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.

Fear. It’s the ultimate four-letter word.

This Next Door Solutions client agreed to share her story with us for our 50th-anniversary Survivor Story series.

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. No one ever enters into a relationship to be hurt, but love is seldom easy. However, there is a big difference between having one’s heart broken and having someone literally try to break you down, to tear down your life, and to hurt those you love.

“He” frequented the restaurant where I worked, and when I was assigned to his table, he was always nice. Eventually he worked up the courage to ask for my number and I gleefully gave it to him. He was charming; our first date led to many others. But things changed once I became pregnant. One may say his true instincts emerged.

Tigers are beautiful animals. Their bright, striped fur is soft; their kaleidoscopic eyes typically hypnotic. Their big paws seem gentle, but they hide sharp claws capable of ripping you to shreds. That night, the hands I had held so many times, which had caressed me tenderly, that had felt so protective, suddenly turned into deadly weapons. After one of our many arguments-most recently about how I should “get rid of the baby”-the hands gripped my neck, squeezing tightly in a manner devoid of compassion and full of hatred. That night, the uncaged tiger had ripped my soul to shreds.

It was not just my soul that had been hurt, but also my unborn child. A few weeks later I lost the precious creature. I was torn apart, inside and out, mourning a beautiful baby who would never see this world. I would never meet my child because my ex did not merely walk away, but he lit ablaze our lives on his way out the door. It may not have been worth his attention, effort, and love, but apparently, it was worth his hatred and his demonstration of dominance.

While my ex was restrained in the police car, one officer pleaded for me to press charges. I was scared -paralyzed by my ex’s threat to call immigration on my family- while simultaneously counseled by another officer to terminate the pregnancy. I cannot judge the officer’s intentions, but it seemed like a one-size-fits-all approach to the situation. Perhaps they had seen this movie one too many times. A few minutes later, recognizing my anguish, he suggested I contact Next Door Solutions.

They provided me with support, therapy, and guidance in seeking a restraining order, which was invaluable once my ex decided he wanted to inflict more pain. No one should go through what I did by themselves, and Next Door Solutions made sure I was not alone. I was mired in a deep depression given the emotional pain and his threat to “call immigration on your family.” My life was at a crossroads. I had always wanted to be a software programmer but had taken lesser jobs to make ends meet.

I chose to devote my energy and focus to improving my life. I enrolled in a coding program called “Code a Dream” and within a few months developed “Not a Dream” with some peers. The pandemic had caused many victims of domestic violence to shelter with their abusers. Survivors can thrive when surrounded by a helping community, and the bilingual site can connect users with resources identified by their GPS coordinates, proving that assistance may often be closer than one thinks. Losing my baby was a devastating blow but I feel the app can honor his memory. A poor Latina, unmarried and pregnant, is seldom someone’s idea of a tech pioneer, but I hope my experiences give my peers the opportunity and the audacity to dream big and help those who lack the access and the technology but have the zeal, feel the drive, and heed the call to help others.

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  • Survivor Quote

Survivor Story 8: Toxic Love

She hesitantly returned to him and the abuse stopped for a short while… but it began again. It grew significantly worse over the years due to issues that stemmed from jealousy, insecurity, and control. Nonetheless, she remained with him trying to fix their relationship because of love.

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.