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Survivor Story: Isabel (2010’s)

Isabel was a teenager when she decided to leave her family in Mexico and migrate to the United States, in the early 90s. Her father was an alcoholic who would disappear for days and abuse her mother when he was home. He would turn his abuse on Isabel when she tried to defend her mother. She only had one friend that knew what her home was like and she convinced Isabel to come with her in search of new opportunities in the States. Isabel had family in the US, so when Isabel crossed the border, she stayed with her aunt in California until she was 18. Soon after, she moved to Chicago to care for her uncle who had been diagnosed with cancer. About a year later, she met Leo. He was caring, loving, and protective of Isabel, everything her father never was. When she found out she was pregnant about six months into their relationship, things changed with Leo. He became emotionally and verbally abusive, especially in public. His mood could change in seconds. He physically abused her throughout her pregnancy, including withholding food for days. Whenever Isabel would try to leave, he would apologize, but when that did not convince her he would change, he would threaten suicide.

Isabel left Leo in the mid 90s and moved back to Mexico to be with her parents. She endured four more years of her father’s alcohol-infused rage. He shamed her publicly for being a single mother with a child born outside of wedlock. When she saved enough money, she bought a plane ticket back to Chicago. She left her daughter with her mother, telling her she found a job in the States. Upon arriving at O’Hare, Isabel was detained and sent back to Mexico City. She purchased a fake residency card with money she borrowed from her cousin and successfully returned to Chicago. Leo quickly found out Isabel was back and became the man she fell in love with again. He helped her get their daughter back from Mexico and he created a loving home for them. Unfortunately, that did not last. One hot summer day, he continuously hit her with a broomstick for wearing shorts. When the conflict spilled into the alley, a neighbor called police and they arrested Leo. From jail, he sent message to Isabel that if she continued with the charges, he would have her killed.

When he was released, he started attending support groups to cope with his substance use disorder. Isabel believed that like her father, Leo’s abuse was rooted in his addiction and by getting clean, he would be the man she fell in love with. Unfortunately, that was not the case. They had out second daughter in the early 2000s. Throughout her pregnancy, he continued to abuse Isabel, verbally, emotionally, and physically, telling her friends and family that the baby wasn’t his. Isabel’s breaking point came when Leo beat her in front of her two daughters, her youngest eight months at the time. She waited until he left for work and she left for good. By this time, her parents had moved to Chicago, so she grabbed some clothes and moved in with them.

She lived violence-free for two years, until she met Ben. They met at a party and he asked one of her friends for her number. He was polite, respectful, and nice, everything Leo wasn’t. They moved in together after three months and things were looking up for Isabel. About a year later, her youngest daughter brought home a photo album that included pictures of Leo. When Ben saw it, he screamed at Isabel and slapped her repeatedly. He apologized and told her that he just loved her so much, he got a little jealous. A couple months later, it happened again, this time at a restaurant. Ben pushed her against the wall of the restaurant and screamed at her that she was flirting with other men when she went to the restroom. Thankfully, security from the restaurant arrived immediately and called the police. When they arrived, the look he gave her she knew well. Weeks earlier, he had given her that look, telling her that if she ever told anyone, he would kill her and her daughters. She knew he would follow through because he had been convicted of murder in Mexico. She begged the police not to arrest him.

One day, Ben was drinking with one of his friends, who brought up Leo. He mentioned that he had lived next-door to him for years and that he was a great guy. Ben stormed home, punching walls, beating Isabel, and choking her. Her oldest daughter called 911. The police came and arrested him after seeing the bruising on Isabel’s neck. While at court, Isabel & Ben were left alone in a room together. He told her that if she didn’t drop the charges, he would kill her and her daughters. She lied to the judge and the charges were dropped.

The abuse only escalated from there. He raped and sexually abused Isabel repeatedly, resulting in two more daughters. In 2006, while pregnant for the second time, Ben accused her of cheating on him after she took her daughters to a birthday party. He told her older daughters to go to their grandparent’s apartment. He then drove Isabel and their infant to Indianapolis and locked her in a friend’s house. He beat her until her arms and legs were purple. He raped her and held a gun to her head, threatening her children if she told anyone. This continued for two weeks. One day, Isabel took advantage of a brief respite from her imprisonment when Ben was drunk. She took his car keys and ran to his car. When she started the car, it startled Ben, who chased her in a truck. She could see him pointing a gun her direction in her rearview mirror. She eventually lost him after she hid in an abandoned garage. He did eventually apologize and she endured for the sake of her daughters.

Five years later, a friend told her about Family Rescue. She began attending individual and group counseling, where she was able to process her emotional and psychological trauma in a healthy environment. Ben noticed a change in Isabel’s behavior as well. Over a year into her time with Family Rescue, Ben asked her “Why are you like this now?” Isabel told him, “I have all the evidence of what you did to me. I wrote a letter and gave it to somebody else, so if something happens to me the government will find you.” After that conversation, Ben moved out because he was afraid of the person Isabel was becoming.

Soon after Ben moved out, her daughters were having a sleepover with friends after moving into their new home in another state. Around 3am, her daughters woke up to someone trying to open their window. It was Ben. Isabel’s daughters and their friends held the window down, so Ben was unable to get in. She was too scared to call the police, but her daughters did. By the time the police came, Ben had run away. The police said that they couldn’t do anything because he never entered her home. Isabel filed for and received an Order of Protection against Ben. Her daughters’ friends even wrote letters of support after he tried to break in. Ben continued to call Isabel at work, threatening her and her daughters if they ever called the police again. She eventually stopped answering the phone and instead, he would threaten her coworkers.

His calls eventually tapered out and now, Isabel is living a violence-free life with her daughters. She is thankful to Family Rescue for helping her process the years of trauma she experienced and gain self-confidence for the first time in her life. “Family Rescue changed my life.”