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Finding Enough Self-Respect to Leave

May 1997

At 19, Cinnamon is the mother of one month old Kahlil. She has struggled to free herself from an abusive relationship with the baby's father. She knows now that she deserves to be treated better, and she is making plans for a better future for her son and herself.

The InSite: Why are you at this Teen Mom's shelter?

Cinnamon: Because I was in an abusive relationship. I found myself going toward this one particular guy because he was older, like a father figure. I've never had a father figure 'cause my father was incarcerated all my life. Also he showed me over-protectiveness, the comfort I was looking for... well, I was not looking for that but I was looking for someone to put me under their wing. To take care of me, hold me, don't ever let me go. 'Cause I didn't have that type of love from my parents. So I bumped into this guy and he showed me exactly that, and it was nice in the beginning.

TI: How much older was he?

Cinnamon: Ten years. He's 30 and I'm about to be 20. I actually didn't know how old he was at first. He told me he was 22, and I looked at his driver's license and it said 30.

TI: Would that have made a difference if you knew his real age?

Cinnamon: No, but he thought it would have made a difference.

I thought, "This is the one!
He's never getting tired of me at all..."

TI: At first the relationship was good?

Cinnamon: Yeah. We saw each other six days out of the week. Every day. Talking together on the phone. Everything just seemed really good. When I talked to him he wasn't like the other relationships. His conversations were always happy talk to me, happy to see me. So I thought, "This is the one! He's never getting tired of me at all. This is really good!" Every time I met him after work he had these stories for me from work. He was just more outgoing than anybody I ever met. He wasn't good looking. I've dated better looking guys, but there was something about him that just made me want to click.

TI: Maybe you believed he was in love with you?

Cinnamon: Yeah! From the first day that we spent time together he was all in my face, like "I want to be with you." I made him wait for months and months, and he still kept coming through with the same excitement he did when we first met up. You know, the whole time I was with him, and even now to this day, I don't believe him.

TI: How come?

Cinnamon: When you're searching for something, you go for anything you can possibly get your hands on that'll stay with you. You try to keep and hold it like a little birdie in a cage. You know it's really sick and needs to be with its parents, but you're trying to hold it because you're wanting to save it or nurture it. You don't want to set it free..

TI: When did things stop being so wonderful?

Cinnamon: When I had to move in with him. Because he was really obligated then to have to be with me all the time and see me all the time.

TI: Whose idea was it to have you move in?

Cinnamon: His. But that was because I had financial problems so he said, "Move in with me." But we bumped elbows all the time.

TI: What would cause the conflicts?

Cinnamon: Like on Friday nights he wanted to hang out with his friends, but he knew I was there and he wanted to stay there with me. He didn't know whether I was going to bring anybody in the house.

...then on a weekend he'll just drink 'til his liver seems like it'll just fall out of his butt!

TI: Sounds like he didn't trust you.

Cinnamon: No! He would want me to go over to his sister's house, and I didn't want to go, I just wanted to stay in the house. But he didn't want me to stay in the house because he was thinking something was going on. He was living in the middle of a [housing] project where all these guys were, and he didn't trust me. And he was alcoholic too. That really put icing to the cake! I knew he was alcoholic when I first met him because he had a beer in his hand. Everyone in my family drinks. They have a beer here or there, but they're not binge drinkers. But this guy won't drink for a week, and then on a weekend he'll just drink 'til his liver seems like it'll just fall out of his butt! Then when he gets drunk he'll flash on me. Like I'm cheating on him. Or like he's going to cheat on me. But I always told him, "All right if you're going to cheat on me. As long as you use protection." But the fact that I wasn't over-possessive with him like he was with me, that made it seem like I was going out for somebody else.

TI: So he'd accuse you of things when he got drunk?

Cinnamon: Yeah, he'd say these little things. And then I would say things to him, too. When he got drunk that's when I really didn't like him because I hated the fact that he would drink.

TI: When you got pregnant, you guys weren't using protection?

Cinnamon: No. This was his whole idea.

TI: You mean he wanted to have a baby?

Cinnamon: Yes. He wanted to have a baby.

TI: Was there physical abuse in the relationship?

Cinnamon: Yeah, there was a few times we got physical.

TI: Did he hurt you?

Cinnamon: Oh, yeah! I hurt him, but he hurt me worse because he's a man.

...he came to [me] so many different
times saying, "I apologize."

TI: After the first time that happened did you think of leaving him?

Cinnamon: I left him! Then he came to where I was staying so many different times saying, "I apologize." And giving me reasons. And I was like, "I'll have to think about it." So then we got back together.

TI: Then what happened?

Cinnamon: Something was missing when I went back. It's like he knew, "She came back. She'll always come back." So a degree of him changed. He didn't put forth things to me any more. I don't mean material things, I mean emotions. He sort of shut that part down. So I constantly asked "Where did they go?" And he acted like he didn't know what I was talking about. So I started feeling like he's cheating on me! Like he was going someplace else. But I never said anything to him. Because I felt like if I asked him I wasn't going to believe him anyway! So I just kept the feelings inside.

TI: Was there more physical abuse?

Cinnamon: Oh, yeah.

TI: Did you leave again?

Cinnamon: I left again. And I came back. It was another financial problem. I was living in the church home, and then I saw him on New Year's Eve -- just to celebrate New Year's Eve and then I was going back to the church home. And he passed out, and I couldn't get out of the house because he locked the gate, and you've got to have the key to get in and out. So I called the church home, and I was like, "Look I can't get out." And they said, "You weren't supposed to go out anyway. You can't come back here." I told him, and I put him on the phone and he said, "Oh, well. She's moving in with me again." So they packed my stuff and the next day he went over to go pick up my stuff. So I stayed there and I just knew that that was the last time I was going to be living in that house because I was just going through hell.

...he was drunk and said that nobody's going to want me 'cause I'm fat and I'm going to have a baby.

TI: Something big must have happened that made you leave the last time.

Cinnamon: We were driving down the street and he was drunk and said that nobody's going to want me 'cause I'm fat and I'm going to have a baby. And I didn't believe that because I'm a very beautiful young lady, and I'm not fat anymore! I have a beautiful son! So I'm not worried about it, and I always knew that wasn't true but I'm thinking, "Why is he saying this to me when he's sitting here, 30 years old, drunk, with no life? I mean, I hate to say it, but..." Anyway, we were driving down the street and he called me something, I don't remember what it was, and I called it back. And he slapped me.

TI: While he was driving?

Cinnamon: While he was driving. And I slapped him back and I told him, "You slap me while I'm pregnant!?" And I left him. The next day I called my case manager, and we talked. And she told me about the Teen Mom's Shelter, and I talked to them and I came here.

TI: It's a good thing that you got out of that relationship. You went through a lot.

Cinnamon: Oh, we had another fight that I forgot to tell you about. I was two months pregnant only I didn't know it until I was three months. And he wanted to go out, and he wanted me to go over to his sister's house again. And I told him, "No. I want to stay here, I'm tired. I just got off of work." And he said, "No, you've got to plan something with your cousin." And I said, "I want to stay here." So then I must have said something to piss him off. He pushed me. I pushed him. He hit me. I hit him. He threw me down. He put a bag over my head. I kicked him in the nuts. He pulled out a gun. He didn't say anything, he just had the gun in his hand. And I was thinking, "This man is crazy..." but then, after it was all over, he gave me a kiss and he acted like I just forgot it. I forgave him, but I never forget anything.

When guys are abusers and they know that you need them... they try to use that, to get you.

TI: But you stayed after that!?

Cinnamon: Yeah, I stayed after that. It was an emotional problem for me. I thought I needed him. Even through all of that. I mean, I'd been abused as a child and my momma still loved me. So I got confused. Plus I was pregnant, and I had no place to go, so I thought I needed him. And he knew that. When guys are abusers and they know that you need them, or they know that you need something, a place to stay, or you were abused as a child, they try to use that, to get you. And when they got you, they manipulate, and they flip it around. Like you're the bad guy. And you're constantly trying to kiss their butt, to help them not to think that way, knowing that they have the problem all along.

TI: The first time there was physical abuse in this relationship you left, which is a healthy reaction. But then you went back for more. Is there anything anyone could have told you at that moment that would have made it clear to you that you did not need this person in your life.

Cinnamon: If they would have said, "You do not need this person in your life!" and if they were able to say that in a way that I could understand.

TI: But there was nobody there to tell you that?

Cinnamon: Nobody.

TI: So now you have this beautiful little boy. What can you do to help him grow up to be a man who does not deal with things in a violent way?

Cinnamon: I'm going to constantly talk to my son about how we feel. I'm going to give Kahlil that love so he won't have to try to fight. I've been in abusive relationships all my life, and this boy has been my miracle. Because I know that I can do without his father. As far as the emotional part, I was doing better without him. I don't need to be abused. Kahlil does not need to see that.

I don't need to be abused.
Kahlil does not need to see that.

TI: Right!

Cinnamon: So I'm going to take me and Kahlil and work towards our future and have a loving, understanding relationship. When I was in the hospital I was angry. I was thinking, "This little boy needs a father." I mean, I'm the mom and the father. But he has a father, but his father's not worth it. But he doesn't know that. And it hurt me.

TI: Has Kahlil's father made any effort to see him?

Cinnamon: Not really. Something always comes up. You should have seen how much I had to go through just to get him to sign the birth certificate. It took me so much anger, and aggression, and tears and persuasion just to get him to do that! I don't know to explain this guy, he's just irresponsible.

TI: He sounds like a child himself.

Cinnamon: Doesn't he? That's why I said, "I can't raise two babies." I'm going to go to college and raise this one. I'm hearing on the radio all this about teen pregnancy and how it's so hard. I understand it's going to be difficult, but I can't raise two children. I only pushed one of them out.

TI: How long can you stay at this shelter?

Cinnamon: 'Til six weeks after I had him (he's 35 days old now). Next week I have a meeting at this transitional housing program. If I can get in we can stay there for six months. And they'll help me through, with Kahlil with parenting and the whole basic program. It'll be good. We can grow together. This is the same thing my mother went through with my dad. Alcoholism. Trying to keep together, but we all went our five different ways. And I don't want my son to go through what I went through. I may be 19 going to be 20, but I've seen a lot. I don't want him to even go there. I want him to eat carrots and cheese for snack. Not lollipops and rice crispy treats. And I want him to always walk around with an apple in his hand, 'cause an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Why is that? Because the apple is nutritious. It's not full of sugar.

TI: Where did you learn all this stuff?

Cinnamon: My mother used to physically abuse me until I told her to stop. Then she would emotionally abuse me, and I would just go into the bathroom, and I would talk to myself. I would say, "If my child asked me ['Why do I have to?'] I would do this: I would explain to the child why. Because the child wants to know." He's going to go find out anyway, so you might as well tell him because he's going to do it anyway.

TI: So you've been taking notes all these years on how to be a good mom?

Cinnamon: Yeah. It's all in my head.

...I would just go into the bathroom, and I would talk to myself... "If my child asked me 'Why?'... I would explain to the child why..."


[An update, Cinnamon and Kahlil were accepted into the transitional housing program where they can stay for six months]


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