DONNA ROMAN HERNANDEZ PUBLICATIONS
Women Warriors: Stories from the Thin Blue Line Book
Written by John M. Wills and Total Recall Publications
Donna Roman Hernandez wrote a personal short Police story that is published in the ‘Women Warriors’ Book along with other stories from women in law enforcement.
"AFRAID TO TELL"
These are excerpts from Donna Roman Hernandez' memoir "Battered Blue," to be published in the spring of 2018.
We are all vulnerable to crime; it can strike anyone of us, including cops like me. I survived ten years of child abuse and more than two decades of domestic violence within my home. I was a silent witness to the abuse perpetrated upon me, my mother, brother and sister.
During my twenty-seven year law enforcement career my father tried to kill me twice; once by strangulation and the second time with a firearm. He was a highly-decorated WWII Navy veteran and post-war Sheriff’s Officer. We both had badges and guns; he slept with a handgun under his pillow.
My father was careful where he inflicted his rages. I hid my body bruises, scars, and belt and heal marks underneath my police uniform guarding when and how I changed into and out of my clothes in the police locker room. I kept my family secret hidden.
Most people wake up from their nightmares. I was forced to live mine daily growing up facing a journey not meant for young children. Parents are supposed to protect their children from dangers that threaten them, to ensure they can grow in a safe environment surrounded by love and stability and to lead by example. This is not what happened in our house. On a regular basis I viewed examples of what not to be and mentally absorbed all of it.
My father betrayed his family. He ferociously preyed on all of us thriving on our vulnerability and compliance. Violence was the oxygen that sustained him. He dominated and controlled us. His intentions were cruel and premeditated, his actions criminal. I knew the odds were greater that I would be killed in my own home than as a cop working the streets.
Our house didn’t have a spooky exterior children dare each other to approach. It wasn’t surrounded by iron bars and walls – there were no hardened beds, cells or windows that were backed with steel to keep us there inside. It had a white picket fence, a manicured lawn and garden filled with roses and an American flag displayed year round.
To all I met I was just as free as they themselves were but that was because my shackled chains were invisible – no one ever saw or knew what kept me there. Unbeknownst to all, my father was the gatekeeper and we were his prisoners. He avoided detection and prosecution because we feared him.
I knew my father would kill my mother if we reported his actions to the police or child protective services so I stayed silent.
Under the best of circumstances, it’s difficult to end a relationship with an intimate partner or family member. Love, shared memories and a sense of commitment are bonds that are hard to break. Many battered women want the violence and abuse to stop, but they don’t want the relationship to end.
I know this all too well. I loved my father but hated his behavior. We were biologically connected; however, DNA doesn’t make a family.
During my law enforcement career I handled over 300 inquiries/incidents of domestic violence. I arrested and prosecuted batters for the same acts I allowed my father to perpetrate upon me. My police colleagues, peers and friends would never believe that I would allow this type of abuse to happen in my home for so many years.
My quest had always been to live a normal life but how does this happen in a dysfunctional household with the ever-looming potential of lethal violence? For me, fear of when the violence would happen was worse than the actual acts of violence. I spent lots of time and energy protecting myself from facing what I’d been through. Mentally and emotionally I played it down every way I could. I knew I had to escape but I wasn’t leaving without my mother.
The generational and cultural cycle of domestic violence existed in my family for three generations. I wasn’t fortunate to have grandparents to confront my father or to comfort me with unconditional love; they passed on when I was a toddler. All my maternal and paternal relatives witnessed the abuse but no one stepped up or stepped in to stop him. My mother created somewhat of a safe space for me whenever my father was out of the house.
My break through moment happened one Saturday afternoon when my father almost succeeded in ending my life. I arrived home from a Saturday college class at Rutgers University to a usual argument between my parents in the kitchen. However, this argument sounded different than the others. I heard my mother say she had enough and was leaving.
Upon entering the kitchen, I saw my mother advance towards my father with a cleaver in hand. My police instincts kicked in, I intervened and separated them. My mother dropped the knife and began air punching wildly at my father. I pushed him into the wall, tried to hold him there, however, he reacted, grabbed me by my neck, lifted me off my feet, banged me onto the kitchen table, and channeled all his anger and hate into his destructive hands and began strangling me.
Our eyes met, I saw his bulging and felt mine doing the same. I knew his intention was to kill me. Ironically, I felt at peace, somewhat floating above my own body, ready to leave this life. I saw my mother hitting him, trying to pull him off me and screaming “Stop, you’re going to kill her”. Then I realized if he killed me, she would be next and this motivated me to survive.
For the first time in 35 years, I fought back punching and kicking him with all my will and desire to live. One of my punches to his head successfully released me. I fell off the table, staggered to my bedroom and got my handgun as he barreled up the stairs. We met at the 2nd floor landing. I drew my revolver, cocked it, pointed it at his head and finally he knew looking down the barrel of my gun that I meant business. I told him “No more, it’s over. You will never touch me or my mother again” and he never did. Finally, I would no longer accommodate myself to his brutality.
A few days later Mom and I went to her doctor’s appointment and we never returned to that house of horrors. Several months prior I had rented an apartment, furnished it, and developed a safety plan for us to escape. Shortly thereafter, my mother filed for divorce just a few months shy of their 50th wedding anniversary.
My early and constant exposure to physical and psychological violence had long-term effects on my life. A friend once told me “A wound can’t heal until the glass is removed” and she was right. Counseling helped me deal with my own demons, to realize that I did nothing wrong and to let it go. Forgiveness is an easy word to say, it falls quickly from our lips but living in forgiveness and moving on is another story.
It wasn’t until my retirement from law enforcement that I came to terms with my own victimization. As a former Police Captain and crime survivor, now I speak out for the silent and silenced victims of child abuse and domestic violence.
Liberation came to me as an independent filmmaker with the production of my docu-memoir film, “The Ultimate Betrayal: A Survivor’s Journey”.
My personal story of survival has New Jersey roots but it speaks to the global widespread epidemics of child abuse and domestic violence that happens every minute of every day.
Domestic violence is never okay.
About the Author:
Captain Donna Roman Hernandez (Ret.) served with both the Essex County Police and Caldwell Police Departments in New Jersey during her 28-year law enforcement career. She is a 32-time award-winning independent Filmmaker and the owner of Blue Force Films, a film/video production company based in New Jersey (www.blueforcefilms). Donna is a radio show personality and the creator and Host of THE JERSEY BEAT and TOUGH JUSTICE, both law enforcement-themed internet radio shows. In 2006 she was the first runner-up for the National Positive Force Award for police heroism.
Donna Roman Hernandez may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 973-979-9207.