Update 10/5/2016: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While this post was written in 2014, it is still a viable post that deserves your attention. You see, one of the men from this true story, “Jim,” has decided to run for mayor for the City of Richmond, Virginia. We cannot allow an abuser to take over the day-to-day operations of our city. I am asking each of you who live in the #RVA to read this book, share it with your friends, and vote #NoAbuserForMayor during the upcoming election.
Domestic violence affects many. Women from all walks of life. From the cashier at the local supermarket, to the successful director of a beverage company and everyone in between. rvabUSED is the honest memoirs of a woman who found herself in not one, but two such relationships, with two completely different men.
Franco – the sociopath. Her first was Franco, the successful owner of a Richmond restaurant, father to her son, George, as well as an infamous white-collar drug dealer. Franco beat her, verbally and emotionally abused her daily, and eventually cheated on her as well. Cassandra left town because of the abuse, diagnosed with Battered Women’s Syndrome and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, because of her relationship with Franco, a diagnosed sociopath.
Cassandra appeared in court 26 times in one year due to Franco. Once it was all over, Cassandra won custody of George. Cassandra’s other child, Lauren, was living with her father in Richmond because he was married and could give her more stability. Unfortunately, Lauren was the biggest casualty of Cassandra’s relationship with Franco – as most children are. She never recovered from the trauma of watching her mother be abused every day at the hands of Franco, and became a drug addict. Cassandra suffered tremendous guilt for not leaving earlier, for not seeing the signs, for everything.
As a mother who has been in the same situation, dealing with an abuser, having your child witness the abuse firsthand, I know the angst that Cassandra feels over her child. I understand her want to pay for the rehabilitation, the lawyers, the therapy. I understand the need to fix the damage that you have inadvertently caused, and I also understand that your children need to come to the realization that they need help, that they want help, before you can help. George on the other hand, grew up and graduated from college and is truly (and most importantly) a good person.
Jim – the narcissist. Cassandra came back to Virginia to visit her friend, Jenna, who was dying of cancer. Jim had had an affair with Jenna off and on for years, because she was in an unhappy marriage, and apparently Jim was fine with that. No strings, no attachments, no commitments. Jim was working as a landscaper while he and Jenna were together. Shortly after he began his relationship with Cassandra he entered the political arena and ran for office. Just four weeks after Jenna’s passing, Jim began pursuing Cassandra relentlessly.
Narcissists have a lack of empathy and personal self-interest, mixed with a particular cunning charm and the ability to manipulate others, all of which makes them highly abusive to live with. They do everything to hinder their partner when they attempt to regain their self-worth, to get back on their feet, to move on with their lives. Everything is about them, and they are so good at manipulation they can suck you back in to their web of lies and deceit without you even knowing it.
Cassandra’s relationship with Jim lasted two and a half years before she finally was able to break free from Jim. The man who lied, cheated, used people for his own advancement, blamed others for the problems he had. She loved Jim openly and honestly, giving him everything she could of herself, and in return he gave her nothing. He was cruel, he took advantage of her vulnerabilities. While he never physically abused her, sometimes the emotional abuse is a thousand times worse.
Survivors of domestic violence that have made it through to the other side will tell you the same thing. Life is a gift. There are times when you are just so tired, so exhausted, feel so small, you feel as though you cannot take one more step. You cannot make it one more day. Then you look at your children. Your friends rally around you. You tell others about your experience, the hard lessons, and perhaps you help another. Slowly the sunshine begins to return to your life. If you can help just one person, then everything that you have been through is worth it.
Most abusers are incapable of change. Part of the shame a battered woman feels is not wanting anyone to know how bad things are. She cuts herself off from everyone and everything. Once you are out of the relationship, if you are lucky enough to escape, it can take years before you allow yourself to love again. To allow anyone to get that close again. To open yourself up to the pain again.
As women, we have an inherent need to nurture, to love, and to be appreciated and loved in return. Even when we may fail, that need, that desire is always there. You can knock us down, you can kill our sense of self, our worth, our self-esteem. We are fighters, we are survivors, and we will always fight our way back to the top. You can knock us down, but you cannot keep us down.
Sienna Floyd is the author of rvabUSED and divides her time between her hometown, Richmond, VA and NYC. She has a successful career in the event marketing industry. She volunteers regularly at a local abuse organization for survivors of sexual and/or intimate partner violence.
Through the eyes of Cassandra, Floyd tells two stories of domestic abuse based upon her life in Richmond, Va. Though names have been changed to protect those involved, the stories tell of her actual experiences, which left her unable to work at times or interact with people.
rvabUSED is her first published work and serves as a prequel to her upcoming novel, Little White Lines. She enjoys her time traveling, practicing yoga, and discovering all the things in life that really matter.