MY STORY… I never thought that I would experience a life with so much violence – a gun pointed at my head, my loved ones threatened, and my freedom taken away. The man I considered my best friend, became my worse enemy. He hid his hostility within himself for seven years, and then over a year’s time, I would see him turn into someone so violent…choking me to unconsciousness, punching me as if I were his punching bag. Who is he? This isn’t my best friend, he is a monster. My life turned for the worst when I was forced to quit my job, and cut all ties with family and friends. I could neither leave the house without him nor move freely within my home. He positioned a web camera in the bedroom or in the living room, where I was to sit all day until he came home. My daily routine was to call at work whenever I moved away from the camera. Upon awakening, I would call to say that I was awake, using the bathroom, or getting something to eat and call again once I was back in front of the camera. The only time I was allowed to go out without him was to take my son to school and pick him up. Even then, I had to carry a tape recorder to record any sounds or conversations. I had no freedom to spend time with my children. Sitting in front of the camera was my sole occupation. I was forbidden to receive or make calls, and if I did, it had to be on the speaker phone and in English so he could understand the conversation. If I watched TV or listened to music, I was accused of infidelity. When we drove, I was forced to look only at the car in front of us. If I looked at any other car, he would think it reminded me of another man. Interrogations always led to choking. At times he would say jokingly, “Come here. I have a surprise for you.” The “surprise” was dragging me into a closet and pointing his gun at my head, telling me I was going to die and that he would also shoot my older son for being dishonest like me. As I begged him to stop, I was forced to look into the barrel of the gun as he looked into my terrified face and whispered, “You want to get your rosary? You better because you’re going to die.” My days living with this madman escalated my fear and helplessness, but I never gave up hope. I wanted my children and family to be safe from him and so I let him beat me believing that if I did my best to make him happy, and to trust me, my loved ones in return would be safe. But I realized that whatever I did was not enough. Never enough… I continued to be choked, always wondering when I was going to die. I would pass out from the choking, but when I regained consciousness, he would choke again. I feared that maybe one night he actually would kill me, and at times I wished he would to end my life of abuse. But my children needed me to protect them from this evil man. Every night I would pretend to be asleep as I felt my heart pounding so hard it felt like the bed moving. In my mind I would repeat, “Please no more accusations, questions, threats, beatings.” Please go to sleep… One day, a wrong number left a voicemail on my cell phone, leading him to punch and choke me repeatedly. I felt like an animal being beaten into submission for not obeying its master. I couldn’t scream – I would get beaten more. His expression as he beat me seemed to say I deserved it. There was no sign of remorse, just power and control. I was told not to move, to bite on a bullet as he pointed the gun to my forehead, and to kneel and pray because my son and I were going to die. He forced me to look into the barrel of the gun as he looked into my terrified face and whispered, “You want to get your rosary? You better because you’re going to die tonight.” I prayed…Hail Mary…Our Father…repeatedly without faltering…feeling the cold barrel of the gun. My mind raced as I asked myself, “Is this the night when he will finally pull the trigger?” I prayed, “If he kills me, please, God, let it be quick and please take care of my children.” I prayed for their safety and for my family. And as he punches me more, I prayed for forgiveness. I continue to pray in pain. I live another day… After that incident I finally realized that my children and I needed to leave. How? Without money, outside help, or no family nearby! But I had to take the risk. I refused to continue in this life of hell and I refused to keep my children in it. I planned…it must be perfect. I played the act of my life…All is well…All is happy. One thing he cannot take is my thoughts. I spent endless nights calculating the window of opportunities to escape. My last few days at home, I lay awake until the sun rose, planning our escape. I was terrified, but when I found the courage to pull the power from the camera I knew there was no turning back. And so we left. Now my children and I experience freedom and happiness. They play freely with other children, go to the beach and park, and take walks. I, too, can actually walk freely around the house and talk with other people. I can have friends to confide in. We can converse as a family without fear, suspicion, and intimidation. I hear my children laughing and see them smiling more. Seeing them this way again gives me strength and courage to continue our fight for freedom. I will no longer be intimidated. I will continue to tell people my story, the truth of what happened behind closed doors. As my children and I face a turbulent path into the unknown, we continue to find courage and determination walking hand-in-hand with family, friends, and advocates who reached out the helping hand that continues to lead us to a smoother path towards inner strength, happiness, and freedom.
"Without the support from Shelter From The Storm and the staff at shelter, I do not know where I would be. Thank you!" ~ Michelle "If you need help and do not know where to turn, call Shelter From The Storm. They helped me!" ~ Belinda