Trigger Warning: domestic violence, suicide attempt, animal abuse, threats of rape, threats of murder.
“John and I met on a dating app. I was in a dark mental place, and he looked exactly like my favorite musician. It seemed like it was meant to be,” Luna began. “He lived out of state and one weekend, he came to visit me. He never left. We were together for seven years.”
Luna said that the relationship started off well. At first, he kept the apartment very clean, cooked meals, and ran errands. “I have a disability, so it was great to have help around the house,” explained Luna.
The first red flag was the drugs. One day, John sent her to the store for some Sudafed for his sinuses. She bought a different version of the medicine, and he cussed her out for buying the wrong one. Later, Luna discovered he was making meth in the basement of her apartment. Luna started to use the drug with John. “He got me started on meth, but he’d control my access to it. If we fought, he wouldn’t let me use any.”
“I remember the first time he put his hands on me. At that time, I was still feeling that independent strong woman Black Girl Magic,” said Luna. “We were arguing, he spit on me, and next thing I knew, he had me against the wall by my neck. He was pummeling me against the wall and then on the bed. I remember thinking ‘I let a snake into my house.’” That was the first time Luna called the police.
“I just wanted him gone. I didn’t want him to be arrested. But, I also didn’t want him to be homeless. He wasn’t from the area and I couldn’t have that on my conscience,” she said. “After every incident, he would tell me that he loved me and he wouldn’t hurt me.”
The abuse worsened. John would strangle, punch, and kick Luna, and she believes he even killed her cat. Luna fell deeper into depression because of the abuse and was eventually let go from her job. “I attempted suicide and was 302’d [involuntarily committed], and when I returned home from the hospital, John didn’t even welcome me back or ask me how I was,” she said. “Part of me had just given up on life. The only thing that was keeping me going was the drugs.”
Luna’s mother passed away and her father reached out asking her to help pay for cremation. “John didn’t like that at all,” said Luna. “He needed to control everything, including my money.” John called Luna’s dad and threatened him, saying he would rape and kill Luna. “My dad and brother showed up where we were staying and they fought him. John broke my dad’s wrist and I went to the hospital with him and my brother. It broke my heart that this was destroying my family, too.”
After being evicted from several apartments, Luna and John moved from hotel to hotel, only staying places where she could bring Peach, her dog. In the final hotel, Luna couldn’t speak to hotel staff or neighbors without John accusing her of cheating on him.
“John was working at the hotel so we could afford to stay there. He put cameras all over the room and cut the cords to the phone and the television. I just had to sit there and wait for him to return. The only thing I had was a list of numbers that I hid in a hole in the sole of my slipper.” Luna was completely isolated from friends and family. “The violence was increasing. I knew he was going to kill me. I just had nowhere else to go.”
The night Luna left, John told her he was going to paralyze her and make her watch as he killed her dog. “He named specific vertebrae that he would cut, so I would be alive and awake as he did it. I remember him saying ‘when we leave here tonight, I’ll be in handcuffs, and you’ll be in a body bag.’”
Luna doesn’t remember exactly how she got out of the room that night. “He had me backed into a corner, but somehow, I made it through the door. I went down to the front desk. I had a cut on my head and blood running down my face. I said I needed to stay just one more night, but I didn’t have any money. They gave me and Peach another room, but it was right down the hall from him.”
After calling around to find a shelter that would allow her to bring Peach, Luna connected with WC&S. “I don’t even remember what I said. I was probably bawling my eyes out. The advocate said it sounded like I was in lethal danger, so I went to stay in shelter.”
“Soon after I got there, I felt welcome and at home. Somehow, I didn’t think about John very much. I was focused on healing and creating a better life for me and my dog,” Luna recalled. She attended nearly every shelter support group, connected with a psychiatrist, quit using meth, and visited the on-site medical clinic for a concussion and broken finger. “All of the staff members were so caring and helpful. WC&S changed my life for the better.”
Luna made two good friends during her stay. “You start to form a family in shelter. Some connections you make are just temporary, but sometimes you know these relationships are for life,” Luna remarked. “One former resident owned a building, and a friend and I went to visit her. When it was time for me to find housing, the woman asked if I would want to move into a vacancy into her building. I toured the building with WC&S’ Rapid Rehousing Coordinator and it was amazing – my dog could have a yard! I don’t know how, but everything worked out so well.”
Today, Luna is continuing her healing journey and looks forward to attending weekly support groups. “It’s great to be around people who get it. Everybody is at different stages – I’m at the end and I want to help others who are still at the beginning. We can all learn from each other.”
“I view this as rebirth. I’m going to try to do it the right way – for me and Peach. It’s not going to be perfect, but I’ve learned from my mistakes and I know my faults. I know I need to put myself first. It’s not worth sacrificing your whole life for someone else who doesn’t respect you.”