Live To Tell: My Story of Domestic Violence
By Reagan Leeds-Powers
*Note, domestic violence can be committed by women and men.
When I was in my early twenties, I was physically abused by my boyfriend. It only happened that one time, but he had abused me throughout our relationship. Millions of people know my story and that my abuser was my ex, Rashin Dodge. Yes, the hip-hop mogul-legend, and businessman. I’ll never take away Ra’s contribution to hip-hop or his place as one of the greatest rappers in history. But there is an ugly side to the hip-hop culture; that invokes misogyny, promotes domestic violence, and sexual violence. The following is not a piece on the history of female degradation and abuse in the industry. I will save that for another time.
I was a young up and coming model, fresh out of college, living in Starlight Shores. I had just signed with Nu Model Management. I was strutting on the hottest runways for the biggest names in fashion in New York, London, Paris, Milan, and Los Angeles. There was no shortage of designers and photographers who wanted to work with me. By the time I was 22 I had covered the pages of ELLE, Vogue, Glamour, and several others.
At the height of my career, I could make up to fifty thousand dollars in a single day. My closet looked like a well-organized boutique on Robertson or 5th Avenue. I had every designer bag that was worth its salt in my closet. Sure, many of these purchases were made by me, but the bulk of it came courtesy of my boyfriend, Rashin.
Let me go back in time and paint you a picture of my relationship. Ra was already the biggest rapper in the game when we met at an industry party in Starlight. Many of the haters, I like to call “fans” (because they stalked my every move) claimed I was thirst trapping and had my sights set on Ra. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth. Unlike the other dozens of women in the casino that night, I was chilling. I kept to myself and my small circle of friends.
All eyes were on me, something that wasn’t out of the norm. Why would it be any different when Ra was concerned? Maybe that sounds conceit, but it was the truth. Ra was curious about the young model that didn’t make a beeline for him as soon as he entered the room. He ended up approaching me, and I gave him my number, but only after he could see that I wasn’t impressed by his celebrity.
Rashin wined and dined me, bought me clothes, jewelry, a luxury car, and gave me money. I didn’t want for anything. What Ra did was, try to control me. He also cheated on me throughout our relationship, and he belittled me to no end.
On the outside, I was the picture of confidence. No one could guess that a supermodel would have low self-esteem. I’d known from an early age that I was pretty and desirable. I used my appearance to my advantage (one of the few things I learned from my mother at a young age). By the time I got to high school, my looks were the only thing I relied on to give me confidence. The attention I received from boys made me dependent on male validation.
Many of my fans know my mother left us when I was in high school and of the rocky relationship I had with her growing up. Not having the love I needed from a mother or the confidence only another woman can give you left me depleted in the esteem and self-confidence department.
I had and still do have, a wonderful father who was encouraging, supportive, and loving. So how did I turn to such an abusive man like Rashin if I was raised by a man that was opposite? There were many reasons. But the primary one; I discovered years later was that I felt unloved and like I wasn’t worthy due to the lack of positive reinforcement of my mother’s love. I was never as smart and talented as my younger sister, Kennedey. She was the one, who skipped a grade, had a high IQ score, and painted masterpieces. All I had was my looks and diva persona that a lot of people took to. People had said for years; I was so much like my mother, a label I fiercely rejected.
Ra was the king, and by default, I was his queen. He sought to control me because in the beginning, he was the big fish and I was still very much a small fish in comparison. Ra had a lot of women before me, and what I discovered later, women during our time together. People told me back then, that I shouldn’t be surprised, and I knew what I was signing up for, and that all rappers cheat. You see, those people didn’t know the “Reagan Leeds” because if they did, they would understand that wittingly allowing a man to cheat is something I would never agree to, I don’t care who the man is.
Rashin started to resent the attention I received in the media and online. He claimed that my work that took me overseas was the reason we didn’t spend a lot of time together. He didn’t consider the fifteen hour days he spends on his album or his frequent visits to the club had anything to do with it. It was always my fault. Because Ra blamed me for putting a strain on our relationship, he used that to justify his cheating. Not that I believed Ra ever really had a conscience, and he would have cheated anyway, but he used that excuse as a way to defend his fucked up attitude and antics toward me. He began to use methods of control, mental, emotional, and verbal abuse to break me down. It came to the point that I hated seeing my reflection in a mirror. Even throughout all the insults, the intimidation, and the yelling, I stayed. I was ashamed that I allowed any man to treat me in that manner, especially when I knew from my father’s example how a woman should be treated.
During the hardest moments of our relationship, Ra began accusing me of the things he was guilty of such as cheating and me only being with him because of who he was. He became paranoid and convinced I was messing with his friends; which was a lie. He had threatened that if I “ever got out of line” with another man, that I would not like the “end result.” That was the first time I ever felt physically threatened by Ra. I should have heeded the warning signs long before then; especially at that moment, but I waited too long.
Eventually, I found concrete proof that Ra was cheating on me with just about every girl, video vixen, model, stripper associated with the industry. I even discovered he had gotten some dancer pregnant. When I confronted him about it, he didn’t deny it, and he grew cocky saying there was nothing I could do about it. I told him I was breaking up with and wanted nothing else to do with him.
He didn’t take the news very well and said that it wasn’t over until he said it was over. I remember as I screamed how much I hated him, being surprised at a painful blow to my face. It took me a moment to realize what had happened. It didn’t immediately register that my boyfriend, a man I felt I loved had just punched me in my face.
I didn’t know what to do. I thought he would hit me again. His face was contorted in anger, and right after the moment, he hit me, a very calm and eerie expression rested on his face. Suddenly my instincts kicked in. It was fight or flight time. I was only in my underwear. Somehow, as I fled his bedroom in the middle of the night, I managed to grab my clothes and keys and drive home.
The next twenty-four hours were the worst hours of my life at that point. I hadn’t registered what had happened. I didn’t understand how I could go from being supposedly in love with someone, being a part of a power couple to being curled up and crying on my bedroom floor.
I felt embarrassed and ashamed like it was my fault somehow or like someone would find out and come point their finger at me, teasing me like kids on the playground. I’d hit rock bottom, and I didn’t know how I allowed myself to get there.
I remember laying on the floor thinking about the morning we found out my mother had abandoned us. I equated that instance as being the first major time I had felt so low and unloved in my life to how I felt after being hit by Rashin. Those were the darkest moments of my life. Both involved something someone else had done to me, but I internalized it, and it manifested through how I looked at myself and my need for validation.
I tried shielding Kennedey, but I couldn’t as we lived together. I was a protective older sister, and I was afraid of what seeing my bruised and beaten would do to her. Kennedey surprised me.
She was so strong and supportive. She was understandably outraged, and she didn’t hold back on Ra when he called or came to the house to see me. Kennedey was now the protector, and she didn’t allow Ra to even breathe in my direction.
It was a very long time after that fateful night that I even saw Rashin again. After I had met the man of my dreams, my now husband, and father of my children, Jaylen Powers. I am not going to go into a lot of detail on the night Rashin, and his crew had the audacity to show up to Jay’s club and their confrontation and how Jay paid Rashin back for what he did to me; I’ll let Jay tell you that. I had finally closed that chapter of my life and Ra experienced all the humiliation and consequences that was due him.
It was only in the months after experiencing physical abuse that I realized I had suffered from other kinds of abuse by Rashin. Unfortunately, I like many other people, do not recognize the severity of mental, verbal, and emotional abuse. What is important to understand is that these are all elements of domestic violence and often the non–physical abuse is a precursor to the later actual physical form.
I was a rich and beautiful supermodel; a girl no one would think of as a domestic violence victim, but I was. I had a college degree, a beautiful home, friends, family, and great job. If I could be abused, any woman can be. No one is immune and no one should be ashamed to admit they were a victim. But it is crucial that you become a survivor. Spouses and boyfriends of women and girls kill far too many in domestic violence situations. The guy may have not intentionally killed his wife or girlfriend, but one wrong fall, punch, a hit could be fatal. You could think to yourself that your man would never want to kill, and maybe that is true, but do you want to take that chance? Don’t wait until it’s too late.
According to a recent study by the CDC, violence is one of the leading causes of death of women in the United States. Half of those are committed by romantic partners; whether current or former. Black and Native American women experience the highest rates. Think about that for a moment; half of these violent deaths can be prevented. It is never the woman’s fault, and you can’t believe that you can change a man by thinking therapy or your love is the cure for his violent ways. This, of course, applies to women who are abusers as well. The abuser needs to do the work and get the help. You can not stand by and wait for them to do it. You can not risk becoming another statistic. You also need to realize some men just will not change and think what they are doing is wrong. That’s not for you to change their thinking. Just get out.
As a survivor of domestic violence, I have dedicated my life to educating women and girls about intimate partner violence and various forms of abuse. Through the Reagan and Jaylen Powers Foundation, we can provide domestic violence victims and their children, safe shelter, a new home, education, and support.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
This article originally appeared in S.H.E magazine.
Author’s Note: Much of the information shared in this article was taken from Chapter 16 “You Will Learn” of Reagan Leeds: Run The World, printed in February 2014. You can read it here.