“My heart sank,” Floyd Collins said. “The woman I loved just told me that she was sleeping with another man. As my heart rapidly tumbled into an abyss, I felt myself easing my gun out of my pocket. She looked questioningly at me, and mouthed, ‘I wish you would.’”
Floyd Collins was 23 years old when he was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Demetria. Now at 47, the San Francisco native has become a staunch advocate for victims of domestic violence. He is committed to bringing awareness to those who suffer from addiction associated with domestic abuse.
“In almost all cases of domestic abuse, love is the x-factor of the victim’s belief system,” a San Quentin staff member, who would like to remain anonymous, said. “The danger, however, in believing that the abused is the property of another, causes that self-centered diseased mind to ruin and end lives every second of the day.
“Domestic violence, in my opinion, can be attributed to inter-generational trauma, and/or a learned belief system,” said Floyd.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
“I never realized that my desire to fit in would be the x-factor that would eventually lead to the murder of my girlfriend by my own jealous and rage-filled hands,” said Floyd. “I did not see my behavior as anything other than being normal.”
Now as an advocate, Floyd is aware of his actions that fateful day.
“I believe it was learned behavior,” he said. “My grandfather was an abusive man, just as my dad had been.”
He never realized, as tradition would have it, that he would become an abuser as well.
“I didn’t know any better,” he said.
Not knowing, realizing or understanding that domestic violence is a disease that consumes the abuser and deteriorates the self-will of the abused, Floyd became a participant in a vicious cycle of human degradation that enveloped his entire thought process.
“I never intended to harm, let alone kill Demetria,” he said. “I have spent the past 20 years educating myself and others on the dangers of domestic violence.”
Domestic violence homicides in California increased by roughly 22% in 2017, according to NCADV. In 2018, domestic violence homicides made up nearly 11% of all homicides.
It is important to note not just the statistics, but the contribution we pay into this cycle of abuse towards others. Self-hatred, insecurity and low self-esteem are major factors that an abusive stalker hones in on when seeking control over his targeted victim.
Floyd is a quiet man. A humble man. A man whose journey led him to the walls of San Quentin due to an inner rage that caused him to commit murder. Rage that manifested itself through his belief that abusing women was a natural occurrence. Rage that instantly propelled Floyd to murder his then girlfriend and the mother of his child.
I sat down with Floyd in San Quentin’s library one sunny summer day. As I sat wondering about the causes and effects of domestic violence, Floyd walked in. When I first saw Floyd, I thought to myself that this quiet and seemingly friendly man was an introvert. Once we began to speak, I realized that while Floyd is a man who values his privacy, he is contrarily outspoken, especially about his crime and his transformation from abuser to advocate.
As we sat facing the wall that is the North block housing unit, we began to talk about Floyd’s transformation and how he became a voice for those whose voices often go unheard. He assured me that if he did not possess a genuine transformation from the man he used to be to the man he is today, he would not have a story to tell.
With that, we began our journey into his life and crime. Floyd was born and raised in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley, which is most known for its housing projects and homes nestled on the southern border of San Francisco. It is known as Sunnydale by its residents because of the street that runs the length of the area. It has also been coined “Swampy D.”
Floyd did not live in the projects. He lived in what Sunnydale residents refer to as the brick homes. The brick homes encircle a two block radius within Visitacion Valley.
The eldest to three boys, Floyd reflects on his two younger brothers as we sat talking.
“My younger brother Quincy, who is the middle child, is a very responsible, caring and loving husband who has no domestic violence issues,” he said. “He is supportive of me personally, but has difficulty in understanding the choice I made when I killed Dee-Dee.”
Floyd said his youngest brother, Dimitri, is also supportive of him. He, too, has had his issues with domestic violence in the form of verbal abuse and has been cited by police for making terrorist threats (now known as criminal threats), against a former girlfriend.
“I believe that my life, my crime, played a part in his behavior, in his belief system during that time,” Floyd said. “I come from a line of abusive men. It passed over Quincy, while Dimitri and I were drawn in. I thank God for the abuse stopping here with my story. Wholeheartedly, I regret the circumstances that led to this point.”
Floyd says that he was confused growing up in the heart of the projects.
“I couldn’t understand why the neighborhood kids did not like me or my brothers, why we didn’t fit in,” he said. “I later realized that it was because we lived in a house and they didn’t. We were picked on, bullied and robbed because of it. When I got older, I felt I couldn’t beat them, so I joined them. I started hanging out, selling drugs, being a delinquent. Trying to be seen as their equal. That had its own adverse effect. I dropped out of school in the ninth grade.”
He later got his GED and is now working on a Bachelor’s Degree in sociology, though.
Floyd said that he never knew who he was. He said that he never had a strong foundation of self. He sought validation in the acceptance of others, mainly women. He would try to fit the mold of what the situation called for in the moment, not realizing that he was part of an ever-growing problem.
I asked him to tell me his thoughts just before pulling out his gun that night.
“Jealousy,” he said. “Rage. I viewed her sleeping with another man as the ultimate betrayal. Feelings of insecurity and low self-worth were present that day in full strength.”
More often than not, having no identity can cause one to feel low self-worth, and makes an abuser look to seek power over another because he feels powerless.
“In my opinion, abuse starts in childhood,” Floyd said. “Men not being mature or ever being taught how to express, recognize or process emotions. This in turn becomes repressed anger.”
How does the domestic abuser view his or her victim? How does the violence begin, I asked Floyd.
“The abuser views his victim as an object,” Floyd said. “A possession that he owns. Once a woman has been dehumanized, the abuser feels that he has the right to do what he wants to his victim. His expectations become fierce. The violence becomes a need. He becomes comfortable with his abuse. He is now comfortably in control.”
Floyd describes this dehumanization as psychological abuse.
“The reason being is once a woman is broken, torn down to feel like she is worthless — even to her own self — she is at the will of the abuser,” he said. “He will then continue to treat her as he pleases. This is where the power and control are gained.”
Between 1998 and 2002, nearly 4 out of 5 violent offenders were male, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Many victims of domestic violence, 34%, claimed the incident was a private or personal matter as the reason for not reporting the crime to authorities, according to BJS.
Abuse starts in childhood. We must begin to look at teaching domestic violence prevention to children. The earlier prevention starts, the more hopeful we become in gaining control of the abuse.
“Around the fifth grade would be a good starting point,” said Floyd. “Starting early can prevent people from growing up to become abusers.”
Local and federal governments should implement it into school curriculums. It should be addressed just as terrorism is because of the high rate of domestic violence-related abuse and deaths.
Floyd realized he was the aggressor of domestic violence when he started to abuse his ex-wife.
“I became a mirror of my father,” he said. “I also believe that I was a victim myself of domestic violence, due to the abuse I witnessed in my home.”
Any kind of abuse — be it verbal, mental, or physical — or aggression that one person places on another to gain and/or maintain control of another in a relationship is domestic violence and can escalate without warning.
Women empowerment movements have made great strides in bringing awareness to this issue, but more is needed and not enough is being done.
“Once a woman is abused by her partner, it changes a woman’s whole outlook towards men,” said the San Quentin staff member, who would like to remain anonymous.”Trust is lost to the point that the what if question constantly arises in subsequent relationships, keeping the formerly abused on high alert.”
“Empowerment movements do help victims, but they also build a wall of separation between the perpetrators and the victims,” Floyd said. “It builds two sides of bitterness, but never tapping into the problem of the perpetrator, the fact that they need help as well. We need to look also at the fact that another aspect of ending the cycle of abuse comes from getting abuser help and not relying on prisons to do that for us. Abusers need awareness, too.”
How can we effectively reach the minds of abusers’ whole belief system is rooted in diminishing the roles of women, I asked Floyd.
“Relatable, conscious therapy and treatment through literature and self-help,” he replied. “Men can help other men change if they genuinely want to. Looking at, listening to and hearing from men who were in their shoes tell their stories could have a more progressive impact on the abuser than placing them in prisons. Putting them in a place where, if they don’t take the initiative to help themselves, they are likely not to get help is counterintuitive to a more liberal approach. It is totally possible to change the minds and hearts of anyone who is committed to the cause. Men have a powerful voice, and in the essence of abuse being committed mostly by men, there should be more male advocates for victims of domestic violence.”
Floyd and I both agree that there should be more men speaking up for women.
“A secure man realizes that a woman is his equal,” Floyd said. “He understands that women deserve respect, and should be valued, not abused. He doesn’t have to be labeled as being a feminist, but how about a realist.”
Many abuse victims have a history of abuse, sometimes starting at a very young age. However, Floyd said that the woman he ultimately murdered did not have such a history.
“I am not proud to say that the woman I murdered experienced abuse for the first time by my hands,” Floyd said. “I made a bad choice that day and I am truly sorry that she is gone.”
With the realization of the mistake he made that day, Floyd says, “I know there to be three givens in my life now: death and taxes are guaranteed, along with the fact that I am committed to never abuse another woman. This is a vow that I made to myself, to Demetria (rest her soul), and to my God. I will never harm another woman or anyone else ever again.”
Floyd says that he never knew that there were different forms of abuse until 2014, when he decided to start studying domestic violence.
Furthering his commitment to end the cycle of domestic abuse, Floyd and his wife have created the Awareness Into Domestic Abuse Organization.
It takes a look into what makes a healthy relationship. Covered topics include: characteristic of an abuser, the cycle of violence, the obsession cycle, what is domestic violence and developing a relapse prevention plan.
Here are a few signs Floyd says a woman should look out for:
- Is he seeking to impose his will upon you?
- Is he being accusatory or supportive?
- Is he respecting your freedom of choice?
- Is he isolating you from friends and family?
- Is he threatening in speech or manner?
- Has he become a different person than the person you met?
The list goes on. The most important thing to remember is, “You have the power to change the narrative,” Floyd said. “You have a choice. Do not fall victim to the abuse that is domestic violence. If you see, hear, or have been told that a friend, a neighbor, or coworker is the victim of domestic violence, please speak up for those who go unheard.”
“I am committed to my lifelong journey of growth, transformation, and bringing awareness,” Floyd said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), visiting www.thehotline.org or texting LOVEIS to 22522.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.