Sakina Ibrahim considers herself strong and head smart.
But the one-time Downtown LA resident began to question herself when her whirlwind love life—as she said—turned into a Lifetime movie.
“I ended up in a really crazy situation with someone with a criminal background,” she said. “He was a mass manipulator. There were eight women before me who told me they went through a similar thing, but I’m always looking for the lemonade.”
The red flags didn’t mean a thing, but she wants them to be visible for women who are suspicious of their partners.
“My work is in creative arts and wellness,” she said. “I had the courage to walk away.”
The LA Downtown News is calling her ex-boyfriend “Marcus Smith,” as charges have not been brought against him. Smith and Ibrahim met in Downtown LA while she was walking her dog. She eschewed partying and prayed for a husband. To rid her body of toxins, she was fasting to make a “huge lifestyle change.” Ibrahim thought the changes would bring a boyfriend to her. She was right, but it was the wrong one.
“He asked for my number,” Ibrahim said. “I said, ‘I don’t give my number to men who hang out on the street corner.’”
Smith told an elaborate story about how he was recovering from surgery to treat injuries sustained in an accident. The two exchanged Instagrams.
When Ibrahim arrived home, she, naturally, looked through his page and found he was a branding expert who had worked with A-list celebrities, people she’s worked with in the creative arts world.
Ibrahim teaches dance and yoga and is an award-winning author of children’s books. Smith suggested the two do business.
“He said, ‘I have feelings for you. I want to take you out on a date,’” she recalled. “I don’t like mixing business and pleasure. So, we would meditate, talk, go to the beach and do yoga together. Then he asked me on (what turned out to be) the first date.
“I said I would go out with him. We went to a magic show and had a great time. The next day we went to church. We took a photo at church. I posted the photo and I get a phone call from another woman who was in a relationship with him.”
The woman said he mixes business and pleasure. She was the owner of “his” branding company and she was romantically involved with him.
“I don’t do messiness like this,” Ibrahim said. “I don’t get involved with men who are with multiple women. I said I wasn’t interested.”
Smith defended himself by saying the woman was a liar and stalker who tries to sabotage his relationships.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Ibrahim and her friend didn’t want to stay Downtown, so they took off to Texas. Leery of traveling alone, Ibrahim and her friend invited Smith.
“We had the time of our life,” Ibrahim said. “We went to see a Buddhist monk. There were elements of our prophecy that overlapped. I’m thinking, ‘This is the guy. This is the guy I prayed for, and the Buddhist monk confirmed it.’”
Meanwhile, Smith was posting on Instagram and Ibrahim was receiving random messages from ghost accounts saying to stay away from him.
“He’s dangerous,” one of the messages read. “You’re not the only girl.”
Smith contended they were from the same jealous woman.
The trio returned to Downtown LA and Ibrahim decided she had enough. There were too many girls and too much drama.
“The level of his lies is something I had never experienced in my life,” she said.
“He began begging and crying, asking me to call this friend, call his mom, his grandmother. He was trying to get all these people to vouch for him. Many of those calls incriminated him even more. He kept knocking on my door, bringing me flowers, candy, wine and designer sunglasses.
“We continued to engage with each other.”
The first argument
Fast forward a couple of months when Smith and Ibrahim had their first argument over texts between her and a male friend. He violently threatened her friend and attempted to kick in his door.
“He flipped my bed,” she said. “He made me feel unsafe. He wouldn’t let me leave the apartment. The next day, I got my stuff and went to a hotel. I called my mom and I told him he needed to return my keys and car.”
Ibrahim said she didn’t need his love and was in a great place before she met Smith.
But she gave him another chance.
“I agreed to give it another chance if we go to therapy every week and if he’s doing individual therapy,” she said. “He found a therapist and she was excellent. He said in the accident, he suffered a traumatic brain injury.”
Ibrahim told Smith he needed to respect her.
“The arguments started getting worse. I wasn’t willing to comply with his (crap),” she said.
The power struggle
Meanwhile, the therapist was nudging Ibrahim by passing along articles on narcissism and borderline personality disorders. This relationship was only Ibrahim’s second relationship, as her last one was 10 years ago.
“I don’t have a wide scope of dealing with men,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if this was normal, but he clearly had a temper.”
During the quarantine, Smith proposed with a 2-karat diamond ring, and Ibrahim pushed the red flags aside. She thought she found her husband.
“My mother was (mad),” she recalled. “She could see it and smell it a mile away. She said, ‘This man is trying to destroy you.’”
“I love the guy,” Ibrahim said. “I don’t know how else to explain it. I asked for certain qualities and he showed up with those qualities. We got engaged, did a big elaborate photo shoot, but he was just trying to establish himself alongside a successful woman. That is his MO.”
Again, another fight. Smith took Ibrahim’s phone, which upset her all night. A friend called 75 times to make sure she was OK. Smith wouldn’t let her answer.
“We would get in these arguments and take the phone,” she said. “He was afraid I was going to call the police. He even poured water on me.
“Lesson, girls: Know your legal rights. That’s false imprisonment.”
Smith said taking her phone wasn’t illegal and Ibrahim started a pattern of leaving him. Ibrahim quickly learned he had a fear of abandonment.
Ibrahim knew she had to leave before somebody was hurt. She could no longer take his smell. When she woke, she made breakfast, and when he left for work, she booked a flight to her hometown. When Smith arrived home and Ibrahim told him of her plans, he destroyed her personal items and stole her car.
Ibrahim still left. He begged for forgiveness over the phone while she was with her mom, whom she called her “accountability partner.” Ibrahim went to healing retreats and had acupuncture and massages to help her heal and get past the pain.
Ibrahim knew in her gut she had to call one of the women who reached out to her early in her relationship with Smith.
“I said, ‘Hi, this is Sakina,’” she said. “She started crying and said, ‘I’ve been praying for you every day since I sent you that message a couple months ago. He is evil. I’m glad you got away.’”
She, too—like eight other women—received an engagement ring. Smith latched onto women by telling them he’s an expert in their field.
Ibrahim finally broke free of the, as she called it, chaotic and tumultuous relationship.
“Finally, I believed this was a dangerous man,” she said. “I have the ability to protect myself physically, but emotional scars take longer to heal. I want to encourage women to follow their guts and not be blinded by men. Red flags are there for a reason, to get us to go the other way. I wish I had never experienced any of this, but I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Many women aren’t as lucky as I am. I have learned a very big lesson. It can happen to anyone. Please value your life and walk away from toxic and abusive men during the early signs; it could save your life and your well-being.”