When Love Gets Rough
By Crystal H. Weston, J.D.
Reprinted with permission from Venus magazine Vol. 4, No. 4
Monique Lawrence is a male-to-female pre-operative transgender woman living in San Francisco. Ms. Lawrence came to the San Francisco District Attorney's office seeking assistance when her life was threatened by her ex-boyfriend. I served as her advocate.
Crystal Weston: Why did you agree to do this interview?
Monique Lawrence: I believe it might help other women. I hope this will help a lot of people [realize that] this is your one time to live. Stop it when it starts: leave. Don't waste time leaving. You may lose a lot of material stuff, but you'll be alive.
CW: What was the incident that convinced you to call the police?
ML: When he struck me across my head with his fist; he hit me in my breast area [too] and knocked me to the floor. The first time he struck me was in the kitchen. The second time he struck me I [went for] a can opener because I was trying to protect myself. He hit me and knocked it out of my hand knocked me to the floor.
CW: What had he done to you in the past that made you believe he was serious about carrying out his threat [to kill you]?
ML: He talked about murdering a queen named Ms. West. He seemed like he enjoyed it, like it gave him a thrill, and I thought "If you could do that to Ms. Mae West, then you could do that to Monique Lawrence." He told my friends that I didn't need friends. When they would come to the gate and ask for me, he'd tell me that he was the only friend I would need. I began to think that I could be laying in the bed dead and nobody would know about it for weeks. My neighbor even started fussing with him because I was sick and they wanted to come see me. He wouldn't take me to the hospital. My neighbor had to take me to the hospital.
CW: What made you decide to involve the authorities?
ML: I did everything I thought I could do for him and he started having mood swings; like he really was getting ready to do harm to me. His eyes would change. They looked like a killer's eyes. Then I remembered there was a warrant out for his parole violation, so I had him arrested.
CW: How did the authorities, police and district attorney treat you?
ML: The D.A. was very nice to me. Very professional. And I'll always love her because she did the best she could. The police treated me nice; they got this killer up out of my house. They arrested him for threatening to kill me over the phone. I really, mentally, believed that he was going to kill me.
CW: Have you sought help outside the criminal justice system, like therapy or civil restraining order?
ML: I went to Woman Inc. to get a three-year restraining order. They treated me nicely and told me I did the right thing. Instead of me breaking the law myself... [They told me] "Why should you put yourself in danger. You're a sick person, and here you got this person trying to kill you."
CW: Do you believe the system has worked for you?
ML: When it comes down to the court, yes.
CW: In what way yes?
ML: I felt the D.A. was pushing harder than I was at the last part. I felt weak at the end and let him walk out that courtroom. Looking at him -- I was still in love with him and it hurt, although I didn't show it. I started crying; [seeing him] in that orange outfit! My baby, a killer! I should have given him the two-year sentence. But nine months [time served]... I felt he had done enough. I think if I had pushed it even more, he would have tried to kill me when he got out.
CW: Was this your first abusive relationship?
ML: No. In Newport News, Virginia I left a 12-year relationship because I got beat up all the time. He beat me for seven good years; and I woke up at the end of that year. I got beat everyday for seven years. He used to beat me under the table! I was working at the City Treasury Department. And he didn't have a job. He wouldn't let anyone get near me because I was really his income. He didn't love me, heloved the money. He taught me a lot. I was a fool because my mama and daddy didn't beat me like that. I was concerned about my body. He broke my arm and put me in a cast. He also broke my leg. My ankle was in a brace. He put me on disability. This is my body. This is me! it belongs to me! I called the police one time on him. They found him with a knife and took him to jail. I wouldn't press charges like a dummy. When they tried to get me to testify against him, I didn't want to do it.
My family knew but didn't want to get involved in our relationship. They told me, "If you come home, then we'll stop it." I packed my suitcase and left and went to North Carolina where I was born. I don't know what woke me up. But all of a sudden it was over [for me]. Years later I came to San Francisco.
CW: What do you want your fellow Black gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender survivors of domestic violence to understand about this phenomenon?
ML: If you have a quarrel that leads to blows, that's when you should seek help. If you get blows thrown at you, it's time to quit and the relationship is over. I believe the next thing after blows comes death. Even if my clothes are there or anything else in the house belongs to me, if I feel threatened, I'd let him have all of that for my life.
CW: As a pre-operative transgendered woman survivor, do you believe you are in a unique position from your gay brothers and lesbian sisters who are also survivors?
ML: We are all the same. We're all dealing with the same problem. We just go through it a little harder.
CW: When you were first experiencing the mistreatment, did you think of it as domestic violence?
ML: I didn't know the meaning of domestic violence. I never heard of the term, until someone told me what I could do. Then I found out I had more rights than I thought I did.
CW: Any final thoughts or feelings?
ML: I'm very sorry I had to go through that with him. He could've turned out to be a great man for me, but I can't take a risk with him. I'm glad I don't have to fear that anymore, (although) I'm still not feeling totally safe, because he could always pop up and say, "remember me?"
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