When I was 23, I lived a life that seemed to have jumped out to me from MTV. I worked at one of the coolest Spanish radio stations in the country during a time period when Reggaeton and Latin Pop were creating new markets in New York City, Miami, and all over the United States. Each weekend, you could find me either holding down the VIP section of an exclusive sold out show or nightclub or at outings becoming friends with celebrities I once just watched on television.
I had a Rolodex of interesting friends and colleagues from all over the country and had an amazing apartment in Jersey City in a community that I adored. It seemed that my life was destined for nothing but greatness judging by the extreme success that I endured at such a young age.
But as you can expect, that was not the case.
One night in 2005, I was out at one of those exclusive nightclubs enjoying my fun and energetic life, I met a Puerto Rican man who was here on vacation. Instantly, we connected. He was tall, handsome, charming, and very friendly. Meeting him didn’t feel like I was meeting a stranger, it felt as though I spent a large portion of my life just waiting for this moment like he was meant to be in my life. That is why it felt normal when he canceled the flight he had scheduled for the following evening back to Puerto Rico to hang out with me. It felt even more normal that the flight back to Puerto Rico was never rescheduled, he just moved in with me.
Everything still seemed perfect to my 24-year-old self, although a year later, my life was extremely different than before. I quit my job because he was sure that the lifestyle I held before was not one that a woman in a relationship should hold. And though I loved the gym, I stopped going because the men would stare and a woman in a relationship should work out from home to avoid that. He even bought me a beautiful new cell phone with a Puerto Rican phone number because my friends and colleagues wouldn’t stop calling and he felt that I did not need them anymore.
Ten years went by and he went from being my boyfriend to my husband and the father of my three children. Being young, naive, and in love, I innocently followed every instruction that he ordered. And when he couldn’t financially support our beautiful apartment in Jersey City and our then-growing family, I innocently followed him wherever he wanted to go. We moved from Jersey City to Pennsylvania down to Puerto Rico and then back up to Pennsylvania.
Our home in Pennsylvania was beautiful, he claims it was his love for nature that brought us there, but I believe contrary to that. The house was beautiful but very secluded. We had a lake out of our back door and a forest out of our front. There was no sign of human life for miles, even the closest grocery store was thirty minutes away. My husband and I would do the grocery shopping there together. I made a list of all of the things the children and I needed, he would tell me, “make sure you get everything you need because I am not driving you back here until we run out of everything.”
He was doing this to ensure that I did not get the opportunity to leave the house too often. I am not sure when things transitioned, but some time in our relationship the man I was dedicating my life to went from loving me to hating me so much that his life goal was to make my life completely miserable.
When my husband would leave the house he would lock the doors from the outside so I could not leave. He took my cell phone, computer, and house phone away so I had no contact with the outside world, and left me no access to anything other than taking care of the house and children. And when the children were not around he made me his personal punching bag, both physically and emotionally.
Things went from bad to worse as the years went on, and unlike most domestic violence relationships there was no honeymoon stage for us. It was pure hatred and disdain all of the time.
The beginning of the summer of 2016 was the absolute worst. My husband was leaving the house at 7:00 am and not returning until 11:00 pm, locking the doors from the outside, and leaving the children and me without any food or drinks.
I spent this period fantasizing of different ways to escape and worrying about what would happen if we didn’t. It wasn’t until he left on Saturday, July 9, 2016, that I knew it was the day I would get away. I contacted my father from my daughter’s computer and begged him to come get us. We packed what little bit we could, threw a chair through the screen door in the basement and fearfully waited for my father’s arrival to get us back to Hudson County safely.
Two months passed from when we escaped, and thoughts from the past twelve years were eroding at my brain. It was as though I suppressed all of the emotions from that time and then once I escaped they hit all at once. I could not feel anything but depressed, hopeless and as though I had nowhere to turn. Somehow, I found WomenRising’s Domestic Violence Hotline and contacted them for assistance. I was enrolled in their Family Support Services within the Youth and Family Department to receive counseling. It was there that I found my worth again.
My counselor, Caroline, was delicate with my emotions, she listened to the words I mumbled out through my tear-filled hour and empathized with my pain. Instead of trying to resolve the past by allowing me to feel anger toward myself and the situation, she taught me the signs of an abuser so if it ever happens again I can get out before it gets too deep. Over and over again, my counselor would remind me that it was the fault of the abuser NOT the victim and how brave I was for escaping.
With Caroline’s help, I was able to navigate through the damaged woman my husband created to find the empowered and confident woman I once was. This new confidence allowed me to be the mother my children needed, as well as the provider. Two months after my counseling at WomenRising was over I got a job as a waitress in a restaurant, and within two months I was promoted to manager.
Thanks to the Youth and Family Department at WomenRising, I finally feel as though my life is destined for greatness again, and the success that I had at 23 I one day will achieve again. Since I left my abuser my life has made a complete turnaround for the better.
Christina was a client in our Youth and Family Department: Family Support Services program from November 2016 – April 2017. At WomenRising, we aim to make a difference in the lives of women and children in Hudson County who have experienced crisis situations. We hope to achieve success with every client similar to Christina’s success through short-term counseling services (12 sessions) and community references, if necessary. The things that she experienced in her past were extremely traumatizing but through WomenRising she was able to face the experiences to prepare for a better future. This is a narrative that we hope all victims and survivors know is possible. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please call our hotline today to get help: 201-333-5700
If you're interested in helping women like Christina, donate to WomenRising today: www.womenrising.org/donate-2