Mariah's Story: In Her Own Words

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My name is Mariah, and I survived domestic violence. Yet it took me a long time to realize I was in an abusive relationship.

It didn’t start out that way. Before, I was happy. I lived in my home country. I had a great job, a nice car, friends and family. But I wanted to meet someone special and start a family of my own. I met a man, one who’d moved to New York City from my country. He’d been a doctor, and he was educated, polite, and hardworking. We talked on the phone every day and slowly fell in love. We decided that I’d move to New York so we could get married. I was happy because I was going to be with the man I loved.

A few months later, I was pregnant -- surprised, joyful, and a little scared. We were starting the family I’d hoped for. But something else happened. My husband began to change. He became demanding, so sure he knew best. He wanted to control everything, and so I depended on him for everything. I couldn’t ride the train alone. I couldn’t leave the house unless I needed something for the baby. His friends were my only friends. I couldn’t email my friends, and I couldn’t talk to my family on the phone.

He liked to drink a lot. He’d spend our money on alcohol and we sometimes had nothing left over to pay bills. When he drank, he became a different person. He’d say horrible things to me, calling me stupid and worthless. He was out of control. He even used our refrigerator as a urinal one time.

What scared me most was when he’d stumble over to our daughter’s crib, wanting to hold her or bring her into our bed. The last thing I wanted was for him to hold our baby when he was that drunk. But if I said anything, he’d scream at me and call me horrible names.

I thought, “This is my husband. I love him.”

I was terrified and I didn’t want to tell anyone, but people saw the signs. When I could speak to my sister, she could tell something was wrong. She did something for me I won’t forget. She searched online until she found a place close to me that could help. That place was one of Safe Horizon’s Community offices. She begged me to go.

But I couldn’t. I didn’t want to leave my husband -- I just wanted the abuse to stop.

It was a night when he came home once again late and very drunk. He burst into the bedroom and accused me of neglecting our baby. He grabbed her from the crib, and then locked himself in another room with her in his arms.

I feared for my child’s life and my own, but I told myself, This time, I won’t be afraid. I’m getting my daughter and we’ll go to a safe place.

I banged on the door until he opened it. He immediately attacked me and punched me in my jaw, and then he dragged me into the living room, pinned me down on the sofa, and punched me several times all over my head and body. When he finally stopped, he said, “Okay. Now call the police if you want.”

So I called the police. And then I called Safe Horizon.

Later that day, I packed up all the clothes I could carry, and my daughter and I moved into a Safe Horizon shelter. When I got there, someone helped me carry my bags. She was strong and I was so thankful. Another staffer welcomed me into the house. And another staffer just made me feel like it was the first time in a long time that I could have hope about our future.

It’s hard for me to say this, but everyone has to know: Safe Horizon offered me the hand I needed to begin a new life. When I had nothing, I had Safe Horizon with me every step of the way. My daughter and I got coats, boots, and other personal items we really needed. The shelter became a home to us, and during holiday parties, we got lots of gifts that made us feel like people cared about us.

I want to thank every person I met on the staff while I was at the shelter, and all the people I met through the Domestic Violence Law Project. They taught me my rights and gave me the information I needed to make important decisions for myself. They helped me get an order of protection and went with me to court so I wouldn’t have to face my husband alone. They helped me file a petition to stay in this country and to find work so I could support my daughter. Best of all, after I left the shelter, they helped me find a permanent home in a beautiful building where my daughter and I are safe.

I am so grateful that I am here, just so I can say thank you. Thank you to everyone who helped me at Safe Horizon, and to everyone who supports them. You helped me start a new life. I would’ve never been able to do it without you.

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* Client names and identifying information have been changed to protect their privacy. Images used are representations of Safe Horizon’s clients.

Safe Horizon's mission is to provide support, prevent violence and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities.
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