the first time with domestic assault. An automatic restraining order is in place to protect the victim until the date of hearing. When someone is arrested for domestic assault, it is the state of Tennessee vs. the perpetrator, so Jacqueline will not face him in court. She will have to tell her side of what happened to the district attorney. If you need an order of protection, go to a court clerk’s office or any domestic violence shelter where you can find help. Follow this link to learn more: http://justiceforalltn.org/orders-of-protection.
If you have a story of survival to share, contact me at kathy (dot) tyson129 (at) gmail (dot) com."“He’s mean to my mommy.”",