In her book, “The Day I Stopped Being Afraid” (Ed. Harper Collins), Cindy Bruna delivers the moving account of her childhood memories, marked by the domestic violence perpetrated by her stepfather in the against his mother. But even more, the 28-year-old model alerts consciences to the place of children in the midst of these alarming situations, witnesses but also co-victims of violence that plays out in the privacy of a home. In “La Face Katché” for Yahoo, Cindy Bruna looks back on those hellish years spent alongside her mother and sister, and analyzes with emotion and dignity the psychological influence that surrounds domestic violence within the family unit. A moving testimony, and particularly important, to break the omerta and carry the voice of those who suffer behind the walls.
We have known her in the spotlight, shining with a thousand lights in her finest attire. Radiant on the glossy paper of magazines or under the crackling of cameras. Today, Cindy Bruna wants to use this echo that her modeling career offers her to serve powerful engagements. In 2017, the young woman came into contact with the Solidarité Femmes association, of which she is now the godmother. And this is not just another title on his curriculum vitae, but an obvious choice, a way to honor his mother’s fight, but also his own and that of his sister. Because Cindy Bruna is a woman still tormented by the violence that disrupted her childhood, with the arrival in her life of a stepfather with two faces.
“He called my mother a ‘nigger in front of us. He was racist and uninhibited”
It all started with a meeting between this man and the mother of Cindy Bruna, born in Congo. After a divorce with the father of her two daughters, she falls under the spell of this character, almost blinded by the magic of the moment. “When my stepfather comes into my mom’s life, she takes him a bit like a white man who comes to save her” analyzes Cindy Bruna today. In the Congo, his mother grew up with the racist precepts of colonialism, including the one that presents the white man as the savior of a nation. But little by little, she becomes disillusioned. The man she loves is nothing like a superhero, nor Prince Charming on his white horse. Very quickly, their marriage is bogged down in a violent daily life. Cindy Bruna’s mother is overwhelmed by the physical, verbal and psychological domestic violence inflicted on her by this man. The racist protrusions add to the horror.
Find the full La Face Katché by Cindy Bruna in podcast:
Cindy Bruna in La Face Katché: “At school, they called me ‘Grilled baguette’, because I was fine and mixed race”
A helpless witness to this hell, Cindy Bruna remembers the terms used by her stepfather, who called her mother a “negress” all the time and under the eyes of her daughters: “For him, he was not racist , because he had married a black woman, and was raising two mixed-race little girls who were not his own.” Little by little, it is the double domination that he imposes in their lives. That of a man on a woman, and of a white man on a black woman. At school too, Cindy Bruna faces this same racism from her classmates. It is called “Grilled baguette”, because it is fine and mixed. It is the same verbal violence that then plays out for the little girl in the playground, the very one who already weakens her daily life at home.
Cindy Bruna, her sister and her mother must try to build themselves in this highly toxic environment, victims in addition of a “normalized racism”: “I’m not even sure that today he realizes that he is racist.” Added to this is the physical and psychological violence, these “sneaky” attacks that the executioner goes to great lengths to hide from the two girls, but that they always end up guessing behind closed doors. The cries, the tears and the insults fuse every day, and always end up falling into a deafening and painful silence. The bubble of violence is created little by little.
“The executioner is gone, we’re safe, but it’s limited if we don’t miss him”
Cindy Bruna’s mother grows weaker as time goes by, but is acutely aware of the urgency of the situation. “She tells us that if anything happens to her, it’s him. And she’s going to tell us so many times afterwards” recalls the model. As is the case for many other women victims of domestic violence, the psychological dimension is intrinsically linked to the difficulties they may experience at the idea of leaving their abuser. Cindy Bruna knows it: her mother was in love with this man who made her live through hell. She also understood it when they almost divorced, and her stepfather left the house. This is where the influence is most felt: “In the home, his absence and this lack of tension, it’s borderline if we wouldn’t miss him. We have this feeling that my mother is wasting away, she is unhappy with his absence, when we should be relieved. The executioner is gone, he has left the house. We are safe.”
And yet, Cindy Bruna remembers the thoughts that crossed her mind. “He has to come back in fact. It’s terrible” she breathes today from the height of her 28 years, still terribly marked by this duality so painful to live. Faced with Manu Katché, it’s hard to hold back her tears remembering this letter she had written on the rules to follow at home: “‘We stop the alcohol, the insults’.” Despite the violence inflicted by her stepfather, young Cindy witnesses her mother’s despair when he leaves home: “In my child’s heart, I really want him to come back and that everything happens. good.” It is this hope that carries the trio, every day. Until one day too many.
“I slept with a pan by my bed. It was my protection against my stepfather”
The end is when the danger increases more and more. This day when her mother had the click, felt that it was necessary to flee, Cindy Bruna still remembers it. Before that, mother and daughter share the same bed for a while. The teenager is on the alert: now that her sister has left the family home, she must be extra vigilant to protect her mother from her stepfather. Hostage of this man too, she sets up several things. Their survival is at stake. So she sleeps with a saucepan by her bed: “Just in case. We never used it, but for me it was my protection.”
And then comes the day, when too much violence motivates the extreme courage of his mother who decides to leave this man, and to file a complaint. There is no longer any hope that things will change. Mother and daughter understand this. “It’s really the end. Even in my heart. I no longer give him excuses, I no longer forbid myself to insult him, we no longer have respect” confides Cindy Bruna. That day, she is “overwhelmed” by the violence of this stepfather, exasperated, exhausted by years of hell. In the house, the kingdom of her abusive omnipotence, Cindy Bruna breaks everything, enraged by this umpteenth feeling of guilt for not having been there to protect her mother. Their executioner has fled, and will never return.
Years and lots of rebuilding later, Cindy Bruna saw it again. She was already a model then, but her new status as a “strong and independent woman” was no match for the childhood traumas revived by the appearance of this man. “When I found myself in front of him, I was a 6-year-old little girl. Like at home. I was broken inside,” she explains, adding that no words had been exchanged. between them. The pain was still too much.
“Children are co-victims of domestic violence, not just witnesses”
This silence also surrounded Cindy Bruna’s relationship with her father. After the divorce of her parents, the model did not dare to tell her the horror of what she, her mother and her sister lived in this blended home. “It’s a private matter,” he replied when his eldest daughter confided. A painful response that unfortunately often faces the victims of domestic violence, locked in this omerta that surrounds the intimacy of a home. It is then very difficult for anyone to guess what is going on behind the doors. This is precisely what Cindy Bruna denounces: domestic violence should no longer be protected by this private, opaque and dangerous sphere. “In truth, it is a scourge that affects all societies, and there is a responsibility to be had,” she warns.
Today, with hindsight, the model understands her dad’s reaction to the situation: “At that time, we didn’t see children as co-victims. My father told her: ‘As long as it doesn’t does not affect you’. As if, as long as the violence is not on us, it does not affect us. The problem is there. The children are co-victims, whether there is physical, psychological, verbal violence . We’ve seen it all. We’re also victims, we’re not just witnesses.” Very moved when discussing these last exchanges with her father, who unfortunately died last year, Cindy Bruna is still wondering. “I don’t know if he understood” she breathes in tears. A moving testimony.
Video. Find the full interview with Cindy Bruna here:
Also find La Face Katché in podcast version!
Want to find Manu Katché and his guests in a long and even more intimate version? From now on, it is possible, in audio version. The podcast is already available on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.
Find all the episodes of La Face Katché on Yahoo
Read also :
>> Cindy Bruna: “As a child co-victim, I experienced this verbal and psychological violence”
>> “My parent grabbed me by the hair, he tore it out of me”: women and children victims of domestic violence
>> Violence against women: “For the general public, there are good and bad victims”