My story begins when my life changed at age 16. I had been living with my family in the Dominican Republic when my parents suddenly divorced and I had to go live with my grandmother. It was a lonely time for me, so when I met my husband that year I was looking for someone to heal my broken heart and quickly fell in love. Our first few years were fine, but jobs were difficult to find in the Dominican Republic. So we decided to move to New York City to be near my husband’s family and friends.
I was really excited to move, but I didn’t know that New York City would become my nightmare place. My husband had always revealed a dark and violent side of himself when he was drinking, and after we got to New York City, I saw that dark side more and more. The stress of the move escalated his drunkenness. Soon he was drunk every night—and with his drinking came violence. At first, the abuse wasn’t every day… and it was always followed by tears and apologies and promises to change. I was young and I wanted to believe him, particularly because shortly after arriving in New York City, I got pregnant and became dependent on his support.
But my hopes were soon dashed when he became angrier about my activities, threatening my friends and abusing me almost every day. I ended up in the hospital with a broken face and bloodied lips. But it wasn’t my injuries that convinced me to leave. I felt my baby’s fear inside my body when he shook and kicked as my husband attacked me. I knew for my baby’s sake, I had to leave.
For a while, my new baby boy and I stayed with friends but never for long because my husband would find us and threaten everyone who had helped us. I couldn’t go home to the Dominican Republic because I knew he would find me and possibly hurt my family. Then my brother connected me with a friend who lived in Boston. The friend was very kind and took us in, but he too had a family so there was no space for us. Finally, even though I had no English language skills, I went to a Boston area service organization for help, and they referred me to Casa Myrna.
Casa Myrna changed everything for us, and they did it with compassion and patience. For the first month, my son and I were so traumatized that we couldn’t sleep. Thoughts of my husband finding us haunted me every night. But slowly, the shelter advocates and other families in the shelter helped us to feel safe. Counseling for me and my son helped both of us to heal from our trauma and fear.
Finally, we are putting the pieces of our life together. I have almost completed my English language classes paid for by Casa Myrna, which will help me to find employment. My son is now in daycare learning how to managed his trauma-induced behavior and enjoy being with other children. And we are putting the necessary documents together so that I can achieve my long term goal – to become a federal agent. I’ve learned the value of laws that protect our rights and independence, and I want to make law enforcement my career.
Casa Myrna has helped me to live again. When I was with my husband, I was always miserable, didn’t care about myself, I ignored my appearance and never wore makeup and I had no dreams or goals. But now I am happy, I feel beautiful and confident, and I know that my son and I have a great life ahead of us.
P.S. If you would like to give more survivors like me the gift of hope this holiday season, please click here.