Pandora's Box: An Interview With A Survivor of Domestic Abuse
By Andrea Martinez
Pursuing a career in journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University. Constantly electrified from politics and culture.
According to the World Health Organization, there are 42 million assault survivors in the world and over 150 people are victims of sexual abuse. Being assaulted, raped, or sexually harassed is difficult to grow from. It can traumatize a person into depression. Learning to love yourself instead of blaming yourself is a process that can take years. A process that Linda Abrego began 5 years ago. Rosa is an immigrant from El Salvador who moved into a foreign country with an abusive partner. After finally separating herself from him, she suffered from psychotic depression. Understanding to accept her mental disease while taking care of herself and her kids wasn’t easy for her.
A: Thank you for sitting down with me. I know it’s hard to talk about these topics, especially when it’s personal.
L: It’s no problem. It’s good to talk about these things. There are millions of people that suffer from violence. It’s important to help them as soon as possible through some service or to simply get it out because it’s not healthy. You could lose your entire family. I almost did.
A: On that note, tell us your story.
L: The first time my ex-husband hurt me was 20 years ago when we just started dating. He got drunk and showed up at my house, then after arguing he grabbed me by the neck. I was so cared that I pushed him off and ran to my parent’s house, hoping they would open the door. I told my family that if he asked about me not to tell him. I wanted to go to Canada to see my brother because I though he couldn’t reach me there. When I went to work the next day, I told my boss the same information. If he called to say I no longer worked at the company. I didn’t think he would show up at my job. During lunch break my coworker told me he was waiting for me in the front. I didn’t want others to laugh at us, so I walked up to him. He asked for forgiveness and said he would never hurt me again. I accepted the apology. I didn’t think that would be the start of a painful life. I didn’t realize he was that kind of person. He would mistreat me, subsidize me, in life and sadness, always treating me worse the next day. The day I decided to leave was after he abandon my kids and I in a house that didn’t have power, water, or food. I knew that if I were to forgive him again, what would he do next? That’s why I decided to start over from zero, by myself.
A: How did you start over?
L: My parents taught me to always work and look forward. I asked my godmother to store my belongings, and an old friend of 30 years to help me find a place where my kids could be safe. At the time I didn’t have a stable job, only two houses that I would clean and with that little money I started to try and build a new life. I would go to the community shelter to find food for the house. Of the people I trusted, I was able to find a work. The pay and hours were low, but I had bills and kids to care for. One of my friends helped me find the job I have now. It’s a laborious job for a woman but when I got there and saw the men that were able to support their families through it, I decided to stay in order to support mine.
A: Coming from a different culture was it difficult to accept the idea of depression after leaving a toxic relationship?
L: Honestly, I come from a culture where most of the public don’t have access to school or education. When someone suffers from depression, they see it as unusual. I didn’t want to accept my depression. When I felt sad, I would pray. I wanted to find a spiritual way to heal myself but the priest at my local church told go to the hospital. From there I was recommended a therapist.
A: Were you able to prioritize your own recovery through therapy?
L: Yes, because she helped me feel more confident and would give me the time to express my emotions while setting small goals that I could achieve. I’d never done anything like it. She would ask me every visit, what was it that I wanted to do. I would tell her I wanted a stable job that would give my family insurance and to go to school so I could work in accounting like I did in El Salvador. After getting hired at my current job, they gave me multiple codes. My brain couldn’t keep up. It worried me, but I wrote them down. I told my therapist about it and she told me not to worry, that it was normal, and I would be able to do it. She was a very reasonable person. I think therapy helped me talk about my problems, because I was hopeful that she would help me.
A: You mention self-expression. Was there a sense of freedom while in therapy?
L: I feel freer to talk to people today. Especially when I must talk to men. Because that was something my ex husband wouldn’t allow me to do. Now I feel so happy that I can look at men, talk to them, and have friends. To see that sharing moments and laughing together is something normal. I don’t feel pain. He used to man handle me when I would look at someone, but now I feel liberated to express myself. I think there is a better life. IT’s very difficult to be a single mother, but it’s possible with dedication and hard work. It’s possible to reach your self-goals.
A: Now that you’re free, liberated, and focusing on yourself, who are you today?
L: Today I am a person that has learned to appreciate life with what it’s given me. I’ve learned to be happy with the little I have. I have my kids, who make me happy and give me energy. I like to listen to music, and dance. I enjoy talking to people, helping others when they need me, and making new friends. Something that was very difficult in the past. I want to push forward, always reaching my goals. If I’ve learned anything from my experience, it’s that what happened to me and the fact that I was able to get out, should be a set example for someone that needs it.
If you, or anyone else needs help remember that you shouldn’t be afraid to speak out. Rosa wasn’t afraid, and thus was able to help herself and her family.