In the last few days of March 2001 you came to stay with me as we buried our favorite uncle; you brought your daughter and your man. Your daughter was just as I imagined, precious and beautiful, a reflection of you. This man you brought in to my home was “different”, he seemed to be a man of many requests (iron my shirt, get my drink or plate, etc…), but I thought nothing of it at the time. We stayed up all night talking and reminiscing about our hectic past, I mean we talked about everything; the good and the bad.
We reconnected in a way that only first cousins can understand. I felt so relieved that I was not the only one affected by the things we saw and was not allowed to discuss. Your presence held a certain freedom; which came from realizing I hadn’t made our past all up in my head. We vowed that day, as we shared what would be our last hug, we would not let time and distance become an obstacle for us ever again.
Over the next six months, we would talk here and there and I learned quickly how easy it was to reconnect with you as an adult. It wasn’t long after I planned a trip down to Maryland; I still can’t place words to my anticipation. The trip was planned for Thursday, November 29th and I knew it was going to be a quick trip to attend a concert, see you and be home for work the next morning. I called you with excitement, with no real plan, just glad I would get to see you again. I can remember the last words I spoke to you, “I will try”, and now I am stuck wondering did I try hard enough.
Did I just take for granted that I would see you my next trip to Maryland? The truth is I will never know the answer to this question, because on November 30, 2001, the answer to that question was taken from me at the hands of that “different” man…
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. But for me, this is the month my beautiful older cousin Sasha “Nikki” Irvin would have been turning a year older. As I try to celebrate her memory each day by serving women and those who have experienced abuse, I’m reminded each year that domestic violence is real. I rarely talk about the impact Nikki had on my life, because each time I think of her, it still brings me to tears. For me, knowing that another person valued her life so little has a way of staying with me. On the day her boyfriend killed her, he stole a mother, daughter, granddaughter, niece and for me, a sister in the form of a cousin. My tears for her life being stolen remain and my guilt of knowing that I was minutes away as he stole her from us will live with me forever.
I will never understand the logic of an abuser. I cannot speak to the reasons that people stay in these relationships. What I do know is the tears I cry each year for Nikki are genuine. What I do know is that anyone can be affected by domestic violence. What do I know to be true is that exposure to domestic violence is an indicator for future habits for both the victim and the perpetrator. Also, I know there is help out there for all of those dealing with domestic violence. Lastly, I know that tomorrow is not promised, if you or someone you love is being abused or abusing someone, do something now!
In Loving Memory of Nikki; I love and miss you with all of my heart…
Facts about domestic violence…
(Statistics taken from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime
85% of domestic violence victims are women.
Almost one-third of female homicide victims that are reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner
Witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.
Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
For more information or to get help, please call:
THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE at 1-800-799-7233
THE NATIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT HOTLINE AT 1-800-656-4673
THE NATIONAL TEEN DATING ABUSE HOTLINE AT 1-866-331-9474