Maria was just 14 when she met the father of her children in her hometown of Puebla, Mexico. Six years her senior, he was controlling and jealous from the beginning of their relationship.
Within two years, Maria gave birth to two children, Antonio and Ana, and was forced to leave school to earn money to care for them. Throughout their entire relationship, Maria suffered severe physical, psychological, and financial abuse.
Violence was not unfamiliar to Maria, who grew up in a home where abuse was the norm. Her father repeatedly physically assaulted her mother and would often tell Maria, his only child, that he wished he’d had a son.
“My father was violent with my mother and me. I thought that is okay. That is normal.”
Following years of escalating violence, Maria knew she had to leave to protect herself and her children. She hid Antonio and Ana at her mother’s home and fled to New York, intending to send for them once she could get settled and provide them with a better life.
But Maria’s tormentor soon found the children and kidnapped them. For two years Maria had no contact, and only later learned of the horrible abuse they had suffered at his hands. Finally, Maria was able to organize the resources necessary to bring them to New York to join her.
The years of violence had taken its toll. Ana, now a teenager, showed signs of the severe trauma that she
and the family had suffered. It was a pediatrician who connected Maria with Sanctuary in 2011, where Maria first met her Sanctuary counselor, Kate.
“I told Kate, I need help for my daughter. And she said, Maria, we can help you, too… I thought, I am fine. I am fine! But I have trauma. From my parents, from my ex-partner. So I started therapy, too.”
Meeting Kate was the beginning of Maria’s journey with Sanctuary, and the beginning of her new life. Through Sanctuary’s counselors, Maria and all of her children began to heal from their trauma. Sanctuary’s legal team secured not only asylum for Maria and her children, but also full custody of both Antonio and Ana, ensuring that the family could stay together in safety.
Maria and her family, including her new partner and young daughter Lucia, were able to move into a small apartment in Brooklyn. Maria has availed herself of nearly every resource Sanctuary has to offer, including English classes and career readiness workshops.
Today, Maria and her children are safe and the family is thriving.
Maria now works part time and spends her free time volunteering as a Survivor Leader with Sanctuary, using her story to empower other victims to leave their abusers and seek safety. She is studying for her GED with the dream of going to college.