Dolores Brown is a pseudonym, per the request of the woman who actually survived this harrowing tale of domestic abuse, one of which there are many, the survivors of which still live in quiet shame. Some join support groups. Some move one. Then many never end the cycle and are killed by their abusers. “Dolores” knows how easily she could have easily lost her life or at least more than she did so this is her story. All names have been changed.
Dolores met Branche in high school. He was the attractive, charming, enviably popular pot dealer – a friend of a mutual friend. It was that simple. In the even smaller Uptown of “Small Town New Orleans” the two met again, several years later. He was twenty. She was twenty-two. She was dabbling in moving a bit of cocaine for her dealer to use for free on a recreational level. Dolores and Branche were reunited in a mutual friend’s parents’ house, where the parents were out of town. Dolores had made back the money owed to her guy and still had coke. She and Branche began to talk and flirt. She pushed him a white line from her bag, and he pulled out a heroin foil. Dolores had tried small sniffs here, and there of the brown powder, Branche pushed her way across the table in return. This moment, Dolores now admits, was symbolic of many things to come.
Before Dolores knew it, she was Branche’s girl, running around, selling coke. Dolores allowed a spoiled trust fund and a very meddling female friend of Branche’s shoot her up for the first time. The new couple attended raves together at State Palace Theater where Dolores discovered that in the company of young men only, her underwear was high-value cargo space. Once inside, She had already earned Branche, as well as herself each a free ecstasy tab. There were more complex arrangements when running the mish mash pressed pill within the rave without anyone speaking to their roommate.
Dolores was still struggling to keep a passing GPA at UNO hoping to attain a bachelor’s in Communications. This was when Branche began to terrorize her psychologically. She was given an opportunity to make up her final exam or turn in a final paper Branche had already made her late for. Somehow his car would die. Sometimes something else would go “’mysteriously” wrong. Eventually, by the hair of her teeth, Dolores was barely getting in an emailed political science final paper barely under the wire to her professor. She had used the money earned working a phone poll for the university pre-election to buy some Soma muscle relaxers. Cocaine use was also going on downstairs while she put final touches into her paper in Branche’s family office when Greg, a friend of Branche’s hanging out with them ran up the stairs yelling for all to hear that Branche might be overdosing. Dolores was skeptical from the beginning since she had provided the pills. Sure enough, the muscle relaxers had cause Branche to have a muscle spasm. Dolores was enraged, watching the first of many feigned panic attacks signature to his seeking attention or excuses for his behavior. The EMTs cleared the matter medically, but protocol required Branche and his mother to ride in an ambulance to Baptist Hospital’s Emergency room.
Dolores and Greg were left at the house with the car keys, awaiting the call to pick up mother and son from the hospital. Dolores rushed through the rest of her paper and sent it in. Earlier that evening she and Branche had seen their main dealer in the somewhat nearby area known as Geurthtown who had been a heroin foil short and said he would get it back to Branche. Dolores, still thinking things would work, discussed Greg’s desire to try smoking crack. Between his cash and what Dolores had left over, Dolores called up the guy known as Slim, and she and Greg took the jeep to meet him, make their purchase, and grab Branche’s other foil.
When the call came, Dolores waited until the three were again alone and gave Branche the heroin he was happy to inhale and pass out on. Dolores and Greg had been smoking some of their crack in the car on back streets with which she was already familiar. Now, as they continued, Dolores did not know why, but she and Greg began to make out and somewhat mess around fully clothed. She stopped and lay down with Branche, her respective boyfriend.
As time went on the verbal slights, constant criticism from Branche against Dolores escalated. There was never anything right about her or what she did. His friends mocked her as she walked through what was supposedly their living room. Branche became suspect and paranoid about her family, particularly her younger sister and the sentiment was mutual. One fateful day, during one of few phone conversations between Dolores and her concerned father, Mr. Brown told her that she had to choose: UNO tuition or Branche. She felt she had no choice, especially when Branche walked in while she was on the phone and manipulated her into accepting him with every despicable tactic imaginable. So Dolores stopped attending UNO.
One day while Dolores sat alone upstairs, avoiding the judgmental eyes of a room full of guys whose minds were poisoned against her by Branche including Greg, Dolores heard some of the most ominous footsteps she ever had. Branche stormed in, slamming the door behind him. Apparently, Greg thought it would be a real laugh to tell Branche about the already long past sophomoric liaison (if it could be called that.) Branche slapped Dolores for the first time and promptly blamed her for causing him an alleged panic attack. Then he told her that it would take an unknown amount of time and effort for her to get back to where he claimed they had been. Of course, like with the few monstrous domestic abusers whose evil deeds have been revealed, this idea of redemption is not only unattainable but also his excuse to continue the abuse. Dolores still tried masochistically so, speaking to her family secretly and enduring absurd demands.
The two would do powder cocaine together; he always acknowledged some sexual inadequacies the drug caused him, but upon consuming it, Branche blamed Dolores and how she was not attractive enough the Greg stupidity, and anything not up to par about her and nit her repeatedly. He would then demand that she stop crying and turn him on.
Despite Dolores’s brief lapse infidelity, this, nor anything else EVER justifies abuse. If one cannot let bygones be bygones, the relationship should have ended when the wrongdoing was discovered. Most likely, Branche continued his involvement with Dolores to maintain power over her, something even his actions early on, in hindsight, indicated that he had been vying from the entire time. Everything that ever went wrong, according to Branche was somehow always Dolores’s fault.
Branche’s mother and (once violent alcoholic) and stepfather ran a small casting agency and always kept Dolores in the loop about any roles for which they were paid to cast which might have been a shoo-in for her. One, “naked brunette” in what was presumably a straight to DVD film set in New Orleans, Dolores passionately rehearsed with her best Chalmette accent. On the day of tryouts for this small opportunity as well as many others, Branche saw to it that she was mentally distraught, if not severely bruised. She never made any of these casting calls.
As time went on, Branche became more and more addicted to crack and heroin. Two separate guys with a friendly competition in the same hood would compete to the couple first thing in the morning. Needless to say, though Branche tormented her over every bit of either of these substances, Dolores was still mentally if not chemically dependent on heroin, knowing that it made Branche less violent, more docile, but if that failed, his blows which struck harder every did not hurt as much. The crack was not as much a priority to Dolores as it apparently was to Branche and several people they knew.
With no concern for Branche’s car’s gas meter dangling over empty, he CHOSE to smoke freshly procured crack in his moving vehicle. While he engaged this compulsion, Dolores was responsible for the steering wheel, the street in front of them, as well as the side view mirror. If the tank ran dry while they cruised around, in the blazing heart, Dolores was shouted at to somehow produce change either from the car floor or her purse with which to walk to wherever the next gas station was carrying the gas can and back.
Dolores tried to keep herself supplied with the bare minimum which primarily included food, water, and cigarettes. Branche had left one evening when she had just gotten a carton on foot to meet the dealer pissed at her for something trivial and dropped the $100 in cash he was carrying in the dark. Dolores retraced Branche’s footsteps with him and discovered 80 of the $100. This was not. Branche insisted she trade her carton of smokes to make up the difference. When for once, she stood her ground which led to Branche giving her a huge black eye. She took a handful of some Lamictal, traditionally an anti-seizure drug. Branche was so wrapped up in still getting at least crack since the planned meeting had been canceled by the impatient dealer. So into his car, which was officially not to be driven Branche dragged Dolores, assuming she had successfully puked up the pills.
Before Branche even thought anything might be wrong, he had already almost abandoned a dizzy Dolores on a small median. He then came back and cruised up to the regular set, and a guy approached the car. Because of the pills, Dolores imagined that the purchase had been made and began to violently shove the street dealer screaming, “We’re straight!” Branche made the block and demanded that she be cool, looped around and got his precious rock.
Dolores could not stop shaking from the pills as she stuck her finger down her throat, hanging her head out of the car window while Branche nonchalantly cruised around, hitting the pipe and punching her in the side. When done, he parked back at his mother’s house inside of which Dolores promptly fell flat on the floor. This was when Branche finally involved his mother who loaned her car to him to bring Dolores to the ER. On the way she vomited on the floor some.
After regaining consciousness, Dolores was informed that the first anesthesia she was given made her violent, apparently not an unusual adverse effect and had then been administered Lorazepam. The entire time in the recovery room Dolores maintained that she had fallen when already overdosing and THIS was how she got the black eye. Both her mother and father nodded silently and stoic, not able to point out the obvious.
A transport ambulance brought Dolores to Touro’s psychiatric ward, since Baptist, where she had been in the ER did not have one. A kind Ambulance worker gently told her that he knew she was covering for the person who hit her, that he saw it all the time, and she should get away from him. This did not come to fruition. While Dolores was committed under a 2-day hold, Branche, with whom she had been attending the rest of the two prepaid weeks of a Methadone clinic, overslept and was not issued take-home doses for the Mardi Gars holidays, which of course was Dolores’s fault.
Upon release from the psychiatric hold, aside from an expensive medical bill, Dolores had a little borrowed time to watch a parade which ran near her childhood home with family, immediate and some other relatives who were visiting. This came to an end, and Dolores returned to the barren piece of hell in which she lived.
Matters worsened at lightning speed after the “incident” as it was undermined by Branche. Still playing the Greg card, Branche became convinced that there was an endless amount of terrible personal secrets that Dolores must be hiding. By now, though Branche’s mother was an easily manipulated enabler, his stepfather was far more skeptical about Branche’s countless lies and acts of thievery for which Dolores was immediately blamed. Branche’s mother would check them into a low grade “no-tell motel” on Airline Highway with drug and (sometimes) food money. It was in various rooms at a certain establishment of this sort that the violent interrogations, privately known to Dolores as “truth sessions” occurred. Based on the postulation by Branche that maybe he could forgive Dolores for, well you name it if she only divulged first everything about which she had directly been dishonest or deceptive. There was really little to nothing to reveal. Dolores had lived in fear of even pissing off Branche in the slightest way. He insisted, knee pressed hard against her neck on the motel bed, that there MUST be more.
Dolores then began to fabricate things including having come onto two of his friends. When one denied it, the new game was for Dolores in a virtually identical room in the same wing of the motel to confess every “messed up thing she had ever done.” Again, even after she had resorted to fiction, Branche put more of his weight on her neck, hitting her in the interim. There always had to be more, even when Dolores fabricated an incestuous enclave with her younger sister (her sister later heard this lie from the wrong source and spent the rest of her life until her mid-twenties and finally asked Dolores thinking she had repressed such a memory) until eventually, Branche relented for the night.
Though sadly not by her own free will, Dolores was absconded from Branche to Northern Louisiana shortly before Hurricane Katrina. Between the positive influence of those around her and the storm’s silver lining for her, Dolores Brown moved on and returned to a semi resurrected New Orleans and a new life where nobody ever had to know about many of the things she did under duress. The living thing only is known to her now as The Monster, many of which she respectably so she will never speak of and cries at the thought of that she did wrong to herself and other people.
Dolores Brown is alright as of today. She is doing her best to make up for lost time, but many men and women everywhere are still being physically and/or verbally abused by their lover or spouse. They hide it well. But, to those who are living such a hellish existence out of what you believe to be love, abuse of any kind is altogether inhumane and NOBODY should feel entitled to treat ANYONE that way, much less someone they supposedly love. They don’t know what love is!!!
If one is curious as to learn of how horribly wrong these toxic relationships can go, there is the real case of Paul and Karla Bernardo; Paul was an admitted rapist who abused his wife, Karla, engineered a situation which led to the death of Karla’s sister and Karla’s participation in subsequent rape/ abductions and a murder. The film, Karla, starring Laura Prepon is a film depiction of this gruesome case in particular.
Some textbook traits of an abuser are:
a) Once someone (male or female) hits a spouse or significant lover, no matter how “sorry” they are and how they swear they will never do it again, they will.
b) An abuser will cut off their victim from their friends and family, isolating them in an insular world in which he/ she is entirely dependent upon them.
c) There is always an unattainable “if you just would” or “if you” that will allegedly end the abuse. Often, no matter what you do they will find much fault in it, the abuser will become more violent
d) “If you loved me…” This is a major manipulation tactic employed by abusers as well as lies about how things could have been “had you not done this.”
Along with these traits, there are many other horrific ways in which an abuser rationalizes his/her actions. There are warning signs that friends and loved ones should look out for if someone close to them may be in an abusive relationship. The person being abused will often become distant, dropping everything the moment the abuser calls, yanking them away from time spent with anyone else. If one actually gets around to introducing their abuser to people, aside from looking out for bruises, others should pay attention to the couple’s interactions. Does he/she continuously correct their partner? Do they display territorial body language, i.e., when the suspected abuser’s partner speaks “out of turn” they stand behind them or otherwise seem to behave menacingly?
Of course, when someone is being abused, they are essentially brainwashed into doing whatever their abuser says or wants out of fear of losing him/ her because they are so broken down emotionally that he/she actually believes they will never have anyone else and are fortunate to be with their Monster. Even, the incredibly talented and successful, as well as gorgeous Rhianna jeopardized her musical career, briefly sneaking around with her abuser, Chris Brown, despite her fans’ threats to boycott her tours and her music if she did not stop seeing him. Fortunately, the vocal gem came to her senses, but many cases end up more like the “ripped from the headlines” rendering of the case on Law And Order SVU in which the young female singer does not leave her abuser and is killed. Either way, the toll an abusive relationship takes on a person is continual, even after the abuser is out of his/her life and in the distant past.
However, nobody is alone. Many people do believe you and see the good things in you for what you are, and it is okay to talk about it.
If you are in an abusive relationship or fear someone for whom you care about may be, there are support groups as well as affordable counseling around New Orleans. These groups are VERY anonymous, and they do help:
http://wwav-no.org/ (Women With A Vision)
http://hagarshousenola.org/ (Hagar’s House New Orleans)
https://nofjc.org/ (New Orleans Family Justice Center)