My Domestic Violence and Homeless Experiences
in the San Francisco Bay Area
I became homeless in approximately 1988, beginning in the city of Berkeley, California, and onward after that in the areas around the San Francisco Bay Area. I became homeless as a result of the battering and abuse I received from my ex-husband, as well as being re-victimized through the family courts of Solano County where my daughter was born.
The police back then didnít know much about domestic violence as being a social problem, and domestic violence was looked upon as being a ďfamily issueĒ, not in the realm of law enforcement. When my batterer choked me, the officer, after taking his report, asked me ďWould you like me to do anything else?Ē. This left the terrifying decision on me of whether to ask him to take my perpetrator away, who might kill me next time out of his anger, or let him stay in the house causing the terrifying idea that he might kill me out of anger because I had called the police on him. I could have taken my baby and left, but in my frozen terror I did not think of this, nor have the presence of mind to know where to go. It all seemed so overwhelming too because I was responsible for the baby as her primary caretaker. I needed to protect her as well as myself.
This scenario has been played out so many times in our society, leaving the victim unprotected and needing nuturance after being traumatized. People donít understand what goes on inside of a person who has been so attacked, and who believed that she (or he) would suddenly be killed. It is certainly an out-of-control feeling, disorienting and testing the personís reality from such a mad experience and environment. How to survive these attacks, as well as ongoing verbal abuse, and oftentimes sexual abuse, keeping a personís sanity and well-being is next to impossible. The personís feeling of everyday safety has been damaged, adding to the disorientated state of mind. That a person could do such a violent act is incomprehensible. The mind of a non-violent person who has been attacked seeks to find sanity in a situation where there is none. The attacked person feels alone and misunderstood. Because the victimís psychic experience has been so altered, and this done against their will, seemingly everyday tasks seem overwhelming as the personís energy seeks to find stabilization and return to normalcy. The hideousness of their experience is that there will never again be normalcy under such circumstances, and it may take years before the person finally lands on their feet again to continue on in their lives, if ever. The perpetrator strikes out in unexpected ways to further confuse and disorient their victim. The person is effectively robbed of their life and well-being.
(to be continued)
I am inside this night, under a roof in my own home, quietly sitting at my computer with my two kittens, snug with the heater warming my arms and shoulders as I write. It is cold outside with a stinging frost settling on the greenery outside; the leaves on the ground damp and slippery to walk on. I remember cold nights such as this, walking along a street-lighted sidewalk, not sure where I was going; not sure if I were in a harsh dream. Alone and knowing no one, I made my way through the nights, sitting on cold cement or asphalt, under a covered parking space in somebodyís apartment complex parking lot, hoping to find quiet time where no one would bother me and I could feel some semblance of safety from other people. The cold, hard surface did not give me a back rest as I curled my legs up to balance myself as I sat, cold, exhausted and hungry, wondering when this dream would end.
One night I slept in a sleeping bag near a building at the fairgrounds; was it in Napa or Santa Rosa? I donít remember. I was in a state of shell-shock; the best words I can think of to describe my state of being then. I left the sleeping bag on the ground the next day, too tired to carry it with me as I walked. Walking nowhere. Just kept walking.
Another night I slept again at the fairgrounds, this time in what looked like an animal stall with wood shavings on the ground. For the life of me at the time, I could not remember the name of those wood chips, and I canít think of the name now either. But they gave me some semblance of warmth on those cold nights. I was frightened in the morning when I heard two men talking in the distance in the fairgrounds. I had to escape. I didnít know how to get out of the gate without being seen. I was afraid they might have me arrested or hurt me for sleeping on the grounds. I walked in the tall grass along the chain-link fence in the opposite direction of the men, hoping to find a way out. The grass was like the wild grass in the field behind the home where I grew up and was a comfort to me. In front of me the fence ended next to where another chain-link fence began, leaving a space of about six inches or so that I squeezed my way through and walked out to a sidewalk, safely leaving the area. As I stood on a corner waiting for the walk signal to signify that it was safe to cross the street, I felt the presence of my grandmother above me, lingering for several minutes. I enjoyed this feeling and believed that it was my grandmotherís presence. I wondered briefly if it was a physically-held memory of her, but I decided that it was indeed her presence in some way. I believe the spiritual realm can guide us if we open ourselves to it. My energy also is a connection to the universal energy and spiritual guides or intelligence, Iím not sure which, or both.
I was so thankful to be indoors this Thanksgiving holiday, and wondered who else may be out wandering the streets at night in the cold? This thought hurts me now.
(to be continued)