A Jamie Foster Brown interview
(excerpted from June 2009 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine)
I was surprised at what I learned when Zane, famous author of several books and producer of Cinemax’s “Sex Chronicles,” came to my home and told me about her latest publishing project. Her company is publishing a book titled Scared Silent: The Mildred Muhammad Story by the ex-wife of John Muhammad, the serial killer who came to be known as the D.C. Sniper. Zane told me and my husband about what actually happened to Mildred during that time. John was coming for her when he started his killing spree. Then, once he was captured, some media people wanted Mildred to say that Louis Farrakhan put John up to the killings. Then there was the silent hell that she endured during her abusive marriage to him. Then there were the 18 months to somehow get through after John kidnapped their kids.
I was shocked to learn that Mildred lives in my area, so I invited her to come to my house along with Zane to talk about what she went through. Mildred brought her daughters Taalibah and Salena and I invited a few other women over to have a discussion about domestic violence. Author and music marketing maven Jackie Rhinehart was there as well as ShaKenya Calhoun, a domestic violence survivor. I had a wonderful roundtable discussion with all the women and with Darren Coleman, an author and reformed abuser who owned up to the abuse he has subjected women to in his past. The video of our roundtable can be seen on s2smagazine.com.
But first, read on to learn about Mildred’s amazing story. There’s a lot to learn in this article about Mildred’s courage, wisdom and how she braved through that time of cruelty and fear.
She also explains what her life is like today. She has a new husband and runs an organization called After the Trauma, which helps domestic violence victims find help, even if they don’t have the physical scars to prove that they’re suffering. Mildred helps abused women make phone calls to authorities and to make all the necessary right moves because she had the same problem when she was trying to leave her ex-husband and she is on a mission to help others. It’s an amazing story.
Jamie: Zane came over a few days ago and told me there’re some things that we don’t know about what was happening with the D.C. Sniper during that time. And that he was actually after you. Tell me about that. He was killing people at random and you knew this?
Mildred: No. I didn’t know that he was the sniper. It wasn’t until October 23rd when ATF [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] knocked on my door and they wanted to take me to the police station and question me about when was the last time I’d seen John. I told them that it was September 4, 2001, when I went back to Washington state for a custody battle. That was when the judge awarded me custody of the children, since he had had them kidnapped for 18 months. So once ATF took me to the police station, they asked when was the last time I’d seen him. Did I know of any other shootings in any other cities. I told them no. And they said, “Well, Ms. Muhammad, we just want to tell you that we’re going to name your ex-husband John Muhammad as the sniper.” I was like, “What?” And my head just fell to the table. “So, do you think he would do something like this?” I raised my hand up. I was like, “Well, I don’t … Yeah.”
Mildred:Well, why would you think that? I said, “Well, we were watching a movie. Don’t remember what it was. And he said, “I could take a small city—terrorize it. They would think it would be a group of people and it would only be me.”
Jamie: You were still with John when he said that?
Jamie: Let’s back up a little bit. How did you get with John?
Mildred:I was going to the corner store with my girlfriend in Louisiana. We pulled up at a convenience store and he came out of the store with his friend. He just had a beautiful smile; this is what attracted me. But I turned my head like I didn’t see him because I didn’t know him; my friend knew him. And so he asked me out on a date that night. I told him I needed to check my schedule. I wasn’t doing anything, but I didn’t want him to know I’m available. Then he picked me up that night and we went to a couples spot at Southern University. We just talked about anything. It was just a real nice conversation.
Jamie: I’ve been in an abusive situation myself. It’s almost like they go to a university. They know what to say, how to act. They can pull you in real quickly.
Mildred:I think, like 15 minutes into a conversation, for a person who wants to gain control over you, he can pretty much tell [by] the language you use and how you put your words together exactly what he needs to do to put you into that position where he can have control of you. If he knows that you don’t know a lot about the world, but he does, then he knows which words to use. It’s just that first conversation, 15 to 30 minutes. Got you.
Jamie: And you’re sweet; I think they go for sweet, gentle women. They’re not going to go for a firebrand like certain people I know that will take a frying pan and hit you upside the head.
Mildred: Exactly. They know who they can manipulate and what words to use in order to find out how far to take the manipulation in the beginning. And then, as time goes on, more and more comes out. But sometimes we’re so infatuated with the person that we’ve met in the beginning; we don’t understand that as time goes on that person changes. So when the abuse starts, you think like, well, that’s not who you were when I first met you. But actually he is; it just came out.
Find out why Mildred used to think that it was okay for a man to cheat when you pick up the June 2009 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine.