Years ago, the Sunday newspapers and the local radio stations in New York City reported on a man who brutally killed his wife the previous Saturday evening. He and his wife had been separated. She was fearful of him because he had committed violence against her in the past.
Learning of the killing devastated me. I did not know this woman, but still grieved heavily for her. My anger over her slaying was so fierce that I wished someone would kill her killer. I was so overwhelmed by this incident that I lay on my bed feeling depressed for days.
I knew the man who killed this woman. He had been a boyfriend of mine a few years prior to that tragedy. I almost married this man.
My former boyfriend was a troubled man. He was verbally, emotionally, and occasionally physically abusive to me, manipulative and threatening. There were incidents in which he twisted my neck, pushed me out of a door, yelled at me in the street. He criticized my appearance and made me feel like garbage.
His demeanor changed at the snap of your fingers. One minute he would be affectionate. The next minute he would be raging over something slight. Once we were having lunch at a restaurant. Everything was pleasant. Then suddenly, he started complaining about the food service for no reason. He got up and was about to leave the restaurant before our waitress stopped him. I was still sitting there eating, puzzled by his behavior. He took out some money, threw it down on the table, and left.
He would get angry at me for no reason and break up with me. Then I would get a call from him, apologizing and asking to reconcile. Because of my own feelings of low self-worth, I took him back each time. Since then, I have not tolerated any abuse from any man I dated. I love myself too much.
I was relieved when my former boyfriend moved out of the city and broke up with me. I moved on with my life. He would call once in a while but I did not care about him, so would not talk to him much. When he called me and told me he was married and had children, the news was surprising. But when he called me later on some time and told me that things were not going well in his life, I became concerned for myself. I wanted him to leave me alone and keep me out of his drama. He kept calling though, and I kept hanging up on him. The last time I spoke to him, we got into a screaming match because I told him that I did not want him to call me anymore. That night, he killed his wife.
I struggled with survivor’s guilt. His wife and I had both been involved with this man at different times, had both seen the signs that he was troubled. We both got away from him. Yet, he found and killed her. And I always wondered why he did not try to kill me. He knew where I lived. He could have gotten to me. I asked myself over and over, why her? They had children together. Why kill the mother of your children? Why kill anyone? What in the world was he so angry about?
I learned to stop blaming myself. My former boyfriend committed the murder; I did not. There was absolutely no justification for what he did. He may have been angry at her for leaving him. He may have been upset because I refused to speak with him. It does not matter. There was no excuse for what he did. He took the life of a woman, the mother of his children. She had dreams for a better life and he destroyed their family. He even tried to take his own life after he took hers.
I did not follow his case. I cannot tell you where he is today. I just hope he is being held accountable for his crime.
His wife deserved a loving relationship. I hurt knowing about all of the pain she endured at his hands while they were married.
All of us truly deserve relationships that are loving, peaceful, respectful-—and safe.
May it be so.
In memory of P.E.