Twenty-two years and one month ago, Nicole Brown Simpson was brutally and needlessly murdered.
I grew up privy to domestic abuse. I saw my mother's bruises that she explained away as carelessness. Her second husband chased us from our home, brandishing a butcher knife that he attempted to plunge through the windshield when we took refuge in our dilapidated car. The echoes of our terrified screams reverberate in my head so many years later. I made a pact with myself that I would never live my mother's life and that I would never go through the horrors that she did while attempting to find love in all the wrong places.
Fast-forward to 1995.
America was captivated by a slow-speed chase of a white Bronco. O.J. Simpson was about to go on trial for his own life. My coworkers and I sat riveted by the radio as the trial concluded, waiting with bated breath for the verdict. We all cried out in anguish when he was acquitted. Like so many other women, we felt we knew the truth. We just knew.
I don't remember how I met Danny that year, but I was immediately smitten. He was quiet and mysterious, with sultry eyes that beckoned me. We quickly became lovers, and within a few short weeks, he had practically moved into my small studio apartment with me. We had a few tumultuous fights, but none felt like a deal breaker. They were quickly remedied by sweet apologies and lovingly planned date nights. I felt happy and secure, despite a few alarms that went off as friends relayed stories from his ex, stories that I couldn't imagine to be true. They, too, began to doubt the stories as they saw our electric relationship take flight.
Three months into our relationship, I awoke one morning to discover we were late for work, as my alarm had not gone off. My adrenaline went into overdrive, so I gently shook Danny awake.
"Wake up, wake up!" I sang out. "We're late for work!"
Danny turned to look at me and I watched as his eyes turned dark. In one swift instant, he got on top of me and put his hands around my neck. He was strangling me. I was terrified and tried desperately to claw his hands away, all the time crying out that I loved him, and I begged him over and over to stop. I felt my airway getting smaller and smaller as I gasped for breath. Something suddenly shifted in him as he finally let me go and went into the bathroom.
I thought quickly. I saw my keys on a table by the entryway and decided to make a run for it. I grabbed the keys and ran for the door, out to the endless, walled hallway that led to the front door of my apartment complex. I ran hard and fast, but he was faster. He grabbed me by my hair and proceeded to drag me kicking and screaming back to my apartment. I screamed for help at the top of my lungs as I was being dragged. I screamed so hard, my voice sounded otherworldly, foreign to my own ears. No one opened their door to assist. No one wanted to get involved.
He slammed the door and threw me against the wall. He held me up off the floor by my throat as he started beating my head against the wall, over and over, while strangling me. I tasted blood and my teeth began to crumble. I knew it was too late to talk my way out of it. I knew I was going to die. I looked into the dark holes where his eyes should have been as the light began to fade. Everything turned dark as I resigned myself to accept my fate.
BANG, BANG, BANG!
Someone was banging on the door. Danny dropped me into a crumpled heap on the floor and hissed, "Your friends are here," as he made his way back to the bathroom. My heart was beating so hard, I was sure it would explode. I shakily pulled myself up and cracked the door open.
It was the police.
"He's going to kill me!" I whispered loudly. They pulled me out into the hallway, where I attempted to tell them what happened. I was shaking uncontrollably and felt a barrage of emotions. It was obvious I was in bad shape from the blood and bruises, so they pulled him out of the bathroom, cuffed him, and walked him past me to their cruiser parked outside. I attempted to hide from Danny, but he caught a glimpse.
"I'm so, so sorry, baby! I love you! I didn't mean it!" He cried out for me over and over as he made his way down the hall. I immediately felt remorse and sadness. Of COURSE he loved me! This was a terrible misunderstanding! I must have done something wrong to provoke him!
I told the police that I didn't want to press charges, but I was informed that the laws had changed. The laws that failed Nicole Brown now allowed them to press charges for me. There was no free pass for Danny.
I was so incredibly fortunate to have a strong safety net of friends. Although I was weak, my childhood pact stayed with me. I knew from past experience that he wasn't going to change. I knew that one instance of abuse was one too many. One of my best friends took me to get a restraining order, and my apartment manager moved me into another apartment, a few miles away, where I felt safe. Danny continued to call from jail, begging my forgiveness and blaming his actions on hypoglycemia. At that juncture, I didn't care what his reasoning was. I knew I was not going to be safe if he knew where I was. I had a brief mourning period, but quickly pulled myself out of the abyss and moved on with my life. I never spoke to him again.
Three months later, the FBI showed up at my door. They were looking for Danny. His car was at the scene of a burglary and multiple rapes. He had tied up and assaulted two female victims. They wanted to know if I knew where he was, if I knew anything.
My mind immediately went to Nicole Brown. She could have been my mother. She could have been me. We were lucky. She wasn't. I am so thankful for the Nicole Brown Foundation for lobbying the Violence Against Women Act into law, which kept Danny behind bars while I got my head on straight. I didn't have the opportunity to act on twisted emotion and let him back into life. I was able to find strength and the resolve to carry on without fear.
Twenty-two years later, a terrible tragedy paved the way for my happy ending. I am forever grateful. And I will never forget who helped me to be here.