My name is Felicia Rodrigues and I am a divorced single mother of three children and a domestic violence survivor. I lived in a violent marriage for years. Living with a man like my ex-husband is like having a gun pointed at your head every single day, and you just don’t know when the gun is going to go off.
I am writing to tell my story—of how I have been a victim and survivor of repeated, relentless domestic violence.
On December 29, 2017, my ex-husband tried to kill me in front of my children by choking me until I became unconscious. He crushed the left side of my throat and knocked three of my teeth loose. This all started because I told him that I wanted out of our marriage and I did not want to be with him anymore. Our marriage was rocky for many years because of him cheating with multiple women, being verbally, and mentally abusive to both myself and all three of my children, which two of them are his.
I was always the main breadwinner and the pressure of our day to day lives was crushing me. He did the bare minimum to contribute to the household but would brag to people that he was a hard worker taking of his family. I was worn out from feeling alone in our relationship. He even got to the point of being sexually abusive when I would resist his desires. I was mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.
We had to walk around on eggshells every day, even when I was at work. I was nervous all the time worrying about my children because he was always angry. I have lost more than one job because I was always too upset to concentrate and I would make mistakes at work. I could never go anywhere without him right behind me or him being angry because he wasn't with me. I felt like a hostage in my own life.
Life was continuous hell, fear, and horror and he always blamed us for his anger. There were countless times when I thought of suicide but I knew my children would be alone and have no one if I did this horrible thing, so I did my best to stay strong. No matter how good I was to him he was never satisfied or happy.
Being tired of this abusive life, I confided in a friend for help. He noticed the calls on my phone bill and started to question why we were talking so much. When I told him that I couldn't do this anymore, he grabbed me by the throat in our bedroom with my two youngest children watching in the hallway. I screamed at him to let me go while hitting him and scratching him in the face praying that would make him let me go but then everything went black.
I woke up on the floor hearing the sounds of my children crying and he was punching me in the face. He put a knife to my throat and told me to stop scaring his kids or he would slit my throat. My ears were ringing and I could barely see as he pulled me to my feet, then he slammed me on the bed. He walked into the hallway and asked our kids why they were crying and told them we were just talking that there was nothing to worry about. I got off the bed and made my way to the bathroom to rinse the blood out of my mouth and he came over and said I guess you’re going to call the police and I really don’t care, then he left.
I was afraid, so after he walked out the door I told the children to go to the neighbor’s house for help because I was afraid he would come back and possibly kill us all. Of course, the police and child services got involved and that was my way of exiting the relationship. I filed for divorce, put a restraining order against him and took all the help I could get from the police and child services. I started domestic violence counseling for not only myself but for my children as well.
After a year, I decided to move away to start over because of all the bad memories. Starting over has been far from easy, I have literally lost everything just short of my sanity. My children and I have slept on the floor in our apartment for the past year and a half, I had to file bankruptcy from all the debt he left me with and I’m still working on trying to afford to get my teeth fixed but I have to say that it is worth it knowing that I am no longer tied to him.
People do not understand how difficult it is to escape. A lot of the time no one on the outside knows what is happening because the abuser has the victim isolated. They cut you off from all outside interaction and attempt to control your mind and your money.
If a person does manage to escape, the justice system does little to help or protect you. I have had a domestic violence advocate tell me that there is only a 50/50 chance that someone will get convicted of domestic battery in my county, even in cases where there are bloody pictures, good witnesses, hospital reports, and other evidence. This is why you have to have a plan to get out of the situation; you cannot simply just walk out the door. It is a real life or death risk to leave a person that believes they own you. Sadly, many have died in the process.
I am asking for your help to educate the public on these issues. Women are beaten and killed every day by their husbands or boyfriends. Domestic violence is NOT just a family matter. It is everyone’s business. It affects us all even if we are not directly abused. Women should be able to speak out against their abusers without fear of retaliation or criticism. They should be able to bring their abusers to justice. The public should be educated about what it means to be battered, and why it is so difficult to escape. With stiffer punishments and stronger support systems, many women would be able to leave sooner. PLEASE help me and all women fight for what is fundamentally right.
There's hope is hope at your darkest hour, when you have given up because you're TIRED, I want everyone to know that there are options, even if you think no one cares.
I started my non-profit She Is Healed to help people with resources coming out of domestic violence situations. I want to focus on helping with beds and dental care because of the situation I am currently fighting through. My goal is to empower others to take the steps they need to find their power to free themselves from the bondage of abuse and live again.
My mission is to help empower women who are recovering from domestic violence. Women have so much to contribute and sometimes they just need a hand to get into that position to rebuild their lives. All women have got it—it’s just a matter of not being overwhelmed by fear and doubt that you can’t make it outside of that abusive relationship. My aim is to offer resources for building healthy relationships and to work with community partners to provide services for personal reinvention.
Every year, more than 10 million men and women in the US are subjected to Domestic Violence. Its impact can be felt far and wide:
- More than one in three women (35.6 percent) and more than one in four men (28.5 percent) in the US report having experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this adds up to more than 10 million women and men.
- Nearly one in four women and one in seven men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
- Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime.
- In 15 states, more than 40 percent of all homicides of women in each state involved intimate partner violence.
- 85 percent of domestic violence victims are female, and 15 percent are male.
- Women with disabilities have a 40 percent greater risk of intimate partner violence, especially severe violence, than women without disabilities.
- Two in five gay or bisexual men will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.
- Approximately 63% of homeless women have experienced domestic violence in their adult lives.
- 28 percent of families were homeless because of domestic violence.
- Nearly half of all women and men in the US will experience psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- Approximately five million children are exposed to domestic violence every year. Children exposed are more likely to attempt suicide, abuse drugs and alcohol, run away from home, engage in teenage prostitution, and commit sexual assault crimes.
- 40 percent of The Center for Violence-Free Relationships’ domestic violence cases have children under 18 in the home.
- Nationally, 50 percent of batterers who abuse their intimate partners also abuse their children.
- Worldwide, men who were exposed to domestic violence as children are three to four times more likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence as adults.
- 81 percent of women and 35 percent of men who experienced rape, stalking, or physical violence by an intimate partner reported significant short- or long-term impacts such as post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and injury.
- Four percent of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the last 12 months.
- Only one out of three people who are injured during a domestic violence incident will ever receive medical care for their injuries.
- Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to police.
- Men who are victimized are substantially less likely than women to report their situation to police.