Trigger Warning
This story may contain descriptions of physical and sexual violence that may be upsetting. Please consider your triggers and well-being before reading. Seek help if needed.

My son altered my future

Do you remember the scene in “Back to the Future” when Marty pushes George, thereby altering the future?

My two-year-old son did that. He stood before his enraged father, coiled to assault me. My son wanted to protect me. This was the turning point for me, but it wasn’t a movie, it was real life.

My relationship with my abuser started out normal: dating, courtship, and marriage. In hindsight, some warning signs were present. I had three children from a prior relationship; he would often comment he wanted one of our own, bitterly stating “you gave your ex three daughters.” He was upset when he found my birth control pills, which he deemed a betrayal. Getting home late from work aroused suspicions despite my explanations of heavy traffic.

He drank heavily, had relationships with other women, and soon became psychologically abusive. My pregnancy-what should have been a joyous occasion-instead triggered his desire to physically hurt me. He once hit me with a lamp, and another time, he pulled a knife on me. By this point, his humanity was gone, and he had no qualms about assaulting me, despite the fact I was carrying our child -the one he had so often demanded.

Around this time, a co-worker was murdered by her abusive partner, confirming the reality of my fear. I wasn’t ready to leave, but I felt a need to feel safe. I told my neighbors that if the light were on, I was in trouble. This silent signal became my cry for help, but the pain at home would continue. As is common with domestic abusers, he would apologize, and swear it would never happen again, but the promises were hollow and short-lived.

My toddler’s instinct to protect his mother enabled me to escape from the darkness. I asked myself “what am I doing?” My abuser was removed from our shared home and I changed the locks, both the physical ones on the door and the symbolic ones keeping me in the relationship. A police officer referred me to Next Door Solutions, which was a godsend.

Having a sense of normalcy during such unsettling times was invaluable. My landlord allowed me to delay paying rent, so I was able to stay in my home. Providing my children with holiday gifts when I did not have enough to make ends meet was a great help, as were Next Door Solutions’ Support Group meetings that help me connect with other women going through the same experiences.

Paradoxically, my son’s action seemed to also have triggered a change in my abuser. At the court hearing, he agreed to forfeit his custodial rights without any resistance. It was so stunning the judge questioned whether he understood the implications. At a follow-up appearance, he still agreed, and he disappeared from our lives for several years.

He reappeared years later, asking to see our child. However, he never physically showed up. Whether he realized the depths of the damage he had caused or whether he did not care enough to attend is inconsequential. What matters is my children and I have rebuilt our lives. One has graduated from college; the other three finishing their studies. While my son was very young during the nightmare and does not remember much, they are likely buried, unconscious memories I wish he could erase.

While stories of abuse share many similarities, no two are identical. I have not yet finalized the divorce, but thanks to Next Door Solutions I soon will. While it took me a long time to leave my husband, I consider myself blessed to have closed that chapter of my life, never to be reopened.

When Bonds Become Chains

Sometimes it’s fear of deportation or revenge against family; other times it’s the economic dependency, especially if the abuser provided the income. Often, it’s the sheer paralysis of finding a safe place to live, particularly in the Bay Area with its high cost of living. Ana Castillo, who works for the Next Door Solutions (NDS) advocacy housing program, recounts a recent case about a client we will name “Angela”.

Survivor Story 8: My son altered the future

My toddler’s instinct to protect his mother enabled me to escape from the darkness. I asked myself: what am I doing? My abuser was removed from our shared home and I changed the locks. A police officer referred me to Next Door Solutions.

Survivor Story 6: Fear

Fear. It’s the ultimate four-letter word. Have you ever seen a movie where the bad guy captures the hero’s family and the protagonist says: “whatever you do, don’t hurt them”? That was me.