Season Four, Episode 03 – A White Noise In Your Head, Part I

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KIM DADOU BROWN: The feeling of going over a rollercoaster in your chest. Trying to take a full breath and you can’t. Like someone with arms of steel around you, squeezing you so tight you can’t expand your lungs to take a breath. The white noise in your head, but you’re still aware of everything going on. The anticipation of the sound of impact. I hate that sound.

If a car were to drive down the street right now and hit a pole, that sound of impact would make something feel like it ripped inside me. If you punch me in my face, or slap me, I’m not gonna die. I can handle the pain. It’s gonna hurt, but I can handle it. But it’s the sound of impact that I was anticipating the most.

Sometimes it’s a high pitched whistle. Like, Shhhhhh. And that’s all you hear. With that fuzzy background, shhhhhh. It’s the panic feeling of helplessness and anticipation of pain in your head all at once. You know, it’s coming and you just have to brace yourself.

My name is Kim Dadou Brown and I am a survivor advocate. That’s how I title myself, a survivor advocate. I have a bachelor’s in psychology and that’s it in a nutshell. So what you see is what you get.

I grew up all over the world actually. I grew up an army brat. My father died when I was a baby and my mother remarried when I was about four. I was in like 10 or 12 different schools before I was in the sixth grade. And then when my mother and stepfather split up when I was 10, we moved back to Rochester. And so Rochester has always been home base, like home base safe. 

Rochester was a flourishing place. Jobs were good. There wasn’t all the violence that there is now. In the past three days, we’ve had about 14 shootings in Rochester. There’s more guns than people. Rochester has changed a lot. And when I say it’s home base safe, it’s because I know Rochester. 

You know, we traveled my whole childhood, but Rochester was always home base. Like you always came home to Rochester. No place else you called home.

Growing up, I was a chameleon because I had to mingle and mix in every new setting. Our environment was always changing, moving a lot. I was always the new fat girl with long, dark hair with an accent from the last place we lived. You always want to make friends, so I became personable. Just tried to do my best to not fit in, but be accepted. And kids can be really mean. So, I just did my best to make my way in every new environment we were in. My stepfather wasn’t the nicest guy in the world. Matter of fact, he was pretty crappy. He believed in punishment. I believe in disciplining a child but I think that he took it a bit far. I wasn’t his kid and he let me know I wasn’t his kid, a lot. And then when my sisters came along, he really let me know that I wasn’t his, and they were, so it was hard. We didn’t have a very good relationship. The first time he disciplined me, we had moved to Texas off the Army base. My mom had made a pie. I remember I wanted more pie and my mother told me, “After your bath, you can have some more pie.”

I didn’t want to wait. My stepfather was watching TV and my mom was in the bathroom getting my bath ready. It was only the three of us in the house. I went out to the kitchen and I remember I couldn’t see the pie but I could reach it. And I reached up on the counter and I stuck my fingers in the pie, and my mom called me for my bath  and I sucked off my fingers, and I ran to the bathroom real quick.

So I’m in the bath, and my stepfather comes in, and he says, “Were you in the pie?” And I said, “No.” I was scared. So I said “No.” And he said, “I wanna ask you again. Were you in the pie?” And I said, “No”. He took off his belt and he snatched me out of the bathtub and he beat my ass. I was hysterical, screaming, jumping around. He’s smacking me with the belt on my bare wet skin and holding me by my arm and I couldn’t get away. My mother was like, “Let her go, let her go.” And then he let me go. And she put me back in the bath, told me to just calm down, relax, it’s okay, don’t go in the pie, you know. And then I heard her go out in the other room, she told me, you know, “Don’t move, don’t go under the water, I’ll be right back.” And she went out in the other room and I heard her yelling at him. And I heard her say, “Don’t you ever, don’t you ever hit my daughter, don’t you ever hit my daughter like that again.” And he told her, right then, “If you ever go against me. I will leave you.”

She really didn’t protect me after that. I was 10 years old when my stepfather left. I have to honestly say, the morning that he called us into the bedroom and told us that he was leaving, other than my mom crying, I was happy. I was glad he was leaving. 

I had great teenage years growing up in Rochester. I did everything a teenager wasn’t supposed to do. In the 7th grade, I found out that the coolest, prettiest girl in the school was my cousin. I went from being this super geeky, dweeby, nerdy, didn’t really care about my looks, regular girl, into hanging out with my cousin, and she hung out with all the cool kids, and they drank, and we would steal wine from my uncle’s garage because he made his own wine, and he had it in huge barrels. And we used to fill up our thermoses with wine and go to the playground and drink this horrible tasting wine.

I would go to Sock Hops at the junior high school and try to have a social life, and then I found boys and hanging out. I started hanging with my cousin and I became one of the cool kids.

I remember the first time I seen Darnell was in the hallway in school. And I was like, “Wow, he is really good looking.” Like, how did we used to say he is fine?

He is freaking fine. Like fucking-a, you know. And then when I found out he is in my art class, and then we got him to come sit with us, we were like, come on, come sit with us, come sit with us. We were like the cool kids at the art table. He came and sat with us. He would just sit there with his head down and his sexy eyes, and I was like, “God, this guy is fine.” I got to stay away from him. I got to stay away from him. Stay away from him.

And he would always flirt with me and try to hold my hand under the table and I’d be flicking his hand away, like, stop it. Because he had a girlfriend, too. He had several. And I had a boyfriend who was 18. He had graduated and that was it. Darnell and I would flirt and just in art class. I looked forward to art class because I could sit next to him.

So I would send him messages and he would send me messages and he would ask me out and I would tell him no. He sat with us and we would laugh and laugh and laugh and most of us were high from weed because art class was after lunch. Everybody was high coming back in from lunch. We had a great friendship and Darnell was one of those guys who had a van and wanted you to go to lunch with him. And I was like, “Oh, hell no. Oh, hell no. I’m not going to lunch with you in your van. I’m not being one of your van girls.”

Darnell in school was known as a ladies man. He was soft spoken, tall. He didn’t really play sports. He wasn’t like, a real sports guy. He was more of the weed smoker, cool, laid back, you know, drove to school, lived at home with his mom and his stepdad. He’s light skinned. His grandmother was Caucasian. He had long hair, but it was like naturally curly so he just put some activator in it and it lootked like a jheri curl. His hair was past his shoulders. He had long legs, broad shoulders, just like a good looking guy. He had a swagger about himself and a style about himself that a lot of people liked.

A lot of girls, seeing you talking to them, they would give you the screw face. They would give you the ugly face because you’re talking to them. And he would tell me, “Meet me at my locker and we’ll smoke a joint at lunch.” And we did that, but I never would go and be alone with him. I was like, “No, no, no, no, no.” I knew. 

I had relationships before Darnell. I had actually kind of started young with the relationship thing. I told you I started hanging out with my cousin Carolyn and she was fast. She was already having sex and she already had boyfriends and I had never even kissed a boy or even thought about it and oh my goodness.

And then I got mixed up with an older man and that was my first experience. And then I didn’t mess with anybody for a while and then, you know, I just met people through people and had miscellaneous boyfriends. And then I met  Eddie. I met Eddie at a high school football game and we became inseparable.

He had already graduated. He drove and all this, and so he would come pick me up in his mom’s car. We would go out and hang out, and I ended up marrying Eddie. I got with Eddie when I was 15, and we got married when I was 19. I thought that being married would fix everything. I thought that it would solidify us, but it didn’t. It didn’t. We were doomed from the start it seemed. But we still tried.

I left him when I was 20 because he beat my ass. We had grown apart. We got married way too young. We didn’t know what to do with what we had. And I just started doing my own thing. And I didn’t care if he was home or not. I would go out with other guys, go out partying, go out to the bars. I was 19, 20 years old and the person I’m married to acted like he didn’t give a damn about me. He just wanted to stay home or go hang out with his weed friends or travel with his weed guys. I wanted a husband. I wanted a relationship. We just grew apart. We totally grew apart. 

One night I was so bold that I had my lover drop me off at the front door. I was that bold. I got home at like six in the morning. I didn’t give a damn. And I told James, “Just drop me off at the front door. I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care anymore. Not walking a block home because I don’t want him to see who I’m with,  I don’t care.” He was standing in the doorway. I was like, “Oh crap.” And James said, “Do you want me to go in with you?” I was like, “No, I got this. I got this.” I walked in and Eddie was like, “You smell like sex and booze. And I was like, “I’m going to go take a shower and go to bed. I don’t give a shit what you say. You don’t give me no attention. You don’t even act like you’re my husband.”

I went to go take a shower. I went to walk past him and he floored me and he stomped me. He beat the shit out of me for the first time in our entire relationship. I don’t know if he knocked me out or I passed out. I think I just laid there because he had really stomped me pretty bad. When I woke up, I said to him, “This marriage is over.” And I was still laying on the floor when I said it and he was sitting on the couch. And he said, “I know, you’re the woman. You can keep the apartment. I’ll pack my shit and I’ll be at my mom’s.” And I was like, “Alright.” And that was the end of my marriage.

It was Valentine’s Day, he moved out on Valentine’s Day and we had just gotten married the December before. So he moved back to his mom’s and now I’m on my own for the very first time in my entire life. I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t handle the bills. I couldn’t handle rent and everything else on my own. So I moved in with my next door neighbor, my best friend, Roz. 

I went to court one day with Rosalyn and I ran into Darnell. I couldn’t believe it was him. I’m walking through the courthouse and all of a sudden I see him. We walked past each other and we both turned around. Like, we both turned around. I was like, “Darnell?” He was like “Kim?” And we exchanged numbers. 

Darnell and I lost touch after high school, he graduated before me and we lost touch. So yeah, but I never thought about him again. My life took off with Eddie and all of a sudden I see him and he never called me. I remember it so well, he didn’t call me for over two weeks and then he calls me and he’s like, “Can I come over?”

And I’m like, “No, you can’t come over. You’re still trying to get with somebody. Cut it out.” I was like, “Let’s talk. What’s going on? Are you with somebody?”  And he was like, “No.” He was like “Me and my baby mom. We, you know, I’m living at my mom’s.” He was like, “We broke up.” He had two girls by one woman and another girl by another woman but he claimed the other kids that his other girl had.

It was just like he had like five kids. And I was like, “Wow, you’ve been busy.” You know, we just talked. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was young and dumb and, you know, have boyfriends up the wazoo but I didn’t care about them. And then when I ran into Darnell and then he called, then I was like, “Wow, he called.” And we were inseparable. Ever since we were totally inseparable for almost five years.

In the beginning with Darnell, it was a fairytale. I had just gotten out of a bad marriage, an abusive marriage, and it was a complete fairytale. He would pick me up and there would be flowers on the seat. He would have his friend drive us around like we were being chauffeured. And he would drive us around and he would feed me strawberries and shrimp and whatever we wanted. We would go to the movies and we would go out to dinner and I had my first Long Island iced tea, and I was addicted and I still drink Long Islands to this day. It was just fun and adventurous and I did things with him I never did before. And we would drive to Canada just to have lunch, we would go to Niagara Falls just to see the falls or just to have lunch and drive back home.

The first six months were a fairytale. He was introducing me to his friends and his family and I got along with everybody and everybody liked me and everybody was cool and chill, and some of them were, like, sniffing cocaine and they started smoking it, but I was just like a little pothead and I wasn’t into all that other stuff. But it was cool, like the first six months were great.

I thought that Darnell was going to be my happily ever after. I thought that we were going to get married eventually. We had already been talking about that. He was like, “I just want to be with you. I want you to have my babies.” And I’m like, “You already have babies.” And he’s like, “But I want you to have my baby.”

I was all in with him from the get go. I was all in. And I thought we were going to be like this young power couple. I worked, he worked, we were saving money. We were doing well. We were just learning about credit and credit unions and all that good stuff. I just thought that we were growing in the right direction together.

We had been together about six months when everything just took a major shift. We were talking more about getting married and he knew I was still legally married to Eddie. He knew that, but it was something we never talked about. He picked me up one night and it was like all romantic and wonderful. And he took me to a park, Jones Park, and it was dark and quiet. And I thought it was very romantic. He offered me what he said was his grandmother’s engagement ring and I respectfully declined. I said, “I do love you. I want to be your wife, but I’m still legally married to Eddie. And that is a detail that I have to take care of.” And it all came down to money. I didn’t have the money for a lawyer and a divorce. I didn’t even know where to start to do it. And then Eddie was in the background saying, I’m never going to divorce you. It’s against my religion. I don’t believe in divorce. Maybe we won’t be together, but you will always be my wife. Eddie was very adamant about that. 

And that night he offered me his grandmother’s ring, and when I told him it wouldn’t be right if I accepted it, he slapped me so fast and so hard that my face hit the passenger side window, and that was the first time he ever hit me. And my ear was ringing  – and that ringing in your head when a tragic situation is happening and all you can hear is the blood flow in your head, and the ringing in your head. It’s all I heard, and I looked at him and I was just like, “Take me home, take me home, just take me home.” And he was like, “You’re ungrateful. This is my grandmother’s ring. You’re ungrateful.” And I was like, “Just take me home. Just take me home.

We weren’t living together yet. He took me home. And then I’d say just a few days went by. He showed up. He didn’t call or anything. He just showed up. He had weed and booze and I could tell he had been drinking. He was staggering a little bit and he never said he was sorry. He just said he had to be with me.

And he was like, “I have to be with you. Just let me come home. Just let me come home.” Let me explain what coming home meant. To him, it meant having sex. To him, it meant going inside me. That’s what coming home meant to him, was having intercourse. And I guess I was a little intimidated, a little flattered in my own broken mind.

I let him come home and we had sex, and we never spoke about it again. I didn’t want to bring it up because it was awkward and I didn’t want to make him mad, and of course he didn’t want to bring it up because he was guilty. That was the first time that he hit me. And then after that jumping on me became a regular thing.

I think I justified his behavior a lot. First of all, you have to remember I was already broken. And so I justified it. Just made peace with it within myself. Thought I could handle this. I got this. I can handle him. He’s so easily calmed down by sex. And I didn’t even realize I was learning domestic violence defensive tactics. I didn’t even realize that I was learning how to defuse him and how to defuse a violent situation. I was learning that if you just give up the cootie, he’s not going to be tripping so hard. So just give it to him the way he wants it. It won’t take long. And if it hurts, it won’t hurt for long. And you can get through this.

Just keep telling yourself, just hang on. You can get through this. You can get through this no matter what’s happening. It became survival.

And then he had told me that he don’t know what he would do if I ever left him. Then it turned into, if you ever left me, I would kill you and I would kill that person. And it turned into, if you ever try to leave me I will cut you up in little pieces and they’ll never put you back together. It turned into even more threats that I totally believed.

Because the violence between him and I got worse. It got so much worse. But back then I felt like I could handle it. I felt like the life that we lived –  and not that we live large at all. We each had a car, we each had a job, and being in your early twenties and having a car and having a job is a good thing, right? And I was paying my bills and I was paying my way and enjoying life. And I thought that dealing with his temper and his violence was a small price to pay for the life that we lived. And it wasn’t even that we lived in a mansion or anything fancy. It was just survival. I knew how to survive, but I didn’t realize that I was living in survival mode.

I thought that waking up and walking on eggshells was the norm. I did it with my stepfather. I did it with Eddie at the end. I knew it was only a matter of time until things exploded with Eddie. I didn’t know that he was going to beat the shit out of me the way he did, and I thought that it was the norm. And eventually all men hit, I really felt that way. I love them, but I was also afraid at the same time because I know I felt like I knew eventually you’re going to hit me. Eventually you’re going to hurt me. Eventually you are physically stronger than me and one day you’re going to exert. And I was just waiting for that to happen.

You say, why didn’t you leave? I think that’s not a fair question to ask. Why, why are you asking me why didn’t I leave? I was the one being hurt. Why aren’t you saying to him, why don’t you stop putting your hands on this woman? I wish I had a nickel for every single time people ask me that. Why didn’t she leave? And I counter that question with why should I leave? Why should I have to leave my home where I have built, where I have laid my pillows on my bed and I bought those pillows special, and why do I have to leave? Why do I have to leave? Why can’t he stop? Why is the burden on the victim? How is that possible? Why doesn’t he just stop beating my ass? Why can’t he control his temper? Just because he had a bad day at work or because I had to make chicken twice, why do you have to jump on me? Why is that your way of thinking? Why is violence your solution and your answer?

But, I felt like I can handle it. I can handle it when he gets mad. This is what you do. You’re a woman. You handle it. My grandmother handled it. My mother handled it. My great grandmother handled it. You handle what happens at home. You have broad shoulders. You’re built strong and you handle it. And that’s what I was doing. I was handling my business. 

Everybody knew that my man had a temper. One time we were at his cousin’s house and he accused me of checking out his cousin, and I was not. I was watching Bobby Brown videos and stuff on MTV. So we left, not because of that, the evening went on and then we left. And then when we left, he accused me of checking out his cousin. I’m like, “That’s crazy. I don’t think he’s attractive at all.” And he’s like, “Oh, so you were looking at him?” And I’m like, “No, I was watching TV. Y’all were getting high. I was watching the videos.”

He was beating the shit out of me in the car and he also said that he was gonna catch my car on fire. I had a bottle of cologne in the car and he poured it on the floor and caught it on fire and then stomped it out. It was like, look what I’ll do to your car. My car was all I had, you know? And anyway he was just like beating the shit out of me, and we were on Alexander Street near old Genesee Hospital. I told him I had to pee really bad. I was like, “Just let me go in the emergency room.” And I really was just going to go in and pee and come back out. He let me go in there but he was like, “Bitch, I’m going to park where I can see you and if you talk to anybody I’m going to burn your fucking car to the ground. You don’t have to worry about driving to work tomorrow. You don’t have to worry about paying for this motherfucker because I’m going to burn it to the ground.”

So I walked in the emergency room and a nurse looked at me and she was like, “Are you okay?” And I didn’t realize how beat up I was. I didn’t realize my lip was bleeding and I was obviously very upset and my face was probably really red. She was like, “Are you okay?” And I was like, “Don’t talk to me.” I was like, “Just point to the bathroom because he’s watching me. He’s gonna kill me.” I was like “Just point to the bathroom.” And so she pointed to the right and it was actually a triage room, and I went in there and the cops came. I mean there were cops there. There were cops in the emergency department. They just happened to be there. And so I went in the triage room and the nurse brings this cop in and I’m like “He can see me, he can see me.” I was like I could see the car. He could see me. I could see like the front lights of the car. 

So I thought that he could see me. I was like, “He could see me. He’s going to burn my car down.” They were like, “Little woman, settle down. It’s okay. We got this.” They were talking to me like that. And I’m hysterical and I’m like, “No, you don’t understand. He’s going to fucking kill me. He’s going to burn my car to the ground.” And they were like, “Does he have any weapons?” And I’m like, “I think he has a knife in his pocket. I think he has his knife in his pocket today.” And they were like, “No guns, no other weapons?” I’m like, “No.” I’m freaking out. It was like out of a movie. The cop pulls this piece of paper out of his shirt and he’s like, “Sign here. It’s an arrest warrant and we’ll go arrest him right now.”

I was like, “No, you don’t understand. He’s not going to go quietly. You don’t understand. He’s going to hurt you.” I’m thinking that Darnell is larger than life and he could beat up everybody, right? And he was known for beating up guys, he was a fighter. He was a fighting kind of guy. I’m like peeking around the corner, like peeking, peeking.

Four cops walk up to my car and I’m thinking it’s about to go down. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. And he got out of the car so calm, totally calm. They put him up against the car. They searched him. They found the weed. They found the booze. He had a pint or something in his pocket and his knife. They were like, “Oh, the get high is on tonight.” Making jokes about it. And he got in the back of the cop car. And then they told me I could come out. And I came out and he was just looking at me, shaking his head, just looking at me. And then the cop was like, “You’re free to go. You can go.”

The aftermath was the usual cycle of violence, escalation, and then the big, horrible, tragic, violent event. And then you have the cool down phase, and then you have the honeymoon phase. And I was just caught up in that fucking circle, and it was only a matter of weeks or days or even hours sometimes before we were back together. He would beat the shit out of me, I would call the police. Four hours later he would be calling me or pulling up at my mom’s house and say, “Come on, let’s go”. And if no one else was around, I would go.

I also found out that Darnell was abusive to every woman that he was with. Some came out of the woodwork later. I had spoken with a couple of the women that he was with before me. They had told me, “Leave him alone. I’m so glad I got away from him.” A couple had some pretty horrible stories about him and his baby mom beating her up and stuff like that. And so, he had a history of violence in his relationships.

Yeah, he had a record. He had a record for domestic violence. He had to go to court before for other women. As a matter of fact, when I ran into him that day at the courthouse, he was there because he was being charged with assault. So yeah, he did. He had a whole record of violence and domestic violence. 

Around that time I was working for the United Cerebral Palsy Association, UCPA. I worked at a respite home, so if you had a relative or you were taking care of someone who was developmentally disabled, we would take them, they would stay with us for up to five days and give you a break. I was the evening manager and I planned activities and meals and everything for my crew. Whoever was staying with us that week I’d find out if it was ambulatory or not. 

I loved my job. I loved working with people who had different abilities. I hate the word disability. So I loved working with people with different abilities. It was the most incredible, incredible job. I loved my job. Matter of fact, the day I went for my interview, Darnell was taking me and we got a flat tire, and I had on this white blouse. And Darnell said that it was my fault that we got the flat tire, so I had to change it. So I changed a tire all by myself on the side of the road and then I stopped at a payphone. And I called my job to be. My boss’s name was Darcy and I was like, “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to come to my interview today. I just got a flat tire and I am sweaty and filthy and I don’t think I’m in any condition to come to an interview.” And they said, “Please come. Please still come. And I showed up and there were three women there and they were like, “We understand.” And I mean, not only was I filthy and sweaty and felt gross from changing a tire, but I also had Darnell in my ear telling me how worthless and useless and pathetic I was. And I just didn’t have the gumption in me to want to go to this interview. And I still went. And as soon as I got in there, they were like, “You can go in the kitchen, wash your hands, get yourself together, get a glass of water.” And so I did, and I got the freaking job. 

They thought that he was the greatest guy in the world. They were like, “Look at him coming on a Saturday to shampoo the carpets while you’re working. Look at him sitting outside for two hours before you get out of work.” They were like, “Look at him coming to pick you up from work.” But I have my own car. Why is he sitting outside my job for three hours when I have my own car? Nobody thought of that. What guy wants to come and shampoo the carpets at your job on his day off? They didn’t see that as he wants to see who’s there, what I’m doing, who I’m talking to, but it was all that. It was all about control and being with me literally 24-7. Literally 24-7.

He had this obsession, like if I had my period, he wanted to go in the bathroom with me. He was obsessed with things and it became a co-dependency because I wanted to do what he wanted. Even though I protested and got my ass beat a lot because my mother raised me and I am a strong woman. I still like to believe I am, even though I was very compromised at the time I was broken. But I still wanted to find my strength and my voice. So I would just go along with whatever he wanted. He wanted to sit on the tub and watch me change my tampon. It was mortifying, but what could I do? Did I want him to rape me? Did I want him to beat the shit out of me? He was very, very all encompassing when I mean all encompassing, I mean, he owned me. There was no part of me or my life that he didn’t have a strong hand in, including my job. Like I said, they thought he was amazing. They thought he was handsome and sweet and kind and generous and always wanted to be with me. They thought that was great. A lot of people were taken by his charm, his looks, his presence, his charisma.

They didn’t know him. I had somebody come up to me one day and say, “Kim, you don’t have to take that.” And I said, “Take what?” And they said, “If you ever need me, I’m here.” I knew exactly what she was talking about. She’s seen my bruises. And I was like, “Take what? Take what? What are you talking about?” You know, I just wonder what would have happened if I had reached out? 

I definitely thought that Darnell was gonna kill me. There were a couple times I felt like I really had to run from him for a period of time because he had hurt me so badly. And so I started going to the battered women’s shelter, and I had pictures taken of bruises and contusions and marks on my neck.

When he got a gun, I really felt like he was going to kill me. He got a gun for his own protection, he said, because he was trying to sell cocaine even though he was using it. And he kept it under my seat. I was scared of guns. I’ve always been scared of guns. Like, my mom had a .22 rifle in the house for protection. They used to shoot guns when we lived down in Texas. So I’ve been around them but I was always taught to respect them. They’re not toys. I didn’t mess with his gun. In the beginning, he started threatening me with his gun off and on. But never, like, pointing it at me or anything like that. He would just be like, “Bitch, I’ll shoot your brains out if I think you’re fucking with somebody else.” And he had a gun, so I was like, “Wow, this guy is fucking serious.” Can’t get caught doing anything. Don’t look to the right at a stoplight. Don’t look at the car next to you at a stoplight because the guy might be like, “Yo, what’s up, baby.” Don’t accept a piece of gum from the guy at the gas station because it’s your birthday, because when you get back to the car he’s going to beat the fuck out of you and try to dislocate your arm while you’re driving him to work on your birthday. 

We had had a bad fight on Thanksgiving and he beat the shit out of me, and I ended up not going to dinner at his family’s house. You know, when you are with somebody, you got to go to their house, your house, his parents, your parents, you got to hit everybody. We were going to go to his sister’s house for dinner and then we were going to go to my mom’s, but we got into a really bad fight. He beat the shit out of me right in front of his kids in the driveway. And so I crawled to my car. By the grace of God, I was in my car, and I swear, I don’t even remember leaving my car unlocked, but it was unlocked, thank God, because I wouldn’t have been able to get in it otherwise.

So he’s punching my window, he’s punching my window, bitch open the door, I wouldn’t open the door, I turned on my car, I threw it in reverse and I flew out of his driveway. And that was the last physical altercation. That was Thanksgiving.

We weren’t living together then because the violence was escalating so bad. The second year, the third year, the fourth year, the violence was getting so bad and so frequent that I moved back to my mom’s house for safety reasons. That was another trip to the battered women’s shelter. December 16th, he said,
“I’m gonna come out and see you, we’ll talk.” I was like, “Okay.” Enough weeks had gone by where now we’re about to approach the honeymoon phase. 

He comes out at midnight on the night of December 17th and I’d run outside and I’d jump in his car. It’s cold, it was freezing, it was snowing. We start hugging and kissing and his dick gets hard and he wants me to suck his dick right there in the car. And I’m like, “Stop it. Why are you acting like this? Right in front of my mom’s house.” It’s midnight, it’s dark and desolate, I’m not doing this in the car. I was like, “Come in the house. We’ll hang out. Wendy’s here.” My baby sister was there. She was nine months pregnant and 15 years old, so she was in a little compromising position, but she was parked in front of the TV, in all her bigness.

And I was like, “Just come in. We’ll hang out. We’ll chill.” And he was like, “No, you’re not giving it to me. Who are you giving it to?”  He was like, “That’s my ass. That’s my pussy. You belong to me.” And I knew I did. Like, it was the whole mindset, go along with it, defuse, defuse, defuse. So I was like, “No, come on, let’s, let’s go.” And he was like, “Who you fucking?” And he’s just so dead set on the fact that I’m with someone else. A fight ensues. Actually, before that, he started smoking a base joint, a joint laced with cocaine. He was like, “You want some?” I was like, “You know, I don’t like that shit.” And shit escalates again. And he’s like, “If you’re not fucking me, who you giving my ass to?” I’m like, “Nobody.” I was like, “You need to stop.”

He doesn’t want to talk about what happened on Thanksgiving, where he beat the shit out of me in front of his kids and I had to go to my sister’s house and put makeup on my face before I could go to dinner at my mom’s, because he fucked me up and my stockings were ripped and I was just a mess.

You know, I’m thinking about all this stuff and we’re talking and he’s getting more mad. And then he’s like, “You know what, bitch,” he was like, “This is it, bitch, this is fucking it.” He fucking starts, not only was he hitting me, he grabs my throat. He grabs me by the neck and I tried to get out the car, and I couldn’t get out of the car because the power locks were on.

He had a Dodge Aspen, I had an Oldsmobile Cutlass, and then we had a Fifth Avenue together. That was like our luxury car. We were trying to build a life. So we had a Fifth Avenue, that was our fifty, that was our nice car, and it was red on red. Now he’s on top of me. All he kept saying, “This is it, bitch. This is it.” And he’s pushing me down. And he’s choking me. I’m struggling. And he’s like, “This is it, bitch. This is it.” He’s sure that I’m fucking somebody else and I reach for the gun.

At first it felt like any other violent event. He’s just mad at me. He always accused me of fucking somebody else, that’s what it felt like. But then when I couldn’t breathe It was different and all I could hear him saying through his teeth were “This is it bitch. This is it.” And Everything changed for me when I couldn’t breathe.

He had hurt me violently before. Raped me in his garage, just bent over the car, raped me. Beat the shit out of me. Left me laying on the floor. Cut me with a pair of scissors and then told me don’t bleed on his mother’s carpet. Stabbed me in my hip when I tried to jump out of a moving car. But this was different.

I was desperate and I couldn’t breathe, and he was on me, and we’re bent over in the car, and I’m fat. If you’re bent over, it’s hard to breathe anyway, and I’m bent over, he’s on my neck, and he’s on top of me, and he’s a 260 pound guy, and he’s saying, “This is it, bitch, this is it.” And I couldn’t breathe, and I reached for the gun. And I reached for the gun just to show him, because I couldn’t talk anymore, because I couldn’t breathe, but just to show him, get off me this is serious. I felt like if I had the gun in my hand he would see this is serious. 

So I reached for the gun under the seat because I’m bent over and it’s right there. And I reached for it. And with all my might, with all my might, I just pulled up and I didn’t even realize how I was holding the gun. And it just went “Brap.” And everything changed. He let go of me. I fell backwards in the seat. I didn’t even look back at him. I dropped the gun. I scrambled to get out of the car. I fell out into the snowbank. I scrambled to my feet. I didn’t have on underwear, or a bra, or socks. I just had on a pair of ski pants, a t-shirt, and winter boots because I was just going out to the car. I was at home. 

It was late at night and I ran in the house and my sister, Wendy said, “What was that noise?” And I said, “We were arguing. He was banging on the hood of the car.” That’s what I said. “Darnell was banging on the hood of the car.” That’s what I told Wendy cause I didn’t want her in anything and I didn’t think I had shot him. He screamed,”Bitch, get back here.” He said, “Bitch, get back here.” So I thought I didn’t shoot him. I thought I shot like into the seat of the car, the roof. I’d never shot this gun before. I’d never shot a pistol before. So it was just like, and then he let go of me. And like I said, I scrambled into the house and Wendy was like, “Why are you limping? Are you okay?” And I realized he had been punching me. And I had like a charlie horse in my leg from him punching me. And so it was hard to walk, but my adrenaline was going. 

I ran upstairs to my bedroom and locked the door, like that was going to do something, but I felt like I was safe. Right. And my bedroom was in the back of the house, so I couldn’t see him out front, but I didn’t even want to go to the front bedroom and look because I knew he was coming to kill me. So Wendy says, “He’s driving away.” And I’m like, “What do you mean he’s driving away?” And she’s like, “He’s driving away.” And I was like, “Oh my God. He’s gonna come back and kill me. I gotta get the fuck out of here. He’s gonna kill me. He’s gonna kill us He’s gonna kill me.” 

This is how I’m thinking. If I’m not here, he won’t hurt her. He just wants me. Okay, I have to hide, I have to get out of here –  he’s probably gonna circle the block and come back and kill me. This is what I’m thinking

I was in a dead ahead panic. I had to get away from my house so 15 years old and nine months pregnant would be safe. He had threatened to kill everyone in my house. He said, “You live in a house full of women. Do you think I can’t kill them all?”

I did not know where I was going. I had to hide, and so I thought of a friend who Darnell did not know. I went to a payphone and I called my friend and I said, “I don’t know what’s going on.” And I never mentioned the gun. I haven’t mentioned anything. “I need to hide.” He was like “Come over.” I went over and he had a bunch of friends over at his house, it was like a whole party going on in the other room and he was like you can go in the living room and just lay on the couch, relax, stay the night. He gave me blankets. He was like you’re gonna be fine, you’re safe here. And so I started crying because he didn’t know what had just transpired. Still. I didn’t think I had shot him. I was hiding from him. 

He came in and he sat down and he talked to me and I told him what had happened. And I told him how I shot the gun. And I told him how Darnell let go of me and everything that had happened. He said, “Well, I’ll listen on the street and you watch the news and we’ll see if we hear anything.” And I said, “No, you don’t understand. I didn’t shoot him. He’s looking for me. I didn’t shoot him.” He said, “Okay, well, if he’s looking for you, you can’t stay here, you’re not going to be able to stay here.” He said, “I’m going to get you a hotel room.” 

After all this happened on this night, calling the police never even crossed my mind. I thought people were like, “Why didn’t you call the police?” And I’m like, “Why would I? Why would I? I had him arrested five times. I had five police reports, five hospital records, a file at the battered women’s shelter. Why would I call the police again?” They would come get him, let him go a few hours later, and he would beat me out of my sleep. Literally. I would wake up and he’s standing over me.

So, he got me a hotel room and he said, “Now, stay here. Do not go home. Stay here and we’ll see what’s going on. I’ll see what word is on the street. I’ll see if he’s looking for you. Just stay here.” I was in the same clothes for two days. I felt gross. As soon as he left the hotel, I went home.

Every scar on my body is from him. I’ve had broken ribs, a chest tube, fractured pelvis. I had to have my chin k-wired back together. All the ribs on my right side were broken. One punctured my lung. Having a chest tube taken out has got to be the worst pain in the world. 

We had been in a near fatal car accident years before where I literally had to learn how to walk again.  They said the car flipped like seven to ten times. I was pregnant. It was September 22nd. It was hot. My goddaughter was having her birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, so I had to go home and get ready and I was nauseous. I couldn’t eat anything all day. It was one of them hot days where when it rains, it gets hotter. It was like that. And he was drinking, and I was like, “Just take me home, I don’t feel good.” And then I wouldn’t eat. And he was mad because I wouldn’t eat. He was like, “You’re trying to kill my baby. I’m like, “I’m not trying to kill our baby. Like, what is wrong with you?” We were driving out on Mount Reed Boulevard, he was taking me home, and he was saying things like, “I wish I could take that baby out of you and put it in me.” And I said, “Yeah, well it would be pickled if you did.” because he drank so much. It’s broad daylight, this was like 4 o’clock in the afternoon, he’s like, pissy drunk on gin. And I said, “Remember, you were supposed to pick up your brother at four?” And his brother worked at Kodak. And he was like,” Fuck this shit, just fuck this shit.” And we were going really, really fast and it had just stopped raining. All I remember is something big and gray coming towards me. That’s all I remember. 

The next thing I remember is I’m waking up, I’m laying on my stomach, my face is in the wet grass, and I turn my head and the car was upside down next to me. And Darnell kept saying, “Get up! Get up! Get up!” And I blacked out. And the next thing I remember is them cutting my shirt off me. I remember the cold of the scissors going up my chest, and I woke up and they were cutting my clothes off me in the hospital. I was in emergency and I blacked out again and I just kept coming to, blacking out, coming to, blacking out.

Finally, I wake up again. My mom is standing over me and I said, “Am I gonna die?: And she said, “No baby, I’m not gonna let you die.” She said, “You’re pretty banged up, but I’m not gonna let you die.” My sister Wendy told me when she walked past me, she didn’t even know who I was. She kept going. They took the mirror out of my tray so I couldn’t see myself. I was that bad. I had black, blue, and purple bruises the size of watermelons all over me. I had broken ribs, a punctured lung. I had to learn how to walk again. I had massive pelvis and hip injuries. I lost my baby. And he said, I grabbed the wheel to cover up his DWI and he said, I could even take a lie detector test because I would pass it because you literally were thrown on to me.

And I was like, “How did that happen?” And he said, “When we took the off ramp, he said, I was going too fast and I lost control of the car and we slid and hit an embankment but kept going back across the off ramp, and we flipped over the hill.” And they said our car flipped like seven to ten times. I seen the car afterwards. I don’t know how we lived. They said they took me out of the car because I was laying on my neck. And they dragged me out of the car and laid me in the grass. 

The first thing they do when you have a car accident like that is test the driver for alcohol and drugs, right? His brother peed in a cup for him. Because his brother came. He peed in a cup for him. Darnell told them that I grabbed the wheel. And that’s why the accident happened. It was my fault. It was my fault. But it wasn’t my fault. You know, of course nobody believed me. And you know how I found out? I read my chart. Someone left my chart on my bed and walked out of my hospital room. On the record, it says, I grabbed the steering wheel and caused the accident and lost my baby. 

I had to learn how to walk again. I came home in a wheelchair. I was in the hospital for two weeks. Darnell came to see me twice. The first time he ran in the bathroom and threw up. As soon as he walked in the room, he almost passed out. He leaned up against the bed and then he ran in the bathroom and puked. And then he left. And I was crying, “Don’t go, don’t go. You did this to me. Don’t go.” And he left. And I would call him and call him and call his mom. And his mom was like, “He just can’t handle it. He can’t handle seeing you hurt like that.” And I’m like, “He did it.”

PRODUCER: Can I ask about you losing your, your baby? 

KIM DADOU BROWN: We couldn’t talk about it. We couldn’t talk about it. I couldn’t talk about it. Yeah. When he would get really, really drunk he would bring it up, but it was too painful. I didn’t want to talk about it. He had kids. He has his legacy. I didn’t. You know, people would say, “Oh, Darnell’s having another baby.” And I’m like, “No. Kim is having a baby. My first.”

When I found out that I was bleeding vaginally, that’s the first thing. I mean, after I asked my mom if I was going to die I asked her about my baby. I said, “My baby. And she was like, “They’re checking things out, relax, just let them check things out.” My mother, you know, she’s a nurse, she’s like, “Let them check things out, just let them check things out.”

Nobody wanted to talk about it. And I couldn’t mention it to Darnell because it was his fault, but I couldn’t say it was his fault. Because then it would start an incident that was in ‘89.

When I went home it was in the evening. I walked in the house and my mom and Wendy are sitting in the living room, and they’re just staring at me. And I walked in like nothing’s wrong, right? I’m running from him. I’m like, “What?” And Wendy’s like, “Tell her.” And I’m like, “Tell me what?” And Wendy’s like, “Tell her.” And my mom said, “You tell her.” And Wendy said, “Darnell’s dead.” And I said, “What?” And I’m thinking, did I shoot him? He drove away. Couldn’t have shot him. Did I shoot him? He screamed at me. I’ve been hiding. He screamed at me. Couldn’t have shot him. Did I shoot him? Couldn’t have shot him.” And then they said he died in a car accident.

So apparently he left my house, drove around the corner and lost control of the car and hit another house. He broke the steering column upon impact. Broke the windshield with his forehead. And then he got out of the car. This is how high he was off his base joints. This is the only thing I could think of, is how he had this stamina. Got out of the car and started walking back towards my house. He stopped at someone’s house for help. But it was an old deaf couple and they never heard him banging on their door, and he passed out and froze to death.