After a nine-year troubled relationship — that increasingly involved verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse — Alejandra finally fled Oxnard for Los Angeles with her 3-year-old son. Even though she knew nobody there or how they would survive in the city her family left when she was a toddler.
That family had carried on an intergenerational cycle of domestic violence going back to her grandparents and forward to her own without missing a beat.
“I was born into violence,” she told Angelus News at the Los Angeles House of Ruth, where she and her son were guests for five months 10 years ago.
Today, she’s a case manager at the group of houses serving homeless and battered women and their children sponsored by the Sisters of Social Service.
“I’d seen my mom go through that with my stepfather. But my mother was a soldier, I want to say. No matter how much abuse she went through, she never let the guy make her feel worthless.
“So, I grew up seeing that. I remember when I was 6, 7, 8 years old, I used to hide my little brothers and sisters, because I didn’t want them to see what was going on, in the closet or under the bed. This was like fistfighting. It was physical. So, I learned not to be scared of men. I learned that from my mom. I learned that I always had to defend myself and take care of myself.”
But why didn’t you leave him sooner? the 33-year-old woman was asked.
With a black shawl wrapped around her shoulders and her fingers knitted together, she looked like the query had been brought up before.
At first, she didn’t really see his dark side. As his controlling and abusive personality started to emerge, with her history, she thought it was just normal interplay. Maybe as they got older, he would change and she could help him? In fact, it was her responsibility. And when that didn’t happen, she kept telling herself that it would be terrible for her son to grow up without a father.
“I should have seen a lot of red flags very early on into the relationship,” she said. “But I didn’t know about the cycle of abuse until I came to the House of Ruth.
“I had PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and, emotionally, I was all over the place. I was having really bad dreams. Isolation. Depression. All that stuff. But I was able to see a therapist sometimes twice a week. I attended a domestic violence support group for two years,” she said.
“My case manager, Louisa Sanchez,” she added, “just encouraged me tremendously to be self-independent. She encouraged me to seek the services that I needed. She kept building up my self-esteem. And now I work with her. So, God works in mysterious ways, because I’ve been here for three years now as a worker.”
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