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Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Day I Said Enough

I can't remember the exact day in July of 2003, but it was about a week or two before my dad's 62nd birthday. It was a stormy evening when my children's father and I had our last fight. My first son was then 14 months old and I was 3 months pregnant with our second child.

When I found out I was pregnant with our second baby, I told him I wanted to give birth in the United States. My aunt was visiting at the time and agreed to help me with the fees. She and I were on our way home from the Immigration Office when I received a text message that I knew wasn't meant for me. My husband had thrown my cell phone and broke it into pieces from a previous fight we had so he let me use his old one. I knew the message was meant for him so needless to say, I confronted him when he got home.

Like with all of our confrontation, he started drinking. He could drink a full bottle of whiskey in less than 3 minutes, like he was drinking a glass of water. It scared me every time he did this and he knew it. This was his way of gaining control over the situation and to him, this afforded him an excuse for his actions: for hurting me or for being destructive. In the heat of the argument, I was sure I had enough and I started packing. Upon seeing me pack, he took our 14 month old son and said if we were going to leave, he wants his grandma to see the baby one last time.

I jumped in the vehicle with them (there was no way I was going to let him take our son away). With the rain pouring heavily, we drove to his grandma's house. All the while I was praying for God to put some sense into him. When we reached his grandma's house, he told her what was happening. His grandma talked to both of us, and to appease them both, I nodded in agreement to stay. I only did this because all I could think of was my son's safety as well as my own. I was afraid that if he gets further aggravated, things would get worse which would jeopardize me and my son. Little did he know, my mind was made up and I will take the next opportunity to be far away from him. I couldn't sleep that night yet I pretended to, keeping my son as close to me as possible and in my mind, I was secretly brewing an escape plan.

The next morning he left home. Without having second thoughts, I frantically gathered all of my son's things and left. When we migrated to the U.S., my parents asked my uncle and his family to stay at our house so we would always have a place to come back to, and this is where I would flee for safety everytime.

I told my aunt that I've made my decision to come home. She bought plane tickets for me and my son but our flight wasn't for another week. That one week was the longest week of my life. I had dreams of him forcing his way into the house and taking our son because he knew that was my greatest fear; he knew that if he took the baby, I will have no choice but to go with him, too.

The day of our flight came. I was so nerve wracked that I couldn't wait to board the plane and get home. I mentioned that I was three months pregnant when this happened and I was already showing. I was afraid that they wouldn't let me board the plane without a doctor's note saying it was safe for me to travel. Because my doctor was only a couple of blocks away from where we lived, I didn't want to take the chance of him seeing me nor did I want to let him know that we were leaving. I didn't want to give him the opportunity to come up with a plan to stop us from leaving. We boarded the plane without any questions. It was only then that I was able to relax.

I was relieved to be on board, but at the same time anxious to finally get home. I was sad that it had to end that way, but grateful that my son and I are together, healthy, living and safe. At last, after what seemed to be an eternity, our plane safely landed and I was again reunited with my parents,on my dad's 62 birthday. He told my aunt that my homecoming with my son was the greatest gift he had ever received...I left home alone three years earlier and came back with a son, and another on the way.

I don't regret making the decision to come back home. It turned out that my dad was terminally ill with pulmonary fibrosis. He died in August the following year. I had a chance to be with my father on his last year and he had the chance to see his grandchildren.

I later found out that he contacted my aunt and uncle and tried to get us back during our brief stay at the house. Neither of them told me about his attempts for fear that I may go back to him, and they had every reason to protect us.

They knew what he was capable of when under the influence of alcohol. On our first fight, he tried to force me to drink cleaning chemicals and he choked me until I felt my face burn. Only when I pretended to stop breathing did he let go of my throat. As if that wasn't enough to let me know how crazy he could get, he plugged in the clothes iron and proceeded to cut the wire! Sparks flew that I thought fire will break out and I think he may have shocked himself for a second but even that didn't slow him down. He dragged me down the stairs and he locked us in the bathroom. With a cutter in one hand, he pinned me to the wall and pointed the cutter to my throat, then his, threatening to kill himself. Begging him to stop only made him more vicious and violent, asserting his power over me. The more I pleaded, the more powerful he felt. I felt like a helpless mouse, trapped and about to be devoured by a beast! I've only seen such violence in movies and it didn't even once occur to me that I would happen to me! The torture seemed to have lasted the whole night until fatigue took over him and he fell asleep. Battered and badly shaken with fear, I scrambled upstairs for his phone (He destroyed my phone in my prior attempt to escape. He threw my phone on the ground, stomped on it until it was irrepairable. He caught me in the streets and carried me like a sack of rice). I was frantic! My fingers can't seem to dial the right numbers and it felt like an eternity before I was able to get a hold of my relatives. I was rescued that night, only to forgive him a few days later. What I thought was the first and last incident led to a second then a third, each time the knife only got bigger. Clearly there was something wrong with this man but it only happened when he was angry and drunk. When he's sober and life was again good, it's as if none of these ever happened. He surely did not want to get reminded of it and so we both avoided talking about it. His reasoning was he didn't know what he was doing because he was drunk.

I was naive, so I was always willing to forgive and accept. We still fought after those incidents, but although he no longer threatened me with a knife, he was still very destructive and verbally abusive. I had learned my lesson not to say anything or do anything that would even slightly provoke him to get mad. I no longer argued with him even if I knew he was wrong. I loved him yet each time we fought, anger and frustration built inside me. I started to doubt myself and eventually started to believe that it was always my fault. I accepted his lies and also started to think that I deserved all the verbal and psychological abuse I was receiving from him. The thoughts of my son growing up and seeing this behavior from his father made me realize that this was not the kind of environment I want for him. That particular night was when I resolved to put an end to an unhealthy relationship. It was a painful decision but I had two other lives I had to think of beside my own.

I chose to be in that relationship but I also chose to break away from it before it was too late. I want women who are in an abusive relationship to know that:

- THERE IS A WAY OUT
- THEY NEED TO KNOW WHEN TO PUT AN END TO AN UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIP BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE
- WOMEN SHOULD TAKE CHARGE OF THEIR LIVES AND THE LIVES OF THEIR CHILDREN
- WE ARE EMPOWERED TO MAKE A DECISION ESPECIALLY ONE THAT WILL SAVE US FROM FURTHER ABUSE AND PAIN
- IT IS UP TO US TO PROTECT OURSELVES
- WE SHOULD NOT LOSE OUR DIGNITY AND RESPECT FOR OURSELVES
- WE SHOULD BREAK OUR SILENCE TO BREAK OUR SUFFERINGS. DON'T BE ASHAMED TO SEEK HELP.
- WE HAVE THE CHOICE TO STOP THE ABUSE CYCLE
- IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT. INTIMATE TERRORISTS ARE MASTERS OF PUTTING THE BLAME ON YOU EVEN IF YOU DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WRONG.
- WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO FEEL SAFE AND RESPECTED
- YOU ARE NOT ALONE. (There are an estimated 28 million battered women in the U.S., more than half of all married women in the country.)

I learned that God gave us freewill to choose our own path. Like a Father, he disciplines us by allowing us to experience both good and bad things, but He's always ready to bail us out in perfect timing. Things happen for a reason. We may not understand it while we're in that situation, but know that you can rise above it. Forgiveness is a process but it's possible if you open your heart. Given time, you will be able to trust again.

I am thankful that God allowed me the opportunity to come back home. I'm thankful for my aunt because she was there when I needed help. She made sure that my son and I got safely home. I am thankful that I had the chance to be with my dad before he passed away. I am thankful for my mom for being very supportive, for loving me and my children unconditionally, for being generous with her time and financial support. I am thankful because I learned the true meaning of family, that when tragedy strikes, the bond that ties the family becomes stronger. I am thankful that I have the resources and the courage to share my story with you.

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