This podcast comes with a trigger warning for domestic violence, abuse, and sexual assault.

Our guest today, Tanesha Ash-Shakoor is giving a voice to victims. She has journeyed from victim to survivor to advocate. She’s sharing her story to give others the hope they may need. And, we’re doing something a little different and letting her share her story unedited.

We will hear why she stayed, how she eventually left, and what we can do to stop allowing these monsters to win.

Podcast Transcript

Julie Holton: 00:00 This podcast comes with a trigger warning for domestic violence, abuse, and sexual assault. Our guest today is giving a voice to victims. She has journeyed from victim to survivor to advocate. Today, sharing her story to give others the hope they may need to get out.


Julie Holton: 00:52 Welcome to Think Tank of Three. I’m Julie Holton, here with my co-hosts Audrea Fink and Kathryn Janicek. Today’s topic is going to be heavy. All three of your hosts have been impacted by this topic of sexual abuse or domestic violence in some way. Our guest was held at knifepoint by the man she loved and even that, at the time, yet, wasn’t enough to leave him. We will hear why she stayed, how she eventually left, and what we can do, all of us, what we need to do, to stop allowing these monsters to win.

Kathryn Janicek: 01:24 Our guest is Tanesha Ash-Shakoor. Thank you for joining us and thank you Tanesha for speaking out and sharing your story so that others can be heard.

Tanesha A.S.: 01:34 Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Audrea Fink: 01:36 So before we can talk about solutions and ways to prevent domestic violence and protect the victims, Tanesha, we have to hear first about the hard part. So we want to give you the mic to share your story.

Julie Holton: 01:48 And we’re going to do something a little bit different for us at Think Tank of Three, something we don’t normally do. Tanesha, we know this isn’t easy and so before we start asking our questions and really interrupting and diving into this, we – because we are, we’re going to talk about how to take action and what we need to be doing together collectively, women as a group. But before that, we are here to just listen. So we would love for you to walk us through your story.

Tanesha A.S.: 02:15 Thank you for having me, I’m Tanesha Ash-Shakoor. I guess I want to first start with how I met this gentleman. We were in undergrad together. I had known him for about three years, so at a university I had transferred to. I’m originally from North Carolina, and you know, we hung out. We became intimate together during my time in undergrad. But we were never officially in a relationship. I never saw signs of anything, just a very cordial friendship that I think we both wanted more but never acted on it. I graduated from undergrad moved away by an hour, 30 minutes away, had lost contact with him maybe six months after we got him back into contact again. And he indicated to me that he didn’t have anywhere to go in particular because his parents had told him he couldn’t come back there because he was an alcoholic. And I was blown away because I could not understand where his parents would have come up with that idea because I had never seen that from him.

Tanesha A.S.: 03:27 I knew that he had a cup of drinks in undergrad, but nothing heavy to call him an alcoholic. So as I went and got my own place I knew in 2007 I would be moving into my own place and I say, you know, where I’m getting a two bedroom apartment and you’re more than welcome to come and stay with me. Because genuinely we had a real friendship beyond what we may have wanted more of. So he decided, okay, that sounds like a plan. Come February of 2007 he moved in, I moved in and of course, the second bedroom was never utilized. And you know, it got to a point, okay, so what are we doing here? We decided that we were gonna make it an official relationship and that’s when things took a drastic turn. Drastic. I can say now, initially, I didn’t understand it.

Tanesha A.S.: 04:20 You know, he will say simple things. “you’re the biggest girl I’ve ever been with.” At that time, I did not understand the power in what he was saying. As time continued, it was always diminishing me in a way that I always felt that my size was an issue. And I kept thinking, you know, I was just, I’ve always been known to be the strong woman and I figured, you know, men just want to be, they want to feel needed. So maybe if I could just get him to where he wants to be in life. He was in college, he had aspirations and maybe now he’s just in a depressed state. What can I do to aid him to get him to where he really, really wants to be? What can I do? So you know what? Hedoesn’t have money, I’m paying all the bills.

Tanesha A.S.: 05:08 He doesn’t have a job. Let’s get him a job. So he feels that he’s able to contribute to our household. He gets a job at a local Lowe’s store. It’s income, not a big deal. And I remember the first time he took me to get my nails done and it was because he felt like, oh, he’s doing something. And I’m like, we’re getting somewhere. He feels that now I need him just a little bit to be able to give me something. So as he started working, he started drinking more and I noticed it wasn’t as like, oh, I just want to have liquor, or it wasn’t just wine. It was, we say down south like that old school wino. I’m like, okay, now I’m thinking about what he said about his parents and them calling him an alcoholic. And I remember his father was an alcoholic.

Tanesha A.S.: 05:57 And so I’m like, okay, maybe what they were saying has some truth to it, but I still wasn’t willing to accept it because I figured he was in a depressed state. So going forward, he started coming in and every night he was coming at 11, 12 o’clock from work and he’s drunk. Well, the drinking, it led up to always wanting to be intimate with me. And I started trying to figure out ways to manipulate this. So I would say, you know, okay, he’s gonna come here, want to have sex. So what I’m going to do is sleep in the other bedroom and pretend that I’m asleep. And what he would start doing, he would come in there and drag me off the bed, throw me back in the other room and tell me, because you’ve had sex with everybody else, you’re gonna F me too.

Tanesha A.S.: 06:45 And I couldn’t wrap my head around why he thought that I had been intimate with other people to later find out that he was also seeing someone from his job. That became a huge component of our relationship and was very, became very blatant about the disrespect of that. It became difficult for me to go to and from work. I look, you know, I dressed up every day, put my smile on. I was in my career, I was working with teens in the criminal justice system and every day I was, I got myself together and no one knew. But I came home to a man that clocked my time. Could estimate, well, it takes you 12 minutes to get from work. Where have you been? You know, every split second that I stay after work, I had to be accounted for. If I went to the store.

Tanesha A.S.: 07:40 Okay, what’s taking so long? And the constant calls, if I was not very calculated about everything. So my life went, started going very fast paced. You know, it’s almost like running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I was clocking myself because now he had warped me into this routine of my timing. I was a very neat person. So, you know, I would vacuum the floor. Like, I like my carpet to be all facing the dark side. And he slowly started using that against me. So he would come in and say, who’s been here? And I’m like, what me. Because now he’s looking at the carpet, the carpet that I’ve walked across all day because I’m off work. And he would say that someone’s been here because the carpet wasn’t all dark. And so I just kept saying like, Oh my gosh, what did I get myself into?

Tanesha A.S.: 08:35 So I started trying to learn his manipulations and strategies to try to get a step ahead of it. And sometimes he was so unpredictable that there were times when I would wake up to prepare for work and he would just walk in and throw me against the wall and just strangle me. But he would laugh about it and I could not understand like, okay, what just happened. And I kept telling myself I had to put on this face as if I was not in fear because I realized that the fear elevated him. It gave him a different type of strength. And so I would sort of like pretend and try to laugh it off like everything was okay, but keep him at a common level. So as things are going on, he was, you know, one of the things he used against me was my religion.

Tanesha A.S.: 09:26 We had started going to church cause I was trying to, I’m trying to figure out everything. I don’t know what else to do. So, you know, let me go to church. I don’t know. And I’m like, I’ll go into church saying, I am looking for an answer. I don’t even know what they asked me. And I kept saying, I just need an answer. And I remember going into church and there was a prophet there. And she, at the end of the service, she was supposed to be praying over the pastor and first lady, and she looked at me, she turned and she said, don’t you let anyone silence you. I was scared in that moment that she had pointed me out because he was with me and I knew he would be convinced that I had opened my mouth. And at this point, I hadn’t talked to anybody.

Tanesha A.S.: 10:07 No one knew and I could not speak. And she put her hand on my stomach and she kept trying to get me just to speak. And I couldn’t. She told the church, she said, she told the women, every woman in this church scream for her right now. I remember him using that against me, for him to say that the Lord had given him a different message that we could work it out, that we could do this together. So going forward, the biggest issue became what I later learned was him raping me. And it took me a long time to even say that word. He would come in and you know, I would pretend to do things and act like I was sleeping. He would pry my legs apart and, and forced himself on me. And during that, when our, I realized this was no longer about us being intimate, it was about him having a sense of control over me to the extent where he was intentionally ramming me to have me endure a sense of pain.

Tanesha A.S.: 11:09 It took me a couple times in during this situation to the point I realized that if I didn’t fight it, it was over quicker. The more I fought the longer it lasted. And because my body would tense up, it also caused me more pain. So I learned to lay there in the moment because it would be over sooner. And that became my strategy of survival in that moment. And I just know that after a couple times of, I mean, I couldn’t even sit here and tell you. Like, looking back now the many times that I was raped and didn’t understand it because I felt like being in a relationship being intimate was a part of it. And really trying to separate being intimate with this person that I love, that I thought loved me, and him only doing it to make and to prove something to me, to force upon me that he was controlling me.

Tanesha A.S.: 12:09 So one particular night, it was three or four hours, and I remember we had gotten into it about something and he actually left one time. And my sister said, let’s just go out for the night. When I returned like one o’clock in the morning, as soon as I walked through my door, I got a phone call from him. And I said, Oh my God, he’s somewhere around because this is like clockwork. And I caught myself looking at my, my parameters. Like, okay, I don’t see his vehicle. I’m okay. Well, I wasn’t okay. He called and he’s like, who’s in your house? I just saw you get, you just got dropped off. And we eventually got off the phone and I don’t respond to him. So I’m like, I’m so scared to go to sleep. What am I going to do? And eventually, as I’m laying it’s now three or four o’clock in the morning and I’m like my body, I naturally started going to sleep. Well, I hear my door turning and I’m saying, Oh my God, what do I do?

Tanesha A.S.: 13:10 It’s actually an intruder? Is this him? Which I assumed that it was. Do I fake sleep? Do I run? I had no idea what to do in that very moment. So I say, just continue to pretend that you’re asleep and maybe they’ll come in and I don’t know, leave. I just didn’t have time to figure it out. And I remember I open my eyes slightly cause it’s pitch black dark in my house and I could see a shadow stand in my doorway and that moment I had no idea. And the light comes on and it’s him. He’s standing in my doorway. And as calm as he can be, he says to me, I came to get my toothbrush. You came to get your toothbrush? Okay. And again, trying to remain calm to not to escalate him and to show him fear. He got his toothbrush and then he proceeded to leave.

Tanesha A.S.: 14:08 And I said, I’ve already taken your key from you. How, you know? He’s like, Oh, I made keys. Oh, okay. Can I have the keys you have? So he gives me the key, but he tells me it doesn’t matter because he’s made 12 copies and he gets in his truck and he proceeds to leave. And I said to myself, Oh my gosh, I cannot live my life like this. And I had not talked to my parents about anything that was going on. And I call my mom and dad and I was just, and I just started crying and said, you know, I, I need somebody to come. Like I’m, I’m, at this point, I’m really scared cause I don’t know what he’s gonna do. My father said he’s coming and it told me to call the police. The police up when my father is there and you know, it’s not breaking and entering.

Tanesha A.S.: 14:55 He used the key. His name is on the lease. Because he, they forced me at the apartment complex to put his name on the lease because they said if he’s there more than a week, his name has to go on the lease. And I said, well he’s only here sporadically and I do not want his name on the lease ’cause this is mine. They said, well we can go into the manager’s office and see what the manager says. I was like, okay, I’ll go, but I already know what this is going to turn out to be. You go to the manager’s office and the manager’s like, are you scared? I’m like, absolutely, yes. That’s why I’m here. The manager tells me to put up a “no trespassing” sign on my front apartment door. So put up a note. I said you do realize that that’s only going to get him a charge for trespassing.

Tanesha A.S.: 15:36 That’s not going to stop him from kicking down my door, coming into my house with the other 12 keys that he has and killing me tonight. And he’s like, and then you will have to come to court on Monday and we can talk about, you know, you have to let the court know that you’re in fear for your life. I said, so what are you guys gonna do to protect me? It’s Saturday morning, I have to survive Saturday night and Sunday night. What are you guys going to do to protect me? And they told me to change my locks. I said, I live in an apartment complex and it’s the weekend. There’s nobody coming to change my locks tonight. As you know, time goes, him and I started talking again. We communicate he’s back and somewhat very similar to what was already going on. I didn’t have friends.

Tanesha A.S.: 16:22 I slowly but surely was not going to my parent’s house as much because when I got into my parents’ house, he would be calling me all the time. And it, my parents started becoming suspicious and I didn’t want my parents to get involved because again, I knew my parents would be incarcerated for the rest of their life for murder. And I had to make a decision about protecting my family and friends and getting them involved because their life was on the line, not for the sake of him, but because they would have jeopardized themselves to PO him. And as it was close to Christmas time, and I don’t even remember what he was upset about, a typical evening of coming in having, you know, seeping just alcohol. And I remember the one beer liquor that he would drink, that was called Still Reserve. And I, I grew, a hate for that one beer because I would sit and watch him drink it and watch his face completely transition to another person.

Tanesha A.S.: 17:26 And I knew, and I, I didn’t think that people could morph into this whole another person, but I sat and watched him morph into another human being. And by far the alcohol did not cause him to do these things, but it enhanced his ability to do it without thought. And so that night for about three or four hours, I was held in our bedroom with a knife to my stomach. And he ends up telling me tonight is the night I’m going to kill you. I knew in my heart of heart that that night was my last day on this earth. And because I had, I had lost the fight and I had, I was so tired that I was ready. I had made peace with the idea that that night was going to be my last night. And he just kept sticking me with the knife, kept, you know, like just pinching me just enough not to pierce the skin, but just kept taunting me and he said, I’m about to call my mom and dad to let them know that I’m about to kill you.

Tanesha A.S.: 18:32 And he called twice and it’s like one o’clock in the morning, no answer, no answer. And I’m telling myself he wants somebody to talk him out of this, but he’s also prepared to go through with this at the same time to prove a point because he can’t go back after he’s already done this much. So now he takes me, he’s upset, his parents are not answering, and he grabs me by the throat and he, he’s just choking me. And, you know, I used to think like I knew what it was like not to be able to breathe having asthma attacks, but this was a different experience where I could literally feel the life in my body leaving me. And I had a straight stare at him and I remember my eyes watering from, I don’t know, the pressure or just losing it and my eyes started watering.

Tanesha A.S.: 19:24 I’m crying. And I remember praying to God, and he released me. And I was like, okay, God is not ready for me yet. I don’t know where my fight is in this situation right now, but I just have to be very strategic about my next move. And so, I remember looking at the door and I kept trying to calculate whether I could run. So I kept trying to calculate my steps and my, my even speed as to by the time I get to the door, open the door and run. Would he be able to catch? And I said he would catch me and that would irritate him more so I knew I could not do that, but I needed to remain calm. So he had a very close cousin, female cousin of his. He said I’m going to call her and let her know that I’m going to kill you because my parents didn’t answer.

Tanesha A.S.: 20:16 So his whole thing was, I need to let somebody know that you’re dying tonight. And I just, and I wouldn’t move. I just laid there on the bed and he calls her and she talked to him. She eventually talks him down. She told him to give me the night. So finally handed me tonight and I just sit there on the bed. You still have to remain calm. Don’t do anything irrational. Don’t try to run. This is not the time. He gave me the phone and she asked me was I scared and I remember saying to myself, you cannot trust her either because this is his family and she has not called the police to get you help. I just kept talking and finally, she and I got off the phone and he took on a different demeanor. He became very calm, almost as if what happened did not happen for the last three hours.

Tanesha A.S.: 21:10 And I said, you know what, let me go with it. I mean, pretend I love him. Let me continue to embrace him and go with the flow and wait for a moment for him to fully relax as if I forgotten about. And you know, I’m gonna take my chances. And that’s what I did. He was in the living room about to walk back to the bedroom and I only had on a nightgown. I didn’t have on a bra, just my undergarments, just my underwear. And I ran with my coat not knowing whether he was going to catch me. And as soon as I got to the door, opened the door got up, unlocked it. By the time I got to this top stairwell, we were on the second level, he grabbed me. He caught me by my coat. I had a chance and I said, come out of your coat.

Tanesha A.S.: 21:57 I pulled out of my coat and was able to run and get in my car. I drove off and I’m like, I don’t know where I’m going to go. I can’t go to my parents because he’s dead tonight and they’re going to be incarcerated. As I was passing by a store, I remember my one of my dear friends, she always works late, and she happened to be at the store getting gas. And I drove by and I said, just keep going, keep going, keep going because if you go back he is probably going to catch you at the store. But I said, Oh my gosh, I have to let somebody know so that somebody could calculate me to say at this certain time she was here, she was in fear for her life. I needed to just let somebody know my whereabouts so that there was some tracking of me and that’s what I did.

Tanesha A.S.: 22:47 I went back and my friend, she got in the car, she’s wanting to ask all these questions. I’m like, I don’t have time to talk. Like, I just need you to know this. And before I could finish getting it all out, he was pulling up into the store parking lot and I say, Oh my gosh, there he is. And he came to the window, he’s punching it, he was just like get out. And I was like, well you don’t want me to get up ’cause I don’t have any clothes on. And I knew he didn’t want me to be exposed to anybody else that was at the store. So I used that to allow myself to stay in the crazy like you need to go back to the house right now. And I said to myself, okay, I’m going to go back to the house.

Tanesha A.S.: 23:27 And I said, on the way there, I mean, we were a minute from my house. You have to strategize another way to escape. So he follows me back to the house and I said, you know what? As soon as he parks take back off again. Well, when I pulled into my apartment space, he pulled his truck right in behind me and blocked me in. I said, Oh gosh, this is not how I intended this to go. He gets out the car and he comes to my one, he’s like, you need to get out, you need to get out. And I’m like, I am just going to gather my things and I, you know, I’ll, I’m going to be out by the time you park, I’ll be getting out, you know, trying to just stay calm and convince him that’s what I was going to do. So he goes to park and I’m still, I don’t get out and I see him, he’s walking across the front of my car as if he’s going to go up the steps.

Tanesha A.S.: 24:13 I was like, now go. So I took back off again. I drove off and I just kept going this time and I sat in like a Applebee’s. Well, as a matter of fact, it was Chili’s. I kept thinking Applebee’s. It was Chili’s parking lot. I sat in Chili’s parking lot all night, not knowing where to go, you know, I didn’t feel like calling the police because they never would look up on the first time. I couldn’t call my parents and I just didn’t have any other options. However, I knew sooner or later, the friend that I had came across would eventually reach out to my mother if she hadn’t heard from me and she hadn’t talked to me. So I waited in that parking lot til about seven, eight o’clock in the morning, and I knew he had to go to work. And typically when he’s upset, I knew he would go riding.

Tanesha A.S.: 24:58 And I said he, he probably left. So I said, I’m gonna take my chances and go back to the house. And I didn’t know what else after that. And I go back and he’s not there. Later on that night, he comes back now he forces himself on me. He has sex with me, and we laid there and I’m saying to myself, like, I’m sleeping with the enemy. Like, I can’t even go to sleep because I’m turning over to the man who’s raping me on a regular basis. Who, who’s just trying to kill me. And the morning came and my phone rang. I saw that it was my mom. As much as I was scared to answer the phone, I knew I needed to answer the phone. And so in that moment I picked up the phone and I was like, you know, stay calm, you know, I say hello.

Tanesha A.S.: 25:49 My mom said, put that M-F’er on the phone. And the and I, you know, I’m teary-eyed because I can feel that relief. Now like, my mom is here to save me in this moment because I had all the strength and perseverance that I have always had. I, I didn’t have any more fight. And my mom, I gave him the phone and he’s like, what does she want out? Like, I don’t know, you know, just try to play it up. Just answer it. And he takes the phone. I could just hear my mother screaming through the phone. She’s like, just get, and get out now. And he’s scared. He is literally scared at this moment. I see him like, is this all it takes for you to be scared? And he goes in the other room and he’s like slowly but surely packing his things and he, my mom tells him, she said, put me on speaker, give her the phone back because I want to hear every move you’re making.

Tanesha A.S.: 26:43 And by the time I get there, you better be out of that house. You better be nowhere in sight. I took the phone back and she said, baby, take me off speaker phone for me. And she said to me, she said, baby, are you scared? And I remember I just kept crying. And I was just like, mom, I can’t stop crying. And she said, baby, what I need you to do right now is I need you not to show fear. I need you in this moment to stop crying. Do not let him see this fear. You. And I was like, momma, I cannot stop crying. And she stayed on. Of course, she said, baby, I’ve usually know something. She said, I’ve told him that I was coming. She said, baby, but I’m not coming. She said, don’t say it. She said, I’m not coming baby right now, but I am coming.

Tanesha A.S.: 27:28 She said, I’m not coming right now because I fear that if I show up, he will barricade you in that home. He’s going to barricade you in that house. And I don’t want them to do that. So I beat him to think that I’m coming so he’ll get out and she said, as soon as he leaves you let me know and I will be there. And I said, okay mama. And he kept coming instead of in front of me. And he said, tell your mom. And he kept doing, he said, tell her we’re okay. And I kept telling myself, and I will close my eyes and say, you better shut up. You better keep your mouth shut. Don’t you say that because this is your opportunity. And my mom’s voice at that moment was more powerful than the control he had over me for so long, and I knew that that was my moment. Even though he was in my presence, my mom’s strength, like transferred to me in that very moment and I, he just packed his stuff and my mom put me back on speaker. And she said, you’re not gone yet?

Tanesha A.S.: 28:33 And he was like grabbing things and he was just like kept telling me, tell her and I said, close your eyes, like he’s not even there. He got his things and he left and my mom came and that’s how he left my home and I did not see him and the relationship anymore. After that time I began to barricade myself in my home because my lease wasn’t up, and mom’s like, you have to move back home because I’m concerned about your safety. And I said, well mom, my lease is not up. What I started doing was I put a knife in every room so that it was accessible to me at all times. I slept with a knife in my hand under my pillow because all I could only remember the silhouette of him standing in my doorway before. And in the shower, I had a knife every night I put a chair under my front and my back door.

Tanesha A.S.: 29:30 I did everything. I changed my routes to and from work. When I pulled up to my house, I called my mom. She stayed on the phone. My mom and my dad stayed on the phone with me as I went through every room, search under the bed every night. This was my every day. This was my routine until my lease was up. And then I moved back in with my parents because I had become suicidal. And in that, strangely enough, I was suicidal because I was so used to pain that my life wasn’t normal without it. And so I wanted to feel pain again, strangely. And I remember one time, this road by my parents’ house, 18-wheelers would always come through and I kept telling myself, I want to feel, I don’t want to be invisible anymore. Like I wanted to be in a hospital so people could just come to my bedside.

Tanesha A.S.: 30:23 I could just feel like everybody was flocking to me. And I remember sitting there and waiting for this 18-wheeler, like they were frequent on this road highway. And I sat there and not one, not one came. And I tell him, I said, Oh God, you are so funny. You are so funny because I cannot come to this intersection without seeing a 18-wheeler and the day that I want one to come and not one came. I said, so then I had even done me down to say, if not an 18-wheeler, I’m okay with a car now, just send a car. And I pretended, cause my, my objective was to pretend that it was an accident but that I would just be in a hospital and I was like, you know, if I die here I die. But I was so used to paying that I wanted that. And that trauma of being raped on a regular basis. Like, I just completed another, another therapy session. And now that I’m married, it has been harder for me and the reality of how the trauma has affected me has become more real.

Julie Holton: 31:35 I’m finding the right words. I don’t know that there are the right words to say Tanesha other than, first of all, thank you for speaking your story and sharing what happened to you with our listeners because I know that as we’re all listening, for many of us, we’re hearing pieces of your story that are pieces of our story in many different ways. And so thank you for speaking your truth and sharing, opening yourself up to these vulnerable pieces that are not fun to relive or to think through and are raw and emotional no matter how many years have passed. So thank you for that, first of all, for giving a voice to all of us. Tanesha, I want to ask first because as, as I’m listening to your story and I’m hearing you know, these horrible, horrible things that I just want to wrap my arms around you and protect you from what was happening and then you’d move onto the next part where you go back. So can you give a voice to that? Can you explain what would pull you back in? What was your mind, you know, going on in your mind at the time to help us to understand why you would go back and to stay with a man that, you know, from the outside we can see what he was doing. But when you’re in it, what are you feeling? What’s causing you to go back and to stay with him?

Tanesha A.S.: 33:01 I would say for me it was because of the person that I originally met, the him that I knew before this all started transpiring. So a part of me continued to want to see the good in him and I kept telling myself when it’s great, it’s great. When it’s good it;s good and it’s just this part, this part of him that, that flares up in these odd, weird moments being the drinking. And if I could only just get him the project. I found him, I made a project out, I made a project out of him too. He became, I felt like I could do something for him. I felt that I had something to contribute to his life that I could add value, that I could find a way for him to be, all of what he wanted to be that he claimed he desired to be. And I held onto that. I kept fighting for that because as, as women being nurturers, we, you know, we, we look around at his life and I, you know, I go and I look at his parents and, you know, that what they say didn’t have this relationship with this. I found everything to keep him. And because these situations were, I mean I knew this person for three years prior to and never saw anything and I could honestly say that, I mean he was a light, you know? And that project of trying to fulfill what I, where I felt he was the one I wanted to be. And I, you know, and like I said, when it was good and when it was great, it was great and I could not, you know, I wanted to believe that that outweighed those moments.

Audrea Fink: 34:59 So when I hear your story, which again, thank you for sharing, some of the things that really hit me were some recurring themes that I think we hear in women’s stories in general. One is this idea of like, breaking down over time, right? He made comments about your weight or he made comments about how you maybe weren’t good enough at something. Certainly that was part of my story, right? The diminishment. And over time you start to believe that diminishment. This idea of it’s not happening to me or I didn’t recognize it for what it was at the time seems to be a real recurring theme. In my story when I think about my history, my history is, well, it wasn’t really rape because we were having consensual sex first, right? Because they were my partner. And, and, and that’s not really what makes up consent, right?

Audrea Fink: 35:53 Or, or maybe my experience is not as traumatic or my experience was not as violent or my experience, the damage was only emotional, right? Or it was really limited. And I think as we talk about your story and the power behind it and we talk about these themes, it’s important to start calling to light pieces that allow us to learn and the pieces that allow us to see this. So I’d love to hear from you, talk about maybe, I don’t know if it’s like tips and tricks seems like a really shallow, superficial way to approach this, but right? Like what are the, what are the behaviors, what are the comments that are diminishing? That gets said that women can say, aha, this is this is a warning sign. Don’t ignore it.

Tanesha A.S.: 36:47 I think that looking back, anything that God didn’t call you to be is an issue. That when anybody in life, I mean even if it is one of us on this podcast right now, will call us anything else that is not a reflective, positive, uplifting, encouraging exhortation of one another, it is an issue. And sure at that moment question it as a red flag because what makes a person attack you with such a way? And as they attack because that’s what it does. The more you hear it, the more it does something to your spirit. It can, you know, I think for me, like I said, the first thing of just saying that you know, I was the biggest girl he’s ever been. I have to go back and realize that the reason that’s such a hold of me was because of insecurities that I already had about my weight.

Tanesha A.S.: 37:44 So he was able to find or see my weaknesses and use those things against me. So if he knows, you know, I’ve always portrayed this strength so if he can diminish it in capacity to make me feel that I’m not fulfilling or being as successful as I thought I was, it’s a way to maneuver and to continue to – that’s that in. And it begins there. The first time you accept, you know, something as subtle and there’s no response, that’s one I got and slowly but surely they escalate. And you spoke to about ueven rape and using those terms. For me it was so huge that I couldn’t speak that because again, you know, you always hear about in the women who say they’ve been raped and they falsely accuse someone and I didn’t want to place a label on someone who was already a project that I felt like was already traumatized and already, needed, uplifting with a label because it’s like that’s a strong label. I struggled with the idea of calling it what it was: rape.

Julie Holton: 38:55 It’s a strong label and it’s also one where I know a lot of women, myself included, we tend to blame ourselves. We tend to say, well, if I hadn’t done this then he wouldn’t have done that. Or I put myself in a situation that caused him to do something and we blame ourselves and we find all of these justifications for these bad behaviors. And Tanesha, I heard you say that quite a bit where you wanted to help him get a job, you wanted to help him, you know, with all of these things that you felt if only you could make his life better then he would treat you better instead of the other way around.

Tanesha A.S.: 39:41 Right. Yes.

Kathryn Janicek: 39:43 And I hope if someone’s listening to this and finds that inequality happening in their relationship because it was so weird Tanesha because I didn’t really know that that’s what I was doing too. Like, you know, I was engaged to someone and I was trying to help him create a side, an amazing side because I thought like, well if he’s happier with his job then he’ll be happier in the relationship. And just, I’m really glad that you’re talking about these signs and that we let you, Julie it was a great idea, to just let her talk because I hope that people will, things will trigger it and go, Oh my gosh. So you, you know, you work, you have a law degree, you work in, you’ve had jobs in criminal justice. You’ve had jobs in, you know, law, obviously. Mental health. You talk about how when you were in your apartment and you can’t, you know, get a new set of keys. You can’t, you have to wait until Monday morning to go and get, you know,ua piece of paper. What does that piece of paper going to do to protect me? That piece of paper wasn’t going to protect you. So what are you, you know, what are people doing, you know, is there any, is there a growth in it when it comes to protecting women when it comes to the law?

Tanesha A.S.: 40:50 Unfortunately, I will honestly tell you that there’s not. One, because domestic violence keeps being put on the back burner for everything. As far as PPOs, it’s a piece of paper. It means absolutely nothing to abusers, or narcissistic people. That’s what I should say. Narcissists are not afraid of a piece of paper. And when it comes down to even judges. Like I, I was helping someone and she was married and she went before a judge who do not believe that like, a man can rape a husband, can rape his wife. And did not grant her a PPO for her husband who she was telling them was raping her. He did not believe in that. So we, again, we’re in a system where, especially with law, it’s a male dominated world and that’s our struggle. Even coming out of law school, that’s still a struggle for women to even become part of the legal field. And the only way we can continue to do it is to keep telling stories and finding the gray areas where – and every, every story is so unique that we can only keep working to speak to those gray areas that the laws don’t address. I know one of the biggest things now is trying to do a domestic violence registry. So similar to sex offenders in that, you know, the next one can look up something and be able to say, okay, this is what he’s done, you know, as a red flag and advanced passed charges for that. The issue is if the court system is not prosecuted, if the court system is giving them a slap on the wrist. There was a young lady where they did have the registry. She went to do the research, after 11 days, they still had not given her a report on this gentleman that she was considering dating and he killed her. So again, if you put, if you put something in place, it has to be effective. It’s not about just saying, okay, we did something for all of you that are complaining about domestic violence.

Audrea Fink: 43:00 So I want to ask you a little bit about how we can talk to women about coming forward with their stories specifically if their stories are not the same as someone else’s. I again, and I’m only gonna use me because I think it’s the easiest and safest person to point to, but I know that I never reported my, the, the violence against me and I never reported my rape. And it took about a year of therapy for me to even acknowledge the term rape and a large part of that was one, the shame that sort of like Julie had mentioned of I had allowed myself to be in a position where that was the case. Right? It seems like sometimes we say, well, like if she’s grabbed in a dark alley then she definitely didn’t deserve it. But like if her boyfriend does it to her with like, what did she do to earn it? Like the, so there’s, there’s some of that I think at play, but then I think the other thing is that because we tend to diminish our own experiences, we say, well, he never left bruises. Or I would like to hear, I would like for women who are listening to this who maybe have a story who are part of that, Me Too movement, but don’t feel like it is tragic, don’t feel like it is maybe feel like some of it’s their fault, like what would you say to them to encourage them to bring it to the light, to let that behavior mild or not come out?

Tanesha A.S.: 44:20 I would honestly, because I, again, every situation is so different, but essentially is if your inner being tells you that if something was not right, speak to that. Even if we’re removing labels right now, if you don’t know what to call it, it’s okay that you don’t know what to call it. It’s okay that you’re not, may not receive it as rape at this point. Speak to what you experienced and let the support around you or let others like myself rally around you to be able to give you a voice to see your situation as being very similar no matter what level it happened on. I think it’s critical that, again, I didn’t know how to, I wasn’t able to call it rape. However, I told my story and I learned from telling my story repeatedly that it was rape. If we have things that are happening to us and we know in our heart of hearts, if something’s not right, speak to just that, that feeling, that emotion, speak to that and it will, it will define itself.

Julie Holton: 45:33 You are not alone. I think for me that sentence carries so much weight and I’m going to repeat it again for our listeners because you, no matter how alone you feel, whether you have a best friend to call or not, whether you feel like Tanesha did that you can’t reach out to your parents for whatever reason. You still are not alone. Tanesha you are a founder of an organization that is working actively to help victims and we will also, so we’ll leave that information here on on our podcast, on our blog, on our social media sites. There are so many resources out there. If you who are listening are in a situation where you just want to talk to someone, you just want to have your voice be heard and maybe you’re not ready or feeling comfortable with talking to someone who is maybe a friend or a family member, someone close in your life, reach out to us, reach out to Tanesha.

Julie Holton: 46:31 There are organizations that have resources set up to help. We know, Tanesha knows firsthand. We know that navigating the justice system is not an easy thing to do. We know that the system is not set up right now to help all of the victims and people like to Tanesha are working and fighting and wanting to change that. And that fight continues. But in the meantime, there are resources, there are organizations, there are places to get help. And so Tanesha can you give us your contact info and speak just briefly about your organization in which you’re working to do so that people can connect with you directly?

Tanesha A.S.: 47:08 Yes. so my organization is called Voices of Color. I am on Facebook. You can find me at backslash The Voices of Color. My organization is all funded by me and that just simply means that I am under no state or federal regulations and how I do things and I’m very intentional about that. And so October 1st I will be hosting a domestic violence rally at the Capitol in Lansing, Michigan for the state of Michigan. So I encourage everybody to come out. We will have survivors speaking, the mayor will be present, um and this is an opportunity to bring awareness and to get rid of those myths about domestic violence.

Julie Holton: 47:52 And October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. So for those of you not in Michigandefinitely do a search. If you’re interested, there will be rallies happening all across the country, whether you are a victim, a friend of a victim, or just an ally. You know, as we were all talking earlier, we mentioned that, you know, very few of the women we know actually have not been victims to domestic violence in some way or another. But if you happen to be one of those people, the advocacy and the allies are important, so, so we’ll put all of that information for you on our website. Tanesha thank you so much for joining us today.

Tanesha A.S.: 48:26 Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.

Julie Holton: 48:29 Connect with Tanesha and Think Tank of Three online, at thinktankofthree.Com. You can also find us, your Think Tank of Three hosts on social media. Join our private Facebook group if you’d like to continue this conversation in a very non-public way. And if you liked what you heard in the podcast, please share it. You can find the podcasts on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and SoundCloud and be sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.