Kimberly Durden, Contributing Writer
Embarrassment. Hopelessness. Distress. Helplessness. Defeat. Brokenness. Repeat. Latosha Barnes, founder, and director of Patricia’s Place, knows this cycle of shame and pain all too well. For 15 years, Latosha suffered in silence and faced abuse throughout her first marriage.
Patricia’s Place, named after her mother, who was abused and introduced to drugs by her husband, Patricia’s Place, is a domestic violence shelter serving Chicago’s west side and south suburban communities. Latosha Barnes has dedicated her career and life to being an advocate for victims of domestic violence.
In this emotional, candid, and empowering interview, Latosha Barnes shares her story of trauma testimony and triumph.
In March of 1992, Latosha Barnes was a single mother of two young daughters – 6 months and two years old (from a previous relationship). She married at the age of 20, but four months after saying, “I do,” the abuse began. She quickly realized that her husband wanted power and control. “Here I am 20 years old, a submissive wife with my own identity, and I was being told where to go, when to go, when to come back, what to wear, what kind of lipstick to put on, what to eat, what not to eat and those things didn’t add up to me,” Latosha shares.
First Slap – July 1992.
“I had started some community classes at a local junior college in South Holland. We lived with my husband’s family. I didn’t get along with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, so they wouldn’t let him use the car to take me to and from school. I didn’t know how to take the bus. I never had to take the bus and to this day still don’t know how to”, Latosha chuckles. “Back then, I didn’t have a cell-phone, it was very dark, and I was about one-month pregnant. I saw a friend I went to Thornton High School with, and he asked me what I was doing up there by the college so late.” I told him that I needed a ride.”
Knowing her husband and in an effort to not be disrespectful, she asked her friend to drop her off at the corner instead of in front of their home. Unbeknownst to Latosha, her husband was watching her from down the street as she got out of the car, bags in hand, feeling nauseous, hungry, and thirsty. It was hot, and she was anxious to see her two little ones. Before she could even hit the top step of the home, she was confronted with questions from her husband. ‘Where are you coming from, and how did you get here?’ “I felt his rage and fear kicked in. To this day, I don’t understand why, because I’ve always been a fighter. He was a big guy, ex-football player, 6’3, and I’m 5’4, maybe weighing 160lbs. I lied, and I blurted out, I took the bus. He said, ‘No, you didn’t.’ So I asked him, well, how did I get here then? And he said, ‘somebody dropped you off, and you lied to me!’ SLAP!”
Pregnant. Hot. Hungry. Sick. ”He slapped me so hard, I just stood there confused and in disbelief with my hand over the right side of my face. I walked into the house, shocked, with my hand still over my face. His mother and grandmother were sitting right there in the foyer, saw me, and said nothing. I heard my girls and ran upstairs to make sure they were okay. Shortly after, he came into the room, did not apologize, played with the girls, and did not say anything to me. I showered, bathed, and put the girls to bed, but the thought of this man slapping me for telling him a fib was still on my mind. You’re not my daddy, my grandfather, my uncle. HOW DARE YOU? I elected to leave him; at least that’s what I thought.”
2 am. Everyone is asleep. “I grabbed my babies and some of my belongings and walked about 15-16 blocks to my grandmother’s home, which is my childhood home. I had a bruise [on my face]. She saw it, and ice compressed it for me. She asked me what happened and I told her. ‘She showed a little anger but told me, ‘baby, you gotta go home. You married now, and you gotta go, home baby. You can stay here the night, but you gotta go home in the morning.’ I didn’t understand what was happening until decades later. My grandmother raised me right and taught me as best as she could. I am the woman I am today because of her. But with this, she didn’t know what to do. Of course, I was angry and put up a shield for a very long time. My husband knew where we were. He picked us up in his mom’s red Chevy Cavalier. I was still angry, I was crying and frustrated, but I let it go. He never apologized, nor did any of his family members. They never said anything. We stayed at his mother’s house for about another six months. There was no abuse during the rest of my pregnancy. Our twins were born on February 3, 1993, and we moved into our new apartment about a month before their birth. I had to get back to work immediately. He had a dishonorable discharge on his record and had difficulty finding a job. We had bills, a new two-bedroom apartment, and now four children to raise. I did what I knew to do and got a job in telemarketing, working a lot of overtime to ensure we paid our bills. I am now the primary breadwinner in the household. After some time, he obtained a CDL and got a permanent job. We moved four times before buying a home in Country Club Hills. Things started to get better.
1993-2006- More abuse, more pain, and the trauma continued.
Infidelity began, and Latosha’s husband showed a complete disregard for her and her children. The majority of the abuse took place in their home. Latosha says that she received the harshest punches and blows and a broken rotator cuff. She made multiple calls to the police department but never pressed charges. Her six daughters were embarrassed by her and did not want her to attend their sports and extracurricular activities. ” I had my children in every activity imaginable – cheerleading, soccer, volleyball, track, and tried to make sure they had the best childhood ever. I did my best to provide everything they needed and let them do whatever they wanted to do, whether band or choir, even if it was only for a few weeks, I let them do it. They had a good childhood, but they got tired of coming home, seeing holes in the walls and closet doors off the hinges. Again, I just dealt with it because, mind you, years before, I went to my family [my grandmother], and they didn’t help me. I covered it up. My abuse became the norm. Day after day, my daughters watch their mother get banged up and bruised. They witnessed this abuse every day until…”
May 3, 2007- The Breaking Point.
“We had argued all morning. I had no sleep. He had given my daughter a crazy directive, and I wasn’t having it. He just blew up and attacked. Our argument turned into me being flipped on my back in the hallway between our bedroom and the bedroom. He’s on top of me, choking me with his left hand. I’m losing my breath because he has his hand around my neck. I called out to my oldest daughter, who called the police. One of my other daughters is screaming hysterically while holding my youngest baby girl. My other daughter grabbed one of her trophies or medallions and clocked him with it. He pushed her so hard it was like something out of the matrix. Her head was inches from hitting the side of the bathtub. She could have died. Instantly. I looked over at my daughter – she’s struggling to get up, holding the back of her head, crying. Enough was enough. Each time before he would hit me, I would pray, ‘Lord give me strength.’ I endured the hits but continued to stay with him. This time, I prayed, ‘Lord give me strength,’ and God did just that. I was able to push this man off of me. By this time, the Country Club Hills police had arrived. Enough was enough.”
Latosha filed for a divorce, which took two years to finalize. Meanwhile, she could save her money because she did not pay the mortgage on the house. It was in his name. Latosha was able to stay in that home for two years before it went into foreclosure.
February 14, 2014, Forgiveness brings Freedom.
Latosha Barnes always celebrates her daughters on Valentine’s Day, which is also her ex-husband’s birthday. While she was in a local Walgreens to purchase some cards for her daughters she heard a familiar laugh. She instantly felt fear stir up in her. A few years prior, God had shown her three individuals she would completely forgive, and her ex was one of them. “I had moved on with my life, but fear almost made me disobey what I know God had told me to do. My ex-husband was standing next to the Sun-Times paper stand. I walked up to him and said, ‘Happy Birthday. I want you to know that I forgive you for everything you did to me,’ Latosha shares while fighting back happy tears, ‘You put me through a whole lot. Left me, left the girls, but I forgive you. I pray to God that He has mercy on your soul.’ I turned to walk out, and he said sarcastically, ‘I forgave you a long time ago.’ I wanted to tell him what I felt, but instead, I said, ‘You have a good day.’ Instantly, I freed myself. That day, I was free.
October 2020, Here and Now.
Now remarried to her husband of five years, Kevin, Latosha Barnes has earned two Master’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Addiction Studies. She is also a first-time author. Her upcoming book, Un-Veil: Surviving Domestic Violence, is a 10-step self-help activity and resource guide that took four years to write. Latosha will be releasing another book in 2021, an in-depth journey of her life entitled, Pieces of My Childhood. She is preparing to open up office space in mid-November in Olympia Fields, IL, to provide supportive services, mentoring, and coaching for domestic violence prevention and awareness. She is a moderator for Awareness Wednesdays, weekly Instagram, and Facebook posts bringing awareness to domestic violence.
“On average, it takes women eight out ten times to leave an abusive relationship. In my line of work, I see abuse has become an epidemic among women, as early as age 13 and 14. My hope is to partner with schools so that my book, Unveil, can be a resource for our younger generation. We have to break the silence of domestic violence. Too many women and girls are coming up missing, dead, caught up in sex trafficking, and so battered that it’s almost impossible to get them out the trenches. Join the fight and advocate for this cause.”-Latosha Barnes
To TAKE A STAND against domestic violence and help Latosha Barnes and Patricia’s Place continue their efforts to bring awareness to this silent killer, donate to their website, https://www.patriciasplace.org/take-action. Donations can also be made via Cash App using the handle $fightdv or sent to Patricia’s Place Domestic Violence Shelter, P.O. Box 2063, Country Club Hills, IL, 60478.
Kim Durden is a writer and owner of Divine Dine Food Tours, the first and only entirely Black, woman-owned food tour agency in Chicago. Visit her website at https://www.divinedine.online/ and follow her on social media: Facebook @divinedinefoodietours | Instagram @divinedinefoodietours | Twitter @divinedinetours
Reprinted from the Chicago Defender