It finally happened! After countless delays and trials, my book, No Regrets is finally officially on the market. We had our first lecture and book signing event on Saturday, August 6th, 2016. We kept getting pressure from various organizations that wanted to host it at a grand location, but the truth was that I was feeling nervous.
My father, St. Elmo Gopaul, was a natural orator, but I had never addressed a large audience about something so important. I’d been teaching and lecturing to children for years, and I had spoken in small, intimate settings about my experiences, but this was my first (live) address on domestic violence and my own life story.
Life is a learning process, and after writing a long, detailed, prepared speech, I discovered—half-way through my own lecture—that I should have just written down bullet points of what I wanted to talk about.
So I abandoned the speech and started speaking from the heart, only occasionally glancing at the paper in my hand. It seemed to go much smoother after that.
We had the whole thing filmed. Breaking with convention, I asked that the videographer not edit the feed. I wanted it raw and real.
You see, this country has too many slick, carefully edited speeches by politicians that talk big but never carry through. I’d rather people saw me as I am—human, making mistakes, getting hit upside the head by life—but always willing to get back up to keep trying, to keep fighting, and to bring about change.
I was exhausted. I don’t handle jet-lag and travel that well to begin with, but as soon as the plane touched down Wednesday night it was go, go, go! In retrospect, I probably should have politely declined all invitations and gone to bed early, but again, this is all new to me and life is a series of lessons.
Serene, my assistant, had everything set to go for Saturday, and one of the things that she arranged was for me to have my (first ever) professional makeup artist do my face. On a personal note, I learned quite a bit about the art of makeup, but on a larger note, I discovered that looking your best is a great confidence booster when you’re about to do public speaking.
There are a so many people to thank for making it a great event. One of the things I learned through this process of writing a book and founding a nonprofit is that it really does take a village to get a movement going.
First off, I’ve got to begin with Carol Matroo from the TT Newsday. When I announced that I had written my memoirs, she championed my story, and gave me a platform to raise the issue of domestic abuse before a national audience.
And thank you to Bobie-Lee Dixon, from the TT Guardian, for writing a great article about me for her paper. She is a great reporter and a terrific lady.
I would like to thank Carl Ryan, MPhil, BA (Hon), Cert. Ed, RMN, MHSP. He reached out to me after the article was published and introduced me to the NICER FOUNDATION.
I need to thank Ms. Laura Pascall, the driving force behind ROAT (Reach Out And Touch). She has been a valuable mentor and role model. This is my first nonprofit I’ve ever run, and the learning curve is steep.
The work they do is important to our country as each strives to flank the problem of violence in the community, whether it is interpersonal conflict or violence on the street.
I want, so much, to thank Ms. Britt, and all the women of St. Joseph’s Convent. They came out to support me personally as friends and peers, but also as good Christian women who want to promote kindness in this world. Thank you.
I must thank my aunt, Joan Kanglee, for letting me host this event at her place. I wanted it to be small(ish) and intimate, and having the launch and tour start from my roots felt fitting. I’ve also got to thank my niece and assistant, Serene, who got the whole thing off the ground.
It’s not easy—no it’s impossible—to plan an event from outside the country without help, and as I prepared from my end in California, Serene became my hands and eyes in St. Joseph’s, getting things ready. Thanks, Cupcake!
I also need to give a shout-out to all the people who made me look like a goddess. They say that when you’re nervous about speaking, that you should picture the audience naked, but really, what you should do is splurge on a team to make you look and feel like a million bucks.
First, I want to give props to my girl, Christine Holder, who is probably the best seamstress on the island. She put together that gorgeous dress I’m wearing in a matter of days. She also designed the suit I was wearing on the jacket cover of my book. She sews fast and she sews well. Any of you who want your clothes to look good and fit well, give her a call (868-725-1176).
And if you liked the design of my dress in these pictures, give Julian (Pro) Passee a call. He’s designed dresses for the who’s-who of Port of Spain for thirty-years. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the Louis Vuitton of the island: his designs are clean cut, elegant, and eye-catching. (868-753-8191).
Shereena Patrick is just an all-around great person, and as you can see, a great hair stylist. I am so, so picky about my hair, which is why I wouldn’t go to anyone else. (868-751-0153).
La Donna Kong did my makeup using MAC cosmetics. She taught me a lot and she made me look so elegant. If you want to get your inner-goddess on, give her a call (868-717-3282).
And to those who know me, you know I have to mention my gratitude and pride in my children. I need to thank them for surviving the abuse with me and for standing by me as I strive to help other survivors.
There were many others who helped to make this a great book launch, and if I missed you, I’m sorry for that, but know that I do thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for helping me along the way.
Read the Trinidad and Tabago’s Guardian article about Gail’s book No Regrets, My story as a victim of Domestic Violence for 27 Years.
Published: Thursday, January 15, 2015
Perhaps the thought of her name prematurely appearing in the obituaries section of the daily newspaper?
Gail Gopaul-Crawford’s doctor assured her she would be another statistic if she did not get away from her abusive husband, correctional officer Carl Aaron Crawford.
The two met in 1983 at a night club in Santa Monica, California, after the then 18-year-old Gopaul-Crawford migrated to the US to further her studies. A staunch Catholic, the former St Joseph Convent girl and daughter of the late St Elmo Gopaul—founder of the T&T Teacher’s Union (TTTU), now called T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA)—was a sheltered, naive young woman with little relationship experience.
Enchanted by this man’s smooth talk, good looks and charm, Gopaul-Crawford soon fell in love and after just two months of courtship, found herself pregnant. Being pregnant and unmarried was against her family and religious values.
Instead of lending his support, the man Gopaul-Crawford adored gave her US$250 and dropped her off at a clinic to have an abortion and also bid her goodbye.
Stunned and confused, she sat outside the clinic weighing up her options before deciding to contact her mother Monica for advice.
Her mother told her in no uncertain terms that she would be disowned by her family if she went through with the abortion.
Gopaul-Crawford went back to the home she now shared with Crawford.
“He asked me if I got rid of the baby and I said no and I am not going to. So pick your poison, either you stay or leave.”
Crawford then said: “I guess we will have to get married then.”
But Gopaul-Crawford didn’t want to get married because she didn’t want him to turn around one day and say he only married her because was pregnant. The couple eventually got married in July 1987.
In 1984 she gave birth to her son Michael. Today, he is a clinical forensic psychiatrist who played a pivotal role in helping her escape from domestic abuse.
Physical abuse begins
After Michael’s birth, Gopaul-Crawford began noticing changes in her husband.
“He would cuss me out for no reason and call me all sorts of derogatory names,” she said. “My husband was a functioning alcoholic. At the time I did not know or recognise that. So whenever we went out, he would have quite a few drinks and when we got home he would just go into this mad fit.”
She related the first time he struck her. “We had just returned from a party. All was well. He was a gentleman all night. When we got home, I put Michael to bed, then I noticed Carl was reaching for another drink from our mini bar so I asked him if he didn’t think he already had too much to drink. Well that was the mistake I made.”
He struck her so hard she ended up on the living room wall. In disbelief Gopaul-Crawford went to her room, curled up in a fetal position on her bed and cried herself to sleep.
Meanwhile, like the classic abuser, Crawford sought to quell the disturbance with love-making, an apology and a promise that he would never hit her again.
After that the beatings became regular. She was kicked and choked, thrown her out of moving cars and was even the victim of spousal rape on many occasions.
Gopaul-Crawford had several trips to the hospital emergency room where she would lie to doctors about how she sustained her injuries. Pointing to the right side of her nose, she said: “I have to wear special make-up to cover this scar. Carl almost bit it off.”
The beatings also resulted in two miscarriages.
“As an officer’s wife I was also at a great disadvantage,” she said. “Many times when I called the police, they would come and just ignore me once they knew it was Carl. One even told me Carl is one of them and they had to protect their own.”
Gopaul-Crawford eventually had a second child, a daughter whom she named Michelle. Unlike her older brother, Michelle was exposed to the violence meted out to her mother by her father.
“My son was like my protector. One time he walked in when Carl was just about to punch me in the face and he grabbed him by his shirt collar, jammed him up against the wall, and told him if he ever put his hand on me again, he would kill him. I think Carl feared Michael.”
But when her son left home to attend a university in San Diego, there was no one left to protect her and many beatings would take place in full view of Michelle.
“Both my kids are doing well. Michelle is studying psychology. But even today I live in constant fear that Michael may become an abuser like his father and Michelle, a victim like her mother,” admitted Gopaul-Crawford.
No easy way out
But why did she stay that long? She had an MBA, a good career, she was financially stable.
“My kids,” Gopaul-Crawford said. “Nobody could have understood why I was living in this nightmare. I had friends and even family who said so many negative things about my staying. Abuse is not only physical, that’s sometimes the least of it. But the emotional and psychological toll it takes on you is greater than you can ever imagine. An abuser attacks every part of your being. You are literally no use to yourself for that period,” the former Valsayn resident explained.
“I just did not know how to leave,” she said as she cried.
Looking back, Gopaul-Crawford said to leave an abusive relationship, one must have a clear strategy.
In her book No Regrets, her story as a survivor of domestic abuse, she advises women on a plan. “You must have a workable exit plan, otherwise you will not get away successfully.”
At the start of 2009, Gopaul-Crawford did not know that would be the year her toxic marriage and years of abuse ended. She had endured the pain and blows for so long, doctors placed her on permanent disability, forcing an early retirement. She also found herself on an 18-month stint of sniffing crack cocaine, just to numb herself from the torture of the beatings.
On June 3, 2009 she legally separated from Crawford after he put her in the hospital twice in one month. When she was almost ready to go home, the doctor said she was not going to release her.
Dr Aileen Matuk had cared for Gopaul-Crawford on previous occasions and became very worried after seeing her so often at the hospital.
Matuk said she needed to move to a shelter for abused women or go to San Diego with her son.
“I will not be a part of your death. Because that is what will happen if you return home. It is only a matter of time,” Matuk said.
She relocated to San Diego, where under a completely different justice system, she was able to obtain a restraining order against her husband, and he was monitored closely to ensure he would not make trips to San Diego.
The beatings were over but she has spent the last five years trying to restore her life. Gopaul-Crawford is still in therapy and has to take medication to keep calm, as the years of abuse have left her with a severe case of post traumatic stress disorder.
“I am often angry with myself for what I put my kids through. I found out early enough in the relationship that he might have been an abuser as his father and grandfather before him, were also domestic abusers.”
In 2014, on the advice of her son she wrote the book, No Regrets with the subtitle: My story as a victim of abuse for 27 years. She has since also formed the non-profit organisation No More Domestic Violence.
“I cannot correct what happened, but I lived to tell the story and I hope by my story and the stories of many other domestic abuse survivors, we will save another woman’s life.”
An unpleasant surprise
On August 22, 2014, 60-year-old Carl Crawford was shot to death at the home the couple formerly shared in Bakersfield.
He was reportedly killed by someone he knew. The investigations are still ongoing.
Some may say he deserved his end, but even though he caused his wife so much pain, his death was still a hard pill to swallow.
“I know some might say I should be rejoicing but even though he hurt me, I would have never wished death upon him. May his soul rest in peace.”
For more tips you can also visit Gopaul-Crawford’s Web site: www.nomoredv.org
No Regrets, published by Lulu.com is available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. It will soon be available at local bookstores nationwide. Gopaul-Crawford also plans to spend more time in T&T working with NGOs and the Government to develop viable programmes to fight domestic violence. She has already met with Gender, Youth and Child Development minister Clifton De Coteau to chart a way forward.
• You must know where you are going. Have somewhere set up ahead of time.
• When preparing to leave, make sure it is when he is not at home and will not be back for a while.
• If children are involved make sure the location is accommodating to them. Enrol them in new schools. Change surnames if you have to. This makes it less easy to trace.
• You must have your finances together. You cannot escape and have no money to get around or support yourself and the child/children. Open a private our secret bank account and save some money over a period of time.
• Have at least one good loyal family member or friend who knows where you are.
• Alert your employer, if you may need to take time and if it also means quitting your job.
Read Trinadad and Tobago’s Newsday article about Gail’s book No Regrets, My story as a victim of Domestic Violence for 27 Years.
By CAROL MATROO Sunday, January 11 2015
She was physically, mentally, sexually abused; she lost belief in herself as a person and her life became a living hell.
But now, 27 years later, Gail Gopaul-Crawford is able to resurrect herself, pick herself up and redirect herself from the path of a beaten, helpless woman to that of a crusader helping other abused women.
Gopaul-Crawford met her husband Carl in 1983 when she moved to California in the United States. She thought she had met the most handsome, gallant, thoughtful man. Little did she know the monster who would make her life a living hell.
In a tell all book No Regrets, subtitled “My story as a victim of domestic violence for 27 years”, Gopaul-Crawford, 59, gives a detailed account of her life from that fateful day she met Carl, to the day he died.
She met Carl at a club and they immediately hit it off. She was impressed by the way he treated her. He even accepted the fact that she would not go to bed with him that first time. She thought he respected that she was not a loose woman.
They dated for several months and Gopaul-Crawford accidently became pregnant after her own doctor had told her she could not have children. This would change everything. Carl ordered her to have an abortion saying he was not ready for children.
“He dropped me off at the clinic, shoved some money in my hand and told me to take a cab home. I could not make myself walk into the clinic. I called my mother and told her what he did and she said, ‘Gail, you are a Catholic; you will have your baby’.
“Today, that baby is an athletic, kind, smart man. I hope God will forgive me for considering ending Michael’s life. I almost let Carl push me against my values, and would have lost my son because of it,” she said. Even after this, Gopaul-Crawford moved in and then later married Carl although all her instincts screamed at her not to make this move.
“I should have seen all the red flags, but I loved him, and I thought it would be okay. I thought he would change; that I could change him; that he would stop verbally putting me down. I thought things would be better somehow,” she said.
But, almost from the moment they left the altar, the abuse escalated. She was beaten with belts, tossed about the room and slammed into walls.
She was told she was worthless, stupid and a whore. “He wanted to force me to perform oral and anal sex, but I told him that was not a wife thing. That is what a mistress does and I am not a mistress. I thought he respected me for having high standards,” she said. The couple later moved to Santa Monica, California where Gopaul-Crawford’s cousin, Maria, had married Carl’s cousin, Bobbie.
Although she tried to tell her cousin about the abuse, Maria ignored her. Little did she know the other couple were drug addicts and were only concerned about getting high.
It was because of them that she became addicted to crack cocaine, an addiction she was eventually able to beat.
Gopaul-Crawford was the motivator and she continued to help her husband as he struggled with his career. She had her Masters in Business Administration and had opened up a child development centre, but the abuse continued. Carl resented his wife’s success.
She became pregnant again twice after that, but both times Carl beat her until she miscarried. It seemed she would never have the daughter she always dreamed about, until January 6, 1993, when she gave birth to her daughter, Michelle.
And even though Carl beat and abused her, accused her of infidelity, that did not stop him from being unfaithful himself.
The truth came out when Carl was mandated by the courts to take a paternity test when his mistress got pregnant. Gopaul-Crawford almost collapsed when she found out he was the tenth man to be tested for the baby.
“My God, I thought, what you have? Does that mean you have AIDS? Have you given me AIDS?” she questioned, but she was lucky.
While she tried to leave Carl several times, Gopaul-Crawford believed in the sanctity of marriage and did not want to break up her family.
After the beatings there would be a lull where Carl would buy expensive jewelry and pretty clothes for his wife, until the next time.
Finally, in 2009, Gopaul-Crawford made up her mind and left and filed for divorce, but it never went through because he fought her every step of the way.
In August, 2014, Gopaul-Crawford’s fear of Carl and fear for life came to a fateful end. Carl was found shot to death in their home.
Was she relieved?
“I wish I could say I was, but he was my children’s father. I was numb and could feel nothing. I drove over four hours to get to our home. Carl wanted to take everything from me, but in the end I got everything.
“I am still in therapy and counselling. I watch my son carefully to see the way he treats women. I pay attention to Michelle because I want her to be a happy, healthy woman.
“I have founded a non-governmental organisation “No More Domestic Violence”. It is not only for women but also men because men do suffer from domestic violence. I want them to know that they have someone to turn to in their time of need, something I did not have,” Gopaul-Crawford said.
(Gail Gopaul-Crawford can be reached at 1-619-534-3755/ 1-844-777-NODV
e-mail: [email protected])