My Five-Year-Old Saved My Life

[My sister has asked me to share her story in the hopes that her testimony can help at least one other person who has been a victim or is a victim of domestic abuse.]

This story doesn’t start with punches. In my case the insults came first, then jealousy, mistrust, even destroying a pair of pants because he didn’t want me to wear them, a shove, breaking the car window, and kicking and punching down our door one night because I didn’t want to be near him. After a crisis or outburst he would apologize, say he was angry and couldn’t control himself, and swear he would never do it again. Then followed what they call the honeymoon phase: he was thoughtful and caring, we would go on dates, and he would give me gifts. Then I would say to myself, “ He really is sorry, he will change, we got married for life, we have five children, WE will be able to get through this.”  I started to minimize his defects and exalt any positive detail or quality. I created an illusion, an image in my mind of a reality that did not exist, and I refused to accept.

One night he had been sitting on our porch drinking while I was inside working on a school project for our girls, the children were asleep. He barged in demanding to know whether I had been unfaithful to him. I told him several times that I had in no way been unfaithful, but he kept insisting that this wasn’t true. I finally gave up and simply stated, “ I have nothing more to say.” That’s when the punches started. I got up from the chair I was sitting in, trying to guard my face from the blows that kept coming, Suddenly, I remembered the children! All I could think about was that I didn’t want them to wake up, but I could hear my five-year-old daughter waking up in the next room. All I was able to say to him was, “ Don’t you realize what you’re doing? What about the children?” He answered, “ I know what I’m doing, you’re a w***e.” He pulled and shoved me out of the house. He grabbed me by the neck and began banging my head against the concrete wall.

I think only the people who have lived through something like this can really understand what it feels like:

First there’s shock, “ Is this really happening to me? Yes, it is happening, and he’s banging my head against the wall!”

Then there’s anger, “ I can’t let him do this, I have to defend myself.”

This is followed by a feeling of impotence, “ The more I tried to defend myself and fight back, the stronger the grip around my neck was.”

Finally, there’s fear, “ What’s going to happen? When is he going to stop? He’s going to kill me! Will he hurt the children too?”

I don’t know how much time went by, but he eventually let go and went inside the house to get his cell phone. My first instinct was to run; I was barefoot and dressed on an old t-shirt and shorts that I slept in. I was out in the street when I turned around and thought, “ My children! I need to get help! My children are in the house, what if he hurts them? What can I do? I know. I can run back in and grab them, we can all run.” I had to go back. Then I did the only thing I could do, I prayed:

“ God please don’t let him kill me.” I turned around and went back for my children.

After that there were more punches, kicks, and insults, but in the end the only thing that was able to stop him was my five-year-old daughter. She was watching everything from the bedroom window. When she saw me lying on the ground she ran outside and threw her arms around me and would not let go. I will always keep that moment close to my heart, that day my little girl protected me, instead of me being able to protect her. She saved my life!

It wasn’t until several months later that I was able to leave him. I grabbed my kids and left with only the clothes on our back and crossed the border. It came down to saving my life and the life of my children or choosing to stay with him. I decided to fight for me and for my children. I did not want my girls to think that that’s the way men should treat them or my boys to think that treating women that way was ok. One could think that physical and emotional violence only affects us women because it is directed towards us, but this is not the case. Children see, hear, and live the violence as well.

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