Ashley Joseph is not the only college student who has been in a relationship marred by domestic violence. She was intimidated and hesitant to leave her fiancé because of emotional, physical and physiological abuse. It was enough to have her contemplate suicide.
Petrified of becoming another statistic of an African American woman being battered by her lover, Joseph like many other women, did not seek psychiatric assistance because she did not feel comfortable talking to a professional. Yet she was in fear for her life.
"The first incident was when I was promenading out the door. He yanked me by my arm, launched me onto the wall causing me to hit my head and announced that I was not going anywhere. I was perplexed and did not know what to do. Everything happened in a blink of an eye and there I was blaming myself for him being angry, " said Joseph, a 25-year-old graduating senior at Florida A&M University.
Joseph stayed until her fiancé fell asleep and then she fled to a nearby grocery store. Hesitant to seek help, she sat in her car for hours and cried before returning home.
Isolated from her family, peers and confined from the entire world, Joseph’s life began to drastically change for the worse.
"She would call me randomly; her voice would be very shaky, and I knew something was wrong, but she would never fully discuss what she was going through. Everything she said was always short ended. Once she finally told me about the first incident of him pulling her back into the house, I told her if he ever put his hands on her again he will never see what is coming for him," her best friend Arielle Huntlui, 26, said.
Isolated from her family and friends during her three years in the relationship, Joseph became a slave to fear. He instilled in her head that she was alone, and no one cared about her existence. He controlled every move that she made such as phone calls, purchasing items or even walking down the street. Joseph became a prisoner to the man she loved.
According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, African American women experience higher rates of intimate partner homicide when compared to their white counterparts.
"December 4, 2015, will forever be etched in my memory. My day was going godawful and suddenly when he entered the house something in the air smells like death to me. I prepared for this day for some reason. We had been arguing about calling the wedding off because of his indecisiveness. As I was exiting the door he placed me in a chokehold. All I remember hearing him utter is, ‘I am going to kill you.’
"I began to get weak and I felt defenseless, my life began to flash before my eyes. I recall seeing my pastor in an all white gown baptizing me. I opened my eyes and began searching for the nearest object to hit him with. We scuffled, and I was able to reach for a bat in my perimeter. I do not know where I got my strength from, but I was able to strike him one good time before he became weak and defenseless. I then proceeded to hit him with all my rage and frustration until he looked like he could not move.
"I then grabbed the phone and called the police. Fixed in my mind was my pastor's words to my fiancé: ‘You've got a strong woman, I hope you take care of her,’” Joseph said.
In the United States, researchers estimate that their husbands or boyfriends, frequently in the context of an ongoing abusive relationship, kill 40 to 70 percent of female murder victims.
Errol was not arrested when the police arrived. Joseph said she was told by the police officer that they both would get arrested because she used force while fighting him.
Joseph has joined the #METOO movement to inspire other women to get out of abusive relationships and share their stories. “I am alive, a lot of women are afraid to leave because of a plethora of reasons but I want them to know that they can leave,” she said.