In 2002 I graduated college, acquired an apartment, bought my first television and sofa set. I thought I was ready to take on the world, 21 years old and confident. I was able to land a job as a social worker for a non-profit agency, excited to help my people and make their lives better. I worked day in and day out with teens and women who suffered from many barriers, teen pregnancy, shelters, run away, sexual abuse, domestic violence and at 21 years of age I believed my presence and input in their lives mattered. I felt vindicated when I was able to find a shelter for a woman in need, when I was able to remove a child out of a hostile situation or get food for a family who needed one, I thought I had it all.
Five months after I found a new apartment and landed myself a job-I met a man, he was handsome, very well built and made me nervous anytime I saw him. My best friend introduced us. The day we met we all went out to a nearby bar for a few drinks. He was charming, spoke very well and seemed interested. Before we left that evening we exchanged numbers and that was the start to what I thought would be a great relationship. A year passed and we dated almost every day, we were gym partners, we binged on movies and laughed all day long, which seemed like the perfect match. Then one day, things took a turn for the worse, one remark set him off and it was like my life took a total change.
I remember that day, it was a Thursday night, he was working nights and came home to eat dinner before returning to work. I overheard him on the phone telling someone he would go see them in a few, I thought to myself, “he has to go to back to work," so I told him exactly that, “Babe, but don’t you have to return to work soon?” Bam! Just like that my life changed. He turned around with such might and punched me directly in my chest, and said, “mind your business, don’t you worry about where I go or what I do!” The punch knocked me down, I remember thinking “did this really just happen?” He walked toward me on floor and threw the plate of food at my face, told me that if I ever questioned him again I would lose the teeth I had in my mouth. I was in shock, I just sat on the floor frozen, waiting for him to leave. As he walked out the door I remember letting out a loud scream, “God why, how could you let him do that to me?” I kept thinking to myself, “I can’t let him do this again, I have to get out of here.” My heart was racing; my tears were non-stop. The granddaughter of a Charismatic Catholic who prayed night and day. I sat up in my bed crying out to God, “please give me the strength to leave him, he will not touch me again!” But like every other day that followed, I stayed, I took it and instead of his rage decreasing, his anger toward me became constant. The man I thought loved me and was such a kind, gentle man, became the man I most feared. I began to lose my faith, after every beating I would pray to God that I be freed from this prison I was now living in. How could I allow him to hurt me like this, how could I stay when I tell women every day to leave? I was a hypocrite in my own right, I went to work daily with a smile on my face. When I had the nerve to see my friends I would smile, joke and be the life of the party, but no one knew how deeply I was hurting.
I cursed God for not protecting me, I gave up all hope of ever being happy. I thought God had forsaken me and for some reason this was my punishment for apparently whatever I had done wrong with my life. But after 4 years of being spoken down to, beaten, left outside of my home naked and bruised, I decided I wouldn’t take it anymore. I had moved out of my apartment and was living in my car, I didn’t care, as long as I was away from him. He had threatened to kill my family if I ever told them, he threatened to end my life if I ever called the police and my fear of him kept me captive. Instead of going back home to my family, I slept in my car and cleaned up at work. After four years, I had moved on to another job, now working as a school social worker, my bosses knew I was suffering, but never were able to completely help. I was quiet about my personal life and I refused to show anyone bruises, until one day I bent over while my boss was standing behind me and he caught wind of my bruise on my back. Of course I made up a story as I had thousands of times. I remember walking outside to my car and he followed and saw the bags of clothes in my back seat, he asked “Vega are you ok?” I just smiled, “sure I am, I had to get out of my apartment for a few days, they are exterminating," but he knew, he just smiled and said “if you need anything I’m here.”
In the fall of 2006 I was sitting in my office, I felt sick and thought nothing of it, then decided to call and make an appointment. I was quite impatient and went to the school nurse to see what she thought. After a short conversation, she said, “Vega it sounds like you're pregnant.” You see, although I left him, still fearful of his actions I would go see him, so he would not come after my family. On November 8, 2006 I found out I was carrying his child. I left this man, but still allowed him a place in my life and I now was carrying his child. In the weeks to follow he would try his best to get me to abort the child, but I had no interest in having an abortion. My family would never approve so I went ahead with the pregnancy. Throughout my pregnancy he tried pushing me down steps, he punched me in my face and denied me to anyone who asked. I had a beautiful baby girl June 17, 2007 and I finally took my life back. I decided I will not be a victim any longer. I prayed for strength daily and I asked God to yet again protect me from this man, give me the courage to stay far away from him, for myself and my daughter, but you see I prayed but my faith was shakey. I wanted God to help me, I wanted Him to give me strength, but only when I needed Him. I wasn’t attending church, I wasn’t praying everyday, only when I needed Him.
Then in July of 2009 I went to a festival. As I pushed my daughter in her stroller and listened to music, I thought to myself, "life wasn’t bad." I no longer was being abused, he moved on and I finally felt at peace. Did I pray? Did I ask God for anything then? Did I thank him for anything? No, I moved on in life as if He wasn’t who truly moved mountains to save me from the prison I Iived in, but that afternoon her father made a call to me stating he wanted to see his daughter. I was babysitting that afternoon after the festival and didn’t want to take my daughter out again while carrying around two other children. So, I asked him to wait for another day, but he was persistent and continued to call me even after I told him no. The calls finally stopped and I assumed he was fine, but after two hours there was a knock on my friend’s door. To my surprise he found out where I was and when I opened the door to tell him to leave he punched me so hard, knocked me out and I felt back onto the sofa. My daughter was two years old and she saw her father knock me out cold. When the police came I remember my daughter yelling, “my daddy did it, my daddy did it.” How could I have let this happen? How could I have allowed this man to take so much from me? How could I have allowed him to hurt me so deeply, right in front of my child? What was I doing for her? How could I tell my daughter that she is worthy of grace and that she could be treated like a queen, if I’m allowing a man to hit me? And that day, I truly gave my life over to God, as I stood at city hall getting my protection order, I not only took my life back, but I looked up to God and I said, “God I accept you back into my life, I know that only with you I will get past this, only with you will I find my worth again!” after that, I never looked back. I know now that God saved me, the strength I found to stand up to this man came from Him. I was able to finally stand tall and say to him in that court room, “you no longer control me!” I may not be the perfect Christian, but with God’s grace I have managed to raise a beautiful little girl on my own and I only have God to thank for this blessing. Though My road to this freedom was long and painful, I regret nothing. It took me losing my faith to learn how to renew it! Sometimes we need to go through many storms before we allow God to facilitate our lives. For 6 years I allowed a man to beat me senseless because I was not giving it to God and allowing Him to steer that ship, I was too prideful and believed I could do it alone. If I could tell any woman going through this one thing, I would say “Let go and let God,” with Him all things are possible and through Him I have managed to gain my self-worth back and I have never looked back again.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God, I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4)
“Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her.”