Growing up with an alcoholic parent, Lawanna Lynn ("Lynn") walked on eggshells and learned to be submissive and codependent. She sought comfort and solace in Christianity and married at an early age. On the outside, Lynn and her husband were the perfect couple; but secretly, for nearly 23 years, she endured domestic violence that included rape and assault at the hands of her husband, who was also a business owner and church leader.
Join Lynn as she attempts to get help from some religious leaders who instead told her to keep silent about the abuse and his addiction to drugs and alcohol, extramarital affairs, and destructive behavior. Learn what she did right, what she did wrong, the warning signs of domestic abuse, and the five deadly marriage deal-breakers. Walk with her as she takes matters into her own hands and gets the legal, therapeutic, and spiritual help needed to make a new life for herself and build healthy relationships.
This poignant, true story will take you on a journey from the pulpit to the prison cell as Lynn strives to set herself free from a life of pain, shame, and guilt. Find out if she keeps the faith or if she turns away from God as she faces her most devastating challenge of all, and learn how you can break the cycle of abuse. This gripping tale of a pastor's wife will keep you riveted to every word until the amazing surprise ending!
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.48(d)|
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Is She Dead Yet?The story of how a woman struggled to escape domestic violence and build a new life
By Lawanna Lynn Campbell
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Lawanna Lynn Campbell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEarly Warning Signs
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." - 1 Corinthians 13:11
It was the end of summer 1974 and the beginning of my high school senior year. I climbed into the back seat of my friend's car and sat next to another kid who was going to a party with us. His name was Kevin, and he was a couple of years younger than me, slim and cute with chocolate-colored skin and a big Afro that swayed in the wind as it swirled around us. I knew he'd ask me to braid his hair one day. It had become the trend, and I was popular for my hair-braiding skills. A few days later, while I was in his family's basement braiding his hair into cornrows, someone peeped down the stairs and yelled, "Who's that?"
I looked up at another bushy-headed young man who wore small, round, wire-rimmed glasses. His name was Jeffery, and he was a lot taller than his younger brother, skinny and very handsome, and his skin complexion was much lighter than his brother's. I thought for sure my friend was adopted becauseboth of his parents were very light-skinned, and he had often referred to himself as the black sheep of the family. The three of us played pool and drank sodas in the basement, and by the end of the evening I came to realize that they were indeed biological brothers.
I later found out that the two brothers made some sort of deal or bet about me, and I guess Jeff won. He began calling me on the phone regularly, and we would talk for hours. Soon we started going out on dates and frequently went to our favorite restaurant in Center City, where we'd have a delicious steak dinner with a tossed salad, baked potato, and garlic bread. He spared no expense, and I enjoyed the lavish treatment and the special attention that he showered on me. Within two months of our initial meeting, I was infatuated and slept with him.
I counted the days on the calendar that hung on my bedroom wall. 27-28-29-30-31-32-33. My period should have come already. "I can't be pregnant," I mumbled. "I just can't be pregnant," I repeated with increased agitation. "I'm going to college." My voice trailed as my eyes began to tear. Within weeks, on a cold, gray day in December, my eyes would water again.
My mother and I took a long train ride to a suburban clinic in another county. The bare, brown trees that lined the train tracks somberly watched the train cars pass by. It felt like the trees were standing guard over the rails, stepping aside to allow passage into some forbidden land. The train rattled and rolled along, stopping and hissing occasionally to let passengers on and off. This wasn't the inner city. This wasn't the projects or the ghetto. It was some faraway place where people go when they don't want to be recognized. I didn't want to make eye contact with anyone, so I looked out the window and stared at the trees. My breath hit the window, and the fog clouded my view, but it didn't disguise this journey that would change my life. I suspected that the guardian trees and everybody else on the train knew where I was going and what I was planning to do that day. Even though no one looked directly at me, my paranoia filled in the blanks and I believed that everyone knew I was hiding a shameful secret. The shame and guilt I felt that day would come back to haunt me and stay with me for a very long time.
When we arrived at the women's medical center, I noticed a definite change in my surroundings. The clean and sterile waiting area had pastel colored walls, arrangements of assorted plastic flowers on the tables and neatly arranged women's magazines. It was a big improvement from the dark and dismal train ride in slate- and gray-colored structures. There was a warm and welcome feeling in the air - not at all like the impersonal, cold streets of the inner city.
A few other teenage girls and young women were already in the reception area, and we all sat quietly, each paired with her companion for the procedure - a mother, a female relative, a boyfriend, or a girlfriend. They would take us home, hold us if we cried or lost our composure, or maybe just make sure that the deed was done so they could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that they would not be engulfed by the shame we would have brought on our families. Taking me to a place so far out of town ensured that no one in our neighborhood or in our family would ever know that I got pregnant and had an abortion. And the secret would be kept safe.
My mother made the arrangements, and, since I was still a minor, she had to fill out the paperwork. I was ashamed about the whole thing and sat quietly. I didn't want to cause any more problems or make matters worse by protesting. I had already disappointed my mother and my father, and surely, what I had done put a strain on their already fragile marriage. How could I have been so careless and gotten pregnant? I didn't want to have an abortion, but I had no choice. My mother insisted that it be done. I was going to college, and she wouldn't allow my future to be derailed because of some boy. All I could think about was how I could ever live with myself.
A few of us were called into another room, where chairs were arranged in a semicircle. As we took a seat it was obvious that this was going to be some kind of therapy session. A social worker sat among us and asked how we were feeling and if we knew what was going to happen to us. She gave us pamphlets about the female reproductive system, pregnancy, abortion, our rights, and the risks. She told us about the procedure and what we could expect. She explained what emotions we could expect to have and how long it would take our bodies to get back to normal. We were going to take confirming pregnancy tests, get examined, and be prepped. I thought that I would never be normal after this day. I wished I could have stood up for myself and for my baby and just walked out. I wished I could've screamed and yelled at my mother for making me do something that I didn't want to do and what I knew God did not like. But I just sat there. Quietly.
We were called one-by-one into an examining room, and when my name was called, I was obedient and did as I was instructed. I was already prepped and had taken the pill I was given to ease the anxiety. Now dressed in the cloth green gown, I sat waiting on the edge of the examining table. The nurse came in and fussed about in the cold room. I was guided to lie down on the death bed of my baby, covered myself from the waist down in a lightweight sheet, and put my feet in the icy stirrups. My body began to tremble. I could feel the heat from the lamp that was aimed at my lower body, and as the intravenous drip was being set up, my eyes began to water.
The middle-aged doctor came in, and two nurses began to scurry about in the room. The doctor examined me. The pressure of his probing made me uneasy, and when he inserted the speculum I began to shake even more. The room seemed to get colder, and all of a sudden I felt like I was dozing off. As I tried to think about other things, I heard the suction sound of a vacuum cleaner. I could feel the hose brushing against one of my legs. Tears began to fall down the sides of my face, and one of the nurses held my hand and tried to soothe me. I was shaking and trembling. It was so cold in that room. I couldn't stop shaking, and I couldn't stop the tears from falling. But I was going to be brave and didn't make a sound. As I started to drift off into a light sleep, all I heard and thought about was the vacuum cleaner shredding the limbs of my baby. I began to cry deep within and let out only a whimper. I thought, "God will never forgive me for this."
I don't remember the trip home.
Later that evening I was lying on the couch praying that the cramps would go away. I tried to sleep and rest as I was instructed to do. Jeff knew that I had the abortion that day and came over to see me. He sat down at the other end of the couch. He peeked into the brown paper bag that sat on the floor beside the couch. In it was a large box of Kotex sanitary napkins. He was embarrassed and looked apologetic for being so nosy. He said that he was sorry I was in so much pain. I told him that I didn't like what I had done. He said I should have told him and that he would've argued with my mother on my behalf. He said he hadn't wanted the abortion either and was looking forward to a kid. I had only known him for four months and had no idea he was willing to help me raise a baby. I wasn't sure that I was even ready for that assignment. But it was too late now.
I never talked about the abortion again after that. Not with anyone.
* * *
It was time to buckle down and concentrate on schoolwork. My mom and dad were pretty adamant that I not be involved with Jeff anymore, and my father even issued the edict, "That's it. No more sex!" But, I still saw him, and one morning I cut school to go see him. He lived with his elderly aunt who lived in the next block from Jeff's parent's home. Since she used a walker and lived mostly in the living room, Jeff had helped her with household chores and errands. She was a sweet old woman who loved to talk. This morning, though, I didn't stop to chitchat with her as I used to and ran upstairs. I was sitting in a chair by the window in Jeff's bedroom with my school books on my lap when the phone rang. I watched as Jeff's expression changed from his usual charming smile to a deep frown. It was my mom on the other end. She asked him if I was there. Jeff denied it. She demanded that he put me on the phone, and he pointed it in my direction.
The principal had called the house looking for me, since I had not shown up at school. He wanted to hear the speech I had prepared for an upcoming debate presentation and had made an announcement over the loud speakers that was heard in every classroom. When I didn't respond, the teachers and administrators did an all-out search. They called the police because they thought I had been abducted on my way to school. No one thought I could have actually cut school, because that wasn't like me. When the principal called the house to report that I was missing, my mom knew instantly that I had gone to be with Jeff. She found my phone book and looked up Jeff's number. I took the phone and listened as my mother yelled and screamed and threatened. And then I picked up my books and went home. I was on punishment.
When I returned to school the next day, I told the principal and teachers that I had an appointment that I had forgotten to tell my mom about. My classmates teased me, because there was a rumor going around that I cut school to be with my boyfriend. One of my classmates said that she didn't believe the rumors, that she knew I wouldn't do anything like that, and that I was way too smart for that kind of thing. Inwardly, I cringed and was sorry for disappointing her.
The rest of my senior year was exciting. I loved school and was looking forward to college. I thought about going away to school and completed several in-state college applications. Since we were a poor family, I could only go to the school that offered the most financial aid. I received a Meritorious Scholarship Award for outstanding academic performance from the Philadelphia Board of Education and was accepted into Temple University. The award was a full four-year scholarship. I was ecstatic, and my family was proud. My parents beamed as they bragged to their friends and family that their oldest daughter was going to college. I would commute to school, since Temple was only six blocks from my house. And now that college admission was all wrapped up, I saw no need to continue to work at getting superior grades. I decided not to complete a specific class project, and my Social Sciences grade slid down to a "B." I maintained my overall "A" average in the other classes, even though I had not put forth much effort. I continued working my after-school job as a pharmacy cashier and billing clerk and enjoyed having the extra cash.
Jeff escorted me to the prom and attended the graduation ceremony with the rest of my family. Throughout the summer we'd occasionally take a bus ride to visit his relatives. His family allowed him to drink beer and other forms of alcohol, and sometimes he would go out of sight and come back smelling like marijuana. I could tell he was trying to hide this from me, but I suspected that something else might be going on. On a visit to his friend's apartment, he told me that he occasionally used intravenous drugs, but was going to stop because of me. He said he knew I didn't like it. Since he had stopped smoking cigarettes earlier that year, I knew that he had the willpower and determination to break this habit, too. I believed in him, and he stopped shooting up. I saw the changes he made for me, and I was not willing to give up on him yet, especially since he was good to me.
* * *
One day in late July while we were on the phone talking, he asked me about other guys I had dated since knowing him. I wasn't prepared for the question. I suspected he was not a one-woman man and that he had been sleeping with other girls - one in particular. Once, when I went to see him at his aunt's house, he wouldn't answer the door. Instead, he leaned out of the upstairs window and told me that he couldn't come out because he was busy. I knew that the other girl was up there. The plain-looking, full-bodied, light-skinned one. I saw Jeff talking with her once before, and she had that "round-the-way" girl look - you know, the look of the girls in your neighborhood who are rumored to sleep around. And her complexion was so light that she could pass for white. She had the upper hand and I was jealous. I had been teased by other kids about my dark skin, and I had not yet accepted the "Black is Beautiful" mantra.
Isn't it amazing how Black people would describe other Black people by first indicating their shades or hues? Light skinned. Dark skinned. Brown skinned. High yella. Or just plain ole blue black. And the next most important descriptor would be hair texture. Good hair or nappy hair. Someone with good hair must've been of Indian or some other racial background. I grew up believing that being dark-skinned was bad. I grew up believing that having nappy hair was bad. So, in my mind, I already had two strikes against me.
I began to sweat and started thinking about how I could tell him about Freddie. I wanted to be honest with him and not be called a liar later on. It was best to get it out in the open now, so that if anything unpleasant went down I could get out without investing any more time into this relationship. So, I told him about Freddie, whom I had been seeing off and on just before meeting Jeff. There was dead silence on the other end of the line. Then all of a sudden I heard the high-pitched crashing ring sound that a phone makes when it's slammed down or slammed against a wall. I could feel my underarms tingling and perspiration beading on my skin, and without a word I gently eased the phone down in its cradle. He didn't call back. I didn't call him either. I was too scared.
A few days later, Jeff called me. He said that he forgave me and wanted to see me. I thought, "Forgave me? Forgave me for what?" There wasn't anything to forgive. So, I skipped over. We only lived a few blocks away from each other, and if I stood at the end of my street and looked as far as I could, I could see him at the corner of his street.
We sat on the bed, and he asked me about the details of my relationship with Freddie, so, I explained as calmly and clearly as I could. He listened intently and then without warning lunged for my throat and started choking me. His grip was tight, and I squirmed and began gasping for air. As he pressed hard against my neck, I could actually feel my eyes bulge and the veins protrude at my temples. His eyes seemed to pierce right through me. I couldn't scream. As suddenly as he had pounced on me, he released his hold. I inhaled deeply and began coughing.
Excerpted from Is She Dead Yet? by Lawanna Lynn Campbell Copyright © 2009 by Lawanna Lynn Campbell. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
1 Early Warning Signs....................3
2 Wedded Bliss....................19
3 Let the Beatings Begin....................29
5 Five Deadly A's....................57
6 Wearing the Mask....................69
7 One Boulder at a Time....................79
8 Moving In....................91
9 Time to Move Out....................103
10 Feeling the Fear....................117
12 In Therapy....................135
13 A New Direction....................147
14 Reflection: What Took Me So Long?....................157
15 Residual Effects....................171
Bibliography / Recommended Reading....................185
About the Author....................189