“Oftentimes the beatings came out of nowhere, unexpected and unprovoked. Following the beatings, he would break all the phones in the house and hold me prisoner for days. It got to the point where I had chronic anxiety attacks and could no longer communicate with people or leave the home. My nervous system was completely shattered. The day he raped me, I remember feeling as if my spirit could no longer stand the endless, excruciating pain. I realized that my mind was breakable and that the years of abuse had done so much psychological damage, my mental health was in serious jeopardy.
Over the next few months I regained my will to fight. I pulled myself together enough to convince the social worker and judge to grant me a divorce. I was flying high on the adrenaline and euphoria of escaping and finally being free. In less than six months I had two jobs and a beautiful apartment for my sons and me.
But as time went on, I began to unravel. I had no idea of the storm ahead of me.
I tried desperately to hold it together but inside I was so destroyed that I didn’t even know how to begin to put the pieces of me back together. After just one year, I’d lost my jobs and resorted to living on unemployment. For the next two years I felt like I was regurgitating this endless pain and torment. I suffered intense depression and anxiety attacks that ended in 911 calls and several trips to the ER. It took three months of medication to reroute my brain and finally relieve the severe anxiety. In time, my depression got more manageable. When I was finally able to get control of the tears and return to work I tattooed “soul survivor” across my wrists and vowed to never let myself regress. I fought to be a happy, healthy mother for my kids but as I sat in the welfare office applying for assistance in order to meet my children’s needs, I realized that I’d been fighting alone long enough and it was time to reach out for help.
That’s how I came to be a client at Santa Anita Family Service. I received 1-on-1 therapy sessions each week and later joined a weekly women’s empowerment group. Both have tremendously changed my life. They provided a safe place for me to revisit the abuse and process what happened to me. I’ve also come to understand how and why I was predisposed to end up in an abusive relationship. At first it was really difficult and scary to speak freely about horrific events that no one was ever willing to listen to before. I’d never voiced much of my abuse and because of that, it seemed to lurk in the corners of my soul and haunt me.
Exposing those parts of me stripped the abuse of its power over me. Each visit felt like we were grabbing the fear and the pain by the root and pulling it out like weeds. I won’t lie and say it always felt good but it always felt like I was healing and growing and stretching myself into the woman I was meant to be. I’ve heard so many battered women say, “I just want to feel like myself again-to get back to the woman I use to be, before my abuse.”
On my journey to wholeness, I didn’t find the woman I use to be. I found the woman I was created to be. And somehow that made it all worth it. I am more than a survivor. I am a woman with a purpose and a passion for those who share my story. I understand the world they live in and I know what they’re experiencing. So as happy as I am to have come out of that nightmare, I can’t walk away from the millions of women who still live there. I didn’t know there was a way out and it took years for me to find it.
Every day in America, three women are murdered by their abuser because they didn’t find their way out in time. There are so many places out there that have intentions to help but really miss the mark. SAFS is doing something incredibly right. I am deeply appreciative for the services I’ve received here. Because of them, I am working again. I am in the first healthy, happy relationship of my life, and most importantly, I am not broken anymore.”
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