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.
After I left, there were some people that were ignorant enough to comment things like:
“ But you have five children! You can’t raise them alone, they need their dad.”
“ Give him a chance, if he hits you again then you should leave him.”
“ Did you already find a boyfriend rich enough to support you and your 5 children, ha!”
There will always be somebody who will make you doubt your decision. When he finally realized that I had found the courage to leave him and not come back, he threatened me and threatened to take away the children.
I am here today to tell you that it can be done, that you should never lose faith, that there is hope, and that there are people who care about you and will fight for you, and be with you every step of the way. I am here today to tell you that there are organizations that can help you like Opciones Dignas in Mexico, the Cesar Chavez Foundation, and BCFS in the United States, among many others. I would like to thank several people who without knowing us have provided us with unconditional support, clothing, furniture, and legal counsel. These women have their own problems and busy lives, but every morning they put them aside and help us with our problems. Thank you Floria Fernandez, Lic. Monica, Yoly, Mayela, Cristy, Gemma, Luz, Valerie, and Alma. My family has also been a great source of support, my parents, my sister, my cousin, but I would like to say a special thanks to my children. We have become a great team, we are a great team.
When we arrived in the U.S. my sister took us all in. We lived in her two-bedroom apartment for several months. When we were finally able to get our own apartment we only had a few items of clothing and a mattress that she gave us, so we ate and slept on the floor. Today my apartment is fully furnished thanks to the army of angels God has sent to help us.
It can be done! There is help, there’s a better life out there for you, a different life. We are women, we are beautiful, good, special, loving, and we deserve to be loved, to be treated with respect, and to be valued.
We can do it! All we have to do is take the first step. The choice is ours to make, nobody can decide for us, because only we know and live what happens behind closed doors.
If you are in need of help here are some organization that can help you:
National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233): Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, this line is a resource for safety information and can connect any caller with shelters and protection advocates in her area.
VINE (VineLink.com): Active in 47 states, VineLink.com allows women to search for an offender in custody by name or identification number, then register to be alerted if the offender has been released or transferred, or has escaped.
Women’s Law (WomensLaw.org): This site has state-by-state legal information and resources for victims, as well as advice on how to leave an abusive situation, gather evidence of abuse, and prepare for court.