Felicia and her husband had been living apart for four years. She was in the Dominican Republic with their three children and he was in New York City, working and saving money to bring his wife and children to the United States. In the Dominican Republic, he had not been abusive. During their time apart, he never missed a weekly phone call and always sent his wife money to live on. But when she arrived in the United States with the kids, everything changed.
(translated from Spanish)
When I arrived from the Dominican Republic, I discovered that my husband had an alcohol problem. At first we argued constantly. Then he started verbally abusing me and then physically abusing me. But the decision to leave home isn't made in a minute, especially if you don't have anywhere else to go. I knew I had to leave the day my husband got drunk and threatened me with a knife.
I spoke to a counselor at my son's school and told her what was happening to me. I'd been in the United States less than a year. I didn't know anybody and I didn't have plane fare for myself and my kids. The counselor told me about Safe Horizon.
Safe Horizon sent a taxi to take me to their office. There, I met my counselor, Carmen, and she arranged for us to come to Mrs. O'Connor's house. We moved here that same day and have been here for four months. It's good to be here. Mrs. O'Connor is a great lady and it's good to feel safe. It's hard for us to communicate. She speaks only a little Spanish and I speak no English. Her son speaks Spanish so he helps us a lot. And Carmen comes over to make sure that I have everything I need.
It's hardest on my kids. They don't understand a lot about the situation. They love their father. They miss him. That's natural. They aren't as free here as they were in their own home. But for the most part, they're doing fine.
I feel a lot better since I've been here. I go to group counseling at Safe Horizon and also meet with Carmen by myself. When my husband was abusing me, I felt I had no one to turn to. I felt useless and good for nothing. Now I don't feel that way. Listening to the experiences of other women, I realized I wasn't alone, that I wasn't solely responsible for my problems, and that problems have solutions. I feel good now, self-confident. Safe Horizon helped me get my Green Card and public assistance benefits. But I want to learn to speak English so that I'll be able to work. Next week we have an interview for a house in the projects and are hoping to move soon. But for now, we're fine here.
Before I left my husband, I thought about killing myself. All that stopped me was my kids. I'm sure there are other abused women who've had the same feeling; now I know there's another way. When I left my husband, I felt so bitter and angry at everyone. Safe Horizon helped me to let go of the anger and realize that not everyone is going to hurt me. Not everyone is alike.