WALK AWAY! - Victim of domestic violence urges women to run at the first sign of abuse
"We don't see death, instead we see a need to try harder to please him, a need to try harder so he doesn't get mad at us the next time," declared Tricia McKenzie* who as a 25-year-old woman has already experienced domestic abuse.
McKenzie was speaking with our news team days after the body of the latest woman to be killed by a jealous spouse was found.
This time the victim was 19-year-old Tashoy Barrett of Arcadia in St Thomas. Barrett moved the number of women killed in domestic violence since the start of this year to 25, up from 15 last year.
McKenzie, also of St Thomas, told The Sunday Gleaner that she knows and understands the fear women involved in abusive relationships experience, even after escaping the situation.
"It (the abuse) didn't start right away. I was 16 and this was my first boyfriend. He was three years older and working in his family business. He bought me gifts, including a phone, and because of his looks and money I gained popularity. A few months later I was deep in him," said McKenzie.
She explained that when her mother found out she was dating she was upset, but after she met the man, who also brought her gifts, she began to respect him.
McKenzie recalled the first time she realised her love story was turning into a nightmare.
"We were walking and laughing when I got a phone call. He grabbed the phone while I was talking and threw it in a tree. When I asked why he slapped me in my face.
"I had no idea how to react so I slapped him back and we began fighting. I swore to myself we wouldn't speak again but he didn't stop until I fell back for him," added McKenzie.
She said the abuse continued but each time she forgave him because she felt obligated to.
"My family was being fed, I was being taken care of, and he would ring those things in my head. I became a prisoner until I didn't love him anymore. I was tolerating him. I had sex and cried, hating him but acting 'lovey-dovey' in public.
"I had fights that left me in pains for days. Looking back brings tears, a bitter feeling in my gut and a taste of blood."
She said her mother shunned the boyfriend when she found out what was happening to her daughter, but he threatened to burn down their house and to kill both her and himself if she left him.
It was fear for her family's lives that kept leading her back into her abuser's arms.
"I prayed. I wanted to be perfect because I thought if I was he wouldn't hit me. I tried to make him comfortable but it continued. I got to the place where I prayed for him to find another woman, and even though he did he wouldn't leave because he invested in me.
"He said if I want to go I must first have a child for him," she said.
According to McKenzie, the abuse lasted for about four years until it came to a point where she almost killed him, as she thought that was the only way out.
The ordeal ended with him migrating, and though that was years ago, she admits that she is still fearful at times.
"To those in toxic relationships ... run! From the first sighting of abusiveness, there is no stopping it. Don't think that he can change, it isn't worth it. You have to see the need to leave, or others won't be able to help you. Know your worth and walk away," she advised.
*Name changed on request