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Being raised in the sixties and knowing I stuck out from my frizzy hair and reddish-brown skin, I kept to myself. My family was not the Brady Bunch family; we were surrounded by violence. My father would beat our mother so much, and we had to witness the beatings most of my lives. After my father was sent away and after several moves and feeling we would finally have a normal life without the violence, my father would come back in the family. At first it would be calm, but within months the violence would come back. We never lived in a home for more than a year, so friends were not there.
I was a loner throughout my child life. I learned to fight for blood at the age of seven, and as a teenager, I hated living at home. I ran away so much; I felt safer sleeping in someones closet or in their cars than at home. If my father was not there beating or harassing my family, my brothers were in opposite gangs, so there were drive-by shootings at our home. I would come home from school with my frizzy hair and skinny body, looking so awkward from the girls from school. I stayed to myself. On the way home from school, I would walk up the street and see lowrider cars and Harley-Davidson choppers and smell of marijuana coming from the garage. I stayed to myself. After all the violence at home and my mother going through all the beatings, I made a promise to myself that I would not let it happen to me.
I dropped out of school at tenth grade and got my first job and my first date. We were opposite from each other, but the romance was there, although he spoke no English and I spoke not a word of Spanish. My father was against the relationship from the beginning, but I dated him despite what my father said. I moved out at seventeen and was asked to go to Mexico for the weekend. I was warned not to go by my mother, but I still did. (I should have listened.) I was held there for nine months. The first month was of my choice, but the next eight months were not. I was not allowed to leave the ranch. When I took a chance, I was chased down and beaten within an inch of my life.
Once I escaped and went back to California, I found out I was pregnant and someone told the father of my baby. He showed up, and I was advised by my mother and his aunt that the baby needed a father. I had no choice but to try to make it work. But the violence got worse. I refused to be a victim of violence, so with the help of the womens shelter and the police department, I learned how to escape the violence and make a living for my children.
Im hoping this book reaches other domestic abuse victims to show that you can have a violence-free life. But like they told me in the shelter, you have to make it work, and once youre on your way, walk forward, not backward. The shelter led me away to a better life. One thing I will always remember was that when I was only nineteen with two children, they said once youre on your own, youre the parent. You had a chance to be a teenager and chose to be an adult to have children so young; your children are the priority. That made me think I need to be strong. I knew what that meant: responsibility.
I also noticed that once I was on my own and had my own apartment with my children, it was calm. I had my children on a schedule, and I was on a budget. I did want to date like other girls my age, but it was too early. I would always want to find someone that needed to find somewhere to stay with me. Every time I would try to help someone, it turned out to disrupt my home, so I decided that its just my children and myself. Maybe I just did not trust anyone.
Im proud that I had the strength to pull through. I went back to high school and one year of college. Got out of the welfare system and started to raise my children violence-free. My nest is warm and full of songs and love. Sure, its hard with bills, and I am always short with cash and have babies getting sick and cars breaking down and me losing a job and of course me gettin