Isabel is part of a special series developed in partnership with Good Shepherd Shelter, a transitional shelter for mothers and their children who are survivors of domestic violence. Isabel participated in the interview below, as well as an additional interview to be released at a future date, where she reflects on the impact her stay at Good Shepherd had on her transition from victim to survivor.
For the last 6 months, Unconventional Apology Project has worked in partnership with Good Shepherd Shelter to create “Stories Collected,” an extension of Unconventional Apology Project, to bring visibility to all of the heart-work that Good Shepherd Shelter does for women and children who have survived domestic violence. Our hope is that their heart-work will always be a resource for women and children embarking on the transition from survivors to thrivers.
Why are you participating in Unconventional Apology Project?
“I want to be an advocate for women who are going through domestic violence and to help the community.”
I want to be an advocate for women who are going through domestic violence and to help the community. Also for other people that are not experiencing, to be aware of it. We’re normal people. We look just like everyone else. And the people that are not experiencing to be an inspiration for them as well so they can also participate in making this a better world and helping the people that are struggling with domestic violence. Some of the people that they may know that are hiding behind closed doors and are not ale to come out and seek help.
Have you ever had the opportunity to discuss the story you are sharing with us today? What impact did it have on you?
“As I was talking about my experience, I felt I was receiving healing from it.”
As I was talking about my experience, I felt I was receiving healing from it. Some of the areas that were harder for me to speak on at that moment in time, I realized that area still needs help because it was still painful to speak about. And to know that there’s still pain underneath it. Knowing that time has passed by, it still is affecting my life today.
What domestic abuse experience do you want to share?
“My husband tried to kill me.”
I’d like to share my last experience, which is the one they always talk about. I feel that there’s not very many survivors to give their side of the story. As far as statistics, if you don’t come out of the domestic violence, you come out dead. You won’t survive. I lived that experience. My husband tried to kill me. I was back in the relationship.
I was renewing my real estate license and I went back to where I was living. When he picked me up from the airport, he didn’t bring the children. I asked him why the kids weren’t with us. He said it’s because he needed to talk to me. At that point, he wanted a divorce. Instead of me behaving like a normal wife would…my own self, I was already planning on my next escape. So, at that point, I felt my mistake was not reacting like a normal wife and sitting down and saying, “Oh, well we’re gonna talk.” Because I was thinking that we’re gonna talk about the divorce. In the midst of it, it turned to where he thought that I was the one wanting the divorce, so it turned into anger from him because I didn’t react according to his expectations. So from that point on, he made a point to keep me at different hotels for four days and had already advised the family that I was lost.
After four days of everybody wondering what had happened to me, he didn’t wanna have the phone on. So he took me into the mountains. The only one that was with me was my 1-year-old baby because I took him to go renew my real estate license. I had luggage in the back of the car and he told me that he was gonna kill me. So he got out of the car and started throwing the luggage out into the hills. I for some reason got my shoes and I threw them out as far as I could. And before you know it, he came to my passenger side…I was sitting down, and he grabbed me and threw me out and started kicking me and punching me. I started…because he had told me he was gonna kill me, my body feared. And when I saw the way he was doing that…kicking me and punching me like if he was fighting with a man, I realized that he was after killing me. So I was able to crawl in between the kicks to take my baby out of the backseat. I held my baby in my arms thinking he was gonna stop what he was doing. He never stopped the beating.
“I was thinking that, that’s the area where he’s gonna bury me because sand was only in that area. So my struggle was always trying to get away from that sand area. To flee from where I’m thinking I’m gonna be buried.”
In the area where he had parked the car, there was a sugar cane field. There were sugar canes planted all over, but that certain area was in was sand. So because he told me he was gonna kill me, I was thinking that, that’s the area where he’s gonna bury me because sand was only in that area. So my struggle was always trying to get away from that sand area. To flee from where I’m thinking I’m gonna be buried. So, throughout the fight, I’m trying to walk away from that area. He seems to be adamant about taking me back to that area the whole time. The beating itself was about 5 hours long, with my baby. His motive was to choke me. He was punching me, but at given times, he would throw me down on the floor, and my baby would fly out of my arms and I would land on top of my baby, then him on top of me, choking me. There was three incidents where I was able to pull him off. My last incident, I lost consciousness.
“And when he turned to see me that I was actually conscious, he dropped the baby and just threw him down and started running after me.”
He took off my clothes. I was left with no pants on. When I came back to, he was already walking away with the baby. He was quite a distance away when I got back up. And when he turned to see me that I was actually conscious, he dropped the baby and just threw him down and started running after me. I was able to go into the sugar canes. And as I looked up, I saw the sugar canes moving and I’m thinking, “He’s gonna find me.” Because he can see on top. So, I thought of throwing myself down…like play dead, so he couldn’t find me. But in reality, I was unconscious because I lost track of time. When I came out of the fields, he was already gone.
“I didn’t know how far deep into the mountains I was. I had to run. I started running at 7 at night.”
So I went back to look for my pants, I couldn’t find them. I went back to look for my luggage, it wasn’t there. But the shoes that I had…for some reason I hadn’t known why I threw them out, they were still there. Because I threw ‘em far. I was asleep when we went into the hills, so I didn’t know how far deep into the mountains I was. I had to run. I started running at 7 at night. I was able to grab like a…where you feed animals out of and they’re paper bags. I grabbed the paper bag, covering myself, thinking that there were people close by. As I started to run, I didn’t see no houses. I can whistle really loud, so I take my two fingers and whistle really loud, to see if I get any response back, but there was no response. And it was 12:45, when I decided, if he comes back, he’s not gonna find me. And I was just desperate thinking that there’s no way somebody can beat you and leave you be there. He has to come back and find me. So I was trying to run back to the destination where he had left me. But he had went and told the police that his wife ran out of the car and had a nervous breakdown. And that she ran out of the car on a particular street. And the cops were on that street. So when I seen lights, I started putting my hands over my [cups hands around mouth] to scream to call his name. It was quite a distance before they found me because I was already walking back. And when the police approached me, I was scared. I had forgotten that they were looking for me, so I don’t know how much time it was for them to travel to try to find me. But after they found me, they told me for me to get out of the area that I was in, I still had 2 more hours to run to be able to get out.
“I ended up with 25 hematomas on my head.”
I ended up with 25 hematomas on my head. I had contusions in my liver, it was sliced in 2 different areas. I had bruises all over my body. Scratches from the field because he would drag me into that field area because I was already advancing. Cuts all over. My baby was bruised. They did measurements of all his bruises and injuries. He was also affected because he was in my arms the whole time.
Still, to this day, he’s free.
What no longer lingers in your heart and mind about your experience? What has opened up for you as a result?
“I feel secure of where I am and who I am. I know who I am now and I know not to be treated like that.“
My low self-esteem. My low self-esteem of having someone telling me the contrary of my beliefs. The contrary of how things should be done. The specifics of how he wanted things done…that doesn’t linger no more. My self-esteem is best now to where I know that, I can do it [smiles]. When before, I was like, I can’t do it and I’m not good at doing it. So that no longer lingers now. I’m positive of what I’m doing. I feel secure of where I am and who I am. I know who I am now and I know not to be treated like that.
What is your definition of love and how does that love feel?
“My definition of love is very simple. Consideration.”
[Big smile] My definition of love is very simple. Consideration. Consideration. Because of the person loves you, that person has consideration in your aspects. Consideration of how you feel. Everything falls under that. They have consideration, therefore they’re gonna be compassionate towards you. Because they have consideration of what you came from, whatever the case may be. They have consideration for you as a woman, the multitasks that you’re doing. Along with that, they’ll be compassionate to take care of those areas where you need help. So the best way and simple, easy vocabulary…consideration [laughs].
It gives me comfort. It gives me motivation to move forward. Because that person is giving me that consideration of who you are and look what you’re doing with the person that you’ve become. So it expands me to where it gives me that extra inspiration to move on and move forward and be able to develop my daily tasks, if it’s just that.
What does leaving a Trail of Existence mean to you?
“To be able to tell my story without feeling that they’re accusing me of being a liar…That’s important to me.”
First of all, to show that I’m a strong individual. My belief in God. To be able to have that second chance. To be able to tell my story without feeling that they’re accusing me of being a liar for protecting the other individual. That’s important to me.
Do you have any parting thoughts?
“The only thing that I can advise in all ages is always have your eyes open. Because the red flags are ALWAYS there.”
I would just like to say, for all women and young ladies, that we can all be the target. For everyone to know that this can happen to you. I don’t want any of us to think that, “Oh, this will NEVER happen to me.” Or, “I’m too good for this to happen to me.” I just want everyone to know out there that there is no discrimination. You can be a lawyer, you can be a police officer, you can have the most money in the world, you can be broke. It’s multiple situations that have happened to different people. There’s no telling who it’s gonna be. The only thing that I can advise in all ages is always have your eyes open. Because the red flags are ALWAYS there. If it doesn’t seem normal to you, if you kinda don’t like it, even if it’s the smallest thing like, “Hmm…I don’t like the way he’s eating.” You don’t like it, you don’t like it. You’re not gonna like it! [Laughs] So the best thing is, if you see those flags already arising, don’t wait til the third flag comes on, because by that time, you’re gonna be used to it and you’re gonna say, “It’s ok, I can accept this. I can change this.” I do believe that us women are thinking that we meet someone and we’re gonna change them. Women meet men and they say, “Ok, well when we get married or when we get together, this is gonna change.” It never changes. My advice is…I want this to be out…don’t stay. As soon as you get the first sign, that’s the warning sign. Take the flag and run.
My project to give back to my higher power for allowing me to survive this incident, where even in the hospitals, they don’t know how I survived, even in therapy, they don’t know how I haven’t lost my mind. I just want to give back and help as much as I can in the community. Whether it’s young people that are out there single, whether it’s middle aged people that are out there single, whether it’s elderly people that are out there single, because we’re all gonna fall under the same plate. It’s all still being single. Important to me is having self-respect, respecting our body and not going with the flow. If our partner wants to go further into having a relationship or getting intimate with each, I feel that, that’s our protection. Get to know the person first, before you get your feelings involved. Because once you get your feelings involved, then there’s ties already. So my project and, again, I want to be an advocate as much as I can for domestic violence, and also Chastity’s Pride. Go back to Chastity’s Pride, go back to the courting. They like that even though they want to get intimate and have a sexual relationship with you because that’s what our generation is about right now. Be unique. Go back to how it used to be before. Chastity’s Pride is gonna give you the opportunity to get to know that individual that you want to get emotionally attached to. After you get emotionally attached, that’s bondage. Beautiful if you have a perfect partner, beautiful to have that bondage. But not before until you get to know him. So that’s what I’m working on to be able to go speak to people so that they have a better chance of, when those red flags come, they’re more knowledgeable. Their feelings are not involved. Because we women are nurturing since we have children. We reproduce, we give life. We have the opportunity to give life, so with us being able to do that, there’s an automatic button in here [points to heart] to love. And it’s for our partners. It’s for everybody, so once we give that heart, because we got these beautiful, wonderful feelings and emotions. Then we just wanna keep finding that love…unconditional. Regardless of what that person has done to us. So that’s what my goal is. To be able to have a little bit self-respect for ourselves so we can get to know ourselves as well, as we’re learning about the individual.
Also, my next project is a book called “I’m a Living Miracle” that also has a DVD inside of it so that they can share with someone else. That book is touching the points of from the early relationship and how it started, where I’ve seen all these red flags and how it ended up from a small acquaintance to a husband to where my husband became my attacker. My killer. After that incident, for the people that have gone through domestic violence, so that they can know that there’s still life after that. We can survive and we can still come out and sometimes we can come out even stronger.