Twenty-three years ago, Somalie Inez’s life took a drastic turn.
“I left my marriage because my husband was abusive,” Inez said. “I moved to a different neighborhood in the Maryland area after my divorce.” Inez had two small children at the time.
After about a year in the new neighbor, Inez took her children to attend a community block party. She was approached by a man who showed interest.
“I was not looking for a relationship but he was very persistent about connecting with me and I gave him my number,” Inez said.
Shortly, thereafter, the man called her phone more than 50 times.
“I didn’t answer the call since I knew from the beginning that I was not ready for a relationship or to date,” Inez said. “Within days, he showed up at my home unannounced and uninvited.”
Back in the day, phone numbers and addresses were listed in the white pages of public phone directories making it easy to be found.
On the day of the incident, her children were taking a nap upstairs in their respective rooms.
“I heard a persistent knock at my door,” she said. “I recognized the man standing because we met briefly at a block party.”
She did not open the door but questioned him about why was he there because she had not invited him nor had any interest in him.
Almost immediately, you heard a crash and he had forced his way into her home.
“He pulled my hair, dragged me upstairs,” she recalled. “When I began to scream and he chocked me to keep me quiet.”
Inez went on to say that his nearly 300-pound frame crushed her, and he continued to beat her and bit her shoulder blade as he raped her.
“I passed out,” she said. “When I came to, I called 911 to get help.”
Fortunately, her children were unharmed.
Five weeks later, Inez discovered she was pregnant.
“I wanted to terminate the pregnancy because I felt ashamed and it would have been confusing for my children since there was no man in my life,” she said. “Through the grace of God and the support of family and friends, I gave birth to my third baby.”
The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports seven out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim; 28 percent are committed by a stranger; and 45 percent are committed by an acquaintance. RAINN also reports that out of 1,000 rapes, 310 are reported to the police.
“I did report the rape to the police but I didn’t want people to look at my child as a product of rape, so I told very few people who I trusted about my ordeal,” Inez said. “I learned to love my child unconditionally as my own and not connected to the rapist.”
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) data reports that on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 12 million women and men.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month to advocate ending violence against women and their children. It’s a time to mourn those who have died because of domestic violence, celebrate those who have survived and connect to those individuals and organizations who work to end violence.
It’s also important to note that anyone can be a victim of domestic and sexual violence, according to NISVS, one in six men experiences severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.
Inez’s story is all too common. The National Network to End Domestic Violence reported in any given day in 2015, more than 31,500 adults and children escaped domestic violence situations and found refuge in a domestic violence emergency shelter or transitional housing program.
Similar storylines of sexual and domestic violence show up in numerous fact-based TV series and most recently in the psychological fictional thriller, “Til Death Do Us Part,” written and directed by Christopher B. Stokes and starring Stephen Bishop, Annie Ilonzeh, Robinne Lee and Taye Diggs.
The feature film opened worldwide on Oct. 1, in conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The story revolves around a seemingly fairy tale marriage of a beloved couple, Michael and Madison Roland.
The abusive behavior of the husband slowly is revealed when he becomes irritable whenever she talks about having a family or doesn’t remember how he likes certain things done. His abuse escalates when he strikes her and blames his action on her.
As with many domestic violence victims, she is in denial and accepts his apologies even when bruises are apparent to the outside world. Once she is fed up and fears the safety of her unborn child, an elaborate plan is devised to fake her death, flee the area and assume a new identity. Her safety turns out to be temporary as her husband starts to put the pieces of several mysterious inquiries together.
The vows of “Til Death Do Us Part,” are meant to represent the desire to remain in love until your breath of life is taken in an act of God not the hands of an abuser. The film helps deliver a message to anyone in a domestic violence situation who wants to escape an abuser.
However, without professional help and a safe exit plan, it may not be foolproof. Experts recommend seeking the guidance of professionals and organizations that are trained in this topic. Most are available around the clock.
Movies often imitate life, which can be the start of a dialogue and self-examination of one’s circumstances in a similar situation.
Inez accepted the result of her traumatic ordeal, a loving son, and forgave the rapist in her heart.
“Because of my shame and embarrassment, it took a long time for me to share my story to anyone outside my circle,” Inez said. “I realized that speaking out and telling my truth through my film, “Maya,” I can help woman overcome their fear of circumstances that are holding them back and give them the power to have their voices heard.”
California Partnership to End Domestic Violence – www.cpedv.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence – www.nrcdv.org
RAINN—the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network – www.rainn.org
National Domestic Violence Hotline – www.thehotline.org
Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, a public relations consultant, is the owner of Platinum Star PR and can be reached on Twitter @PlatinumStar or Instagram @PlatinumStarPR. Send “Health Matters” related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and look for her column in The Wave.