Survivor Story: I Temporarily Lost Custody of My Son After A Brutal Attack
Submitted by: *Marta, Survivor
Children are not spared the trauma of witnessing domestic violence in the home. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, children are targets of abuse by 30-60% of perpetrators in homes where domestic violence occurs. Additionally, witnessing abuse in the home dramatically increases their risk of experiencing neglect and fatality as well as domestic and sexual violence later in life.
After a brutal attack, Marta sent her son to a friend’s home, where she felt he would be safe. Child protective services later took custody of her son. Before finally winning him back, Marta’s son went through one foster home as well as stay in a group home in just under three months. She shares with us how this temporary loss of custody affected her and how her surviving abuse has fostered a need within herself to help others who have experienced domestic violence.
My experience with domestic violence begins like most, the usual “boy meets girl” story. We shared laughter, intimacy, and thoughtful conversations. I fell in love with him, and, at first, things went well between us.
The first time he put his hands on me was in October 2015, several months after he moved in with my son and me. After we had been together for a year, he strangled me. I vaguely remember what started it or what he may have said to me, but I can remember crying and struggling to breathe as his hands tightened around my throat. Each time I begged him to let go, he only squeezed harder. He asked me, “Do you want to die? Let’s die together.”
One of the first warnings that Marta disregarded was his short fuse – even with small things.
This man that I fell in love with drastically changed. I ignored the red flags and warning signs, especially the fact that the smallest of things could set him off. If I broke something accidentally, he would explode in anger. When I would ask a simple question, he would snap like a twig.
For the next year, at least seven days a month, I was subjected to random physical assaults that usually happened without warning. He was also unfaithful. Each time he went to see other women, he told me that I just needed to accept his behavior – abuse and his open infidelity –while he lived for free in my home.
What in the world was I thinking? I thought that I could love the hatred and anger out of him to ‘make’ him a better person. I started to deteriorate physically, emotionally, spiritually. Because of the emotional anguish I felt, I started to stay in bed most of the day, cut myself, and ended up attempting suicide. All the while, I wondered why it was happening to me. The abuse went on for over a year.
On September 4th, 2016, our lives changed forever. He beat me so severely that my son came running into the house to stop him. He had hit the back of my head so many times that I blacked out while he strangled me. Every part of me hurt. My neighbors called the police. Was he arrested? No. Did I press charges? No – I was filled with absolute fear.
Even though Marta sent her son to stay where he would be safe, Child Protective Services soon intervened by assuming custody of her son.
I sent my son away to a friend’s house where he would be safe. From there, things turned from bad to worse. My son was taken into the custody of Child Protective Services at the end of September 2016. I broke down completely and was hurt, angry, and terrified. My son did not deserve this. He went through one foster home and a group home. I fought hard to get him back, working day and night to make it happen. Finally, my son was returned to my custody in December 2016, just ahead of Christmas. The only gift I wanted that year was to have my son back with me.
In the meantime, my abuser moved on to live with another woman. My son and I both insisted that, at the time, we did not want to press charges. Even though we knew he needed to be held accountable, we also knew he would have hurt me more, or possibly even killed me.
Marta’s experiences have led to her wanting to find a way to help other victims and survivors of domestic violence.
I want to remove the stigma from those who experience domestic violence and advocate for the victims and survivors of all forms of abuse. For me, it is sad that one wants to talk about it or make changes, including our government agencies in my state. I want to be the voice of all who have endured abuse and domestic and sexual violence, and I want to speak for the ones who are not able to speak for themselves because they have lost their lives to domestic violence murder.
When I think about things my ex said to me after hurting me, like the times he told me that he was afraid that one day he would kill me, I also think about accountability and access to resources. How can we bring about stiffer consequences and address mental health concerns for abusers? How do we get to the root of the problem, the underlying causes of abuse, because it does not lie with the victims? What steps can we take to ensure that victims have more access to resources after leaving dangerous situations? In what ways can we help the children who have witnessed domestic violence, hear the abuse, or become victims themselves?
I pray about this regularly and patiently wait for God to open the doors for me to do this. Many have told me that I would make a great peer advocate, but I question whether I am ready for this emotionally. My counselor even told me she could see me being a peer counselor someday. However, I am just not sure when that will happen. When the time comes, will I have the strength to do it?
I can say this much. When the Lord nudges you, you should listen to what He is telling you. Even if you do not think you can do it, even if you feel you are not ready, He will make a way.
I wanted to share my story with others in hopes that it will help someone else. They are not alone in this, and, as many times as I have heard the infamous question, “Why did you stay?” I can say now to others suffering through abuse now, I am here for you and will pray for you through this.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the survivor.
**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page. For crisis services, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
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