The Trumpet



 (photo: Jaleel James)

Depiction of a young woman being physically abused by her partner.

|O’Jay Cole

Nina* was a young woman of promise often considered the girl with brains, a foreign language enthusiast with a passion for community development. She is also a flaming torch of potential almost extinguished by the hands of what seemed to be true love.

The tale of a battered young woman begins; Nina attended a prominent high school in Western Jamaica, she was known for her class, poise and ability to engage in a conversation regardless of the subject matter as she was an avid reader. Her tragic love story began in the 9th grade. She was in a relationship with a young man whom she met in the church through a mutual friend. It was then she realized they both attended the same high school. “He was the popular, cute and smart guy and I was the girl with the brains, not the hot girl type” was the way in which she described their contrasting qualities.

Prior to the 10th grade when the domestic abuse started Nina’s boyfriend Jack (not his real name) was very charming, his words sweeter than honey and chivalry of a Prince. There were warning signs of the potential danger that Nina ignored. People would approach her and warned her concerning Jack, but love is blind. The first sign of trouble came when Nina found out Jack was involved with another girl. Nina vividly recounted:
“the other girl was in high school too and was the younger sister of a popular girl at my school. The popular girl and her friends teamed up and would torment me almost every day at school. Jack would never come to my defence and I would look like a fool”.

In January of 2011 was the unravelling of the tragedy. At that time, Jack attended community college and Nina was only in the 10th grade. Nina noticed that Jack stopped taking her out publicly and started having most of their meetings indoors. One day, they both agreed to meet at a place otherwise from his home after school was dismissed. Nina detailed the commencement of the horrific incident:
“I ended up reaching the place before him and I noticed that it was located somewhere that anyone could barely see us”. The scene was set, the house was disorderly and outside was the unpleasant smell of a nearby gutter.
Nina felt uncomfortable, as she moved to the door Jack appeared. He then made sexual advances towards Nina to which she rejected “mentally I was not connecting with him on that level as I usually do, I shouted stop I am not in the mood”. Jack responded with expletives totally disregarding Nina’s request, he then slapped her in the face twice. She fought back breaking the chain around Jack’s neck and bruised his lip.

According to a 2018, Jamaica Information Service (JIS) headline by Peta -Gay Hodges; nearly 15 per cent of Jamaican women experience violence from a male partner. The United Nations (UN) Women Global Database on Violence against Women showed 27.8 per cent of women aged 15-49 years’ experience intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. An unfortunate figure that Nina found herself in and a plethora of other young women.

The scene worsened, Jack spat in Nina’s face and began to strangle her, she screamed and cried. He kicked Nina off the bed, and she had muscle contractions in her legs. Her taxi fare fell out of her pocket and while she was struggling to get up, he grabbed her money. Nina pleaded for her money to which Jack’s response was “Yuh can get free drive from the driver man” Jack left the house quickly with no remorse of what he did. Nina was still in pain but she got up and struggled to walk towards the car park. She eventually caught a ride with a taxi man she knew. When she arrived home, she told no one of the assault until her grandmother recognized patterns such as Nina waking up at nights screaming, “don’t strangle me!”

In an article entitled “Sleep Disturbances and Their Association With Mental Health Among Women Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence” by Wilfred R. Pigeon, Ph.D., Catherine Cerulli, J.D., Ph.D., […], and Eric Caine, M.D. showed that in a study of 121 women exposed to intimate partner violence concluded that sleep disturbances were prevalent among them, with both insomnia and nightmares predicting the presence of depression. After Nina told her grandmother about the abuse, she encouraged Nina to cut all ties with Jack. Nina did not listen.

It was Thursday, February 17, 2011. This was a few days after a heated argument between Nina and Jack over the phone. Jack told Nina on Valentine’s Day that she was worth nothing and he can bet that she cried herself to sleep every night over the things that he said to her. They have not exchanged a conversation since this incident. Nina sat in class, but her mind was cluttered. She received a text message. Jack was inviting her to go out. She didn’t respond, Jack then sent a follow-up text stating that he planned the date as a big apology and urged Nina not to miss it. Little did Nina know she was about to endure a fate much worse than the prior assault. Nina arrived at her destination for the supposed “date” the same location the first assault took place. When she stepped inside Jack was kneeling on the ground as if he was communicating with a deity. “I did not disturb him he was in this position for 5 minutes, I gently touched him, and his head sprouted up from the ground”. Looking into his eyes Nina knew he was enraged, his eyes were red and his lips cut and bleeding. When he got up to his feet, he delivered several punches to Nina’s stomach, punched her in the face and used a hard brush to hit her in the face until it was swollen and blue.

“He took a white sheet and grabbed me tightly, he wrapped me in the sheet like an Egyptian mummy with my face covered tight, he then put me down strangled my neck I was gasping for breath” at that moment Nina thought she was about to die. During this assault, Jack sat on Nina’s stomach. For a while she was unconscious. When she woke up, she was naked “I did not see him and immediately I tried to escape, I screamed, and I cried”. Before Nina could make a run for it she heard his voice again saying “Come here! Come here!” She refused, he then grabbed her and gave her another series of beatings. “He wiped his bloody lips on his pink and white shirt and asked me to wash it and return it by a particular date, he threw it on me and then began to comment on how ugly I was and that he does not want to walk beside me because I do not take care of myself like other girls.”

Nina endured an excruciating hour of listening to him compare her to other females until he left. When Nina left the house, she left more battered than the first time she was beaten. “I had to go to school, home and other places with the scars, at school people made jokes in the form of songs, others gossiped and laughed about it and I told lies about the cause of my bruises”. Nina kept going back after Jack’s repeated apologies. When the Hilltop Trumpet asked if she thought she could change him she said “Back then, I did not have a strong sense of self-awareness as I do now, I wanted to be loved so badly and because I didn’t know what it was and I was not giving myself first what I deserved. I thought he could change I thought every time after he took me to the mirror after beating me and told me how ugly I am and how unfashionable I am I could make adjustments”

Nina said like most battered women victims they stay in hopes of their partners changing. “I was hanging around to see if he would revert back into the guy, I met earlier” Nina often felt she was responsible for his negative reactions because this was what she was led to believe by him. She would believe every word he said. She stayed in the relationship longer than she wanted to because of continual threats Jack made like discarding her body into the ocean if she left.

Amidst the physical and emotional abuse, Nina’s academic prowess was brick solid and she never dropped the ball once though decorated with scars and her mind tainted with insults. “School has always been important to me because this is the vehicle to personal social mobility in order to have a better life for myself, my family and community” One of Nina’s favourite personal reflection quotes is “years and years of wear and tear shall lead to self-repair”. She said it took a long time to heal from all the hurt. She underwent counselling sessions, found new forms of meditation to help deal with post anxiety and depression symptoms.

Nina has a special love for the Lotus flower and it’s clear why if one is acquainted with this amazing plant. The flower usually found in ponds retracts into the water at night and emerge afresh in the sun the next day beautifully without murky residue from the pond. This is the same for Nina. She rose triumphant from the murky, dark situation that she found herself in, with Jack. It took time but like the lotus, the petals of her soul hold no residue from the toxic relationship. Nina graduated from the University of the West Indies with First-Class honours and is now pursuing a Masters degree in Canada in a specialized field. She has received numerous responsibilities in academia and research and is still effectively able to maintain a stellar, straight-A track record. There are new challenges but Nina remains resilient. She gives credit to a strong support system of family and close friends for her successes.

Nina has a message for young women out there that might be going through a situation similar to what she has been through: “Whenever you observe red flags and you feel uncomfortable in a relationship, never ignore or dismiss your instincts, never hang onto relationships where you are constantly devalued or where you have to fight to prove how worthy you are of someone’s love”. When asked if she would rewrite history if she could and eliminate that period from her life, she said that experience is a landmark experience in her journey.
“The past is a period that cannot be unwritten or erased and even if I had the power to remove it, I would not have erased it.” Nina has learnt that the best way to fight back is not to hold on to abusive relationships with hopes of someone changing but letting go relieving one’s self of additional burdens and starting over on a fresh note. “I have learnt this difficult path leads me to a beautiful destination of a rediscovery of self and I enjoy every bit of it “. Nina strongly believes she has the capability of helping to make the world a better place and it starts with owning her story. She is indeed a truly incredible woman with a positive outlook on the present and future.

*Nina is not the real name of the individual in the story. (pseudonym)

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