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Voices of Hope Blog

  • Tanya Foster

Survivor Story: Finally a Free Woman

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

For 35 years, my dad abused my mom and brother. He tried with me but I ran away. Once, after he locked me barefoot out in the snow and I caught pneumonia and nearly died, she left and took us to her parents in Mexico. We went back and forth from my grandparent’s house to another relative’s home in El Paso so we could go to school. But he came for her and she took him back.

Getting Married

I got married at 16 to get away from my parent’s abusive marriage. The guy I married was 10 years older than me. He seemed nice and I thought I’d be better with him. We ran off together but returned home when my parents threatened to call the cops on him if we didn’t get married. I was so scared of my dad that I let them talk me into getting married. They wanted me to have a church wedding, but I wouldn’t because deep down I knew he wasn’t the one.

My husband frequently received phone calls from other women, so I knew he was cheating. At the same time, he was jealous of me and would stalk me at the gas station where I worked and often showed up with black eyes and bruises. He would harass front counter customers who seemed to talk to me too long. He even followed one of them to his house and pulled a gun on him. I called LCDVAP sometimes, but it just got me more beatings. I never knew his real work hours. I wasn’t allowed to go outside or to friend’s houses, but he went out at all hours and did whatever he wanted.

I had realized even before we married that he was into young girls, never women his age. In fact, shortly before our wedding, an underage ex-girlfriend of his (14 or 15 years old) showed up right before our wedding, threatening to report him for rape if he

married me. She became my worst nightmare. She and her friends would follow, harass and assault me, once trying to push me down the stairs in a public building while I was pregnant. They showed up at my house, banging on the doors and windows with baseball bats, Once, when my oldest daughter was less than 2 and I was pregnant again, the harassment escalated to where I had to defend myself and I ended up with probation.

At one point I ran away to Mexico; the abuse had worsened and he was involved with another underage girl. He came and got me and essentially made me a prisoner for my entire pregnancy, beating me constantly. A beating at 7 months caused bleeding, so he took me to the doctor for the first time in this pregnancy. I lied about my injuries. He raped me right after the baby was born. I had no strength to get away.

If I tried to escape or go to a friend’s house, he would hide my keys or stalk me. Once he chased me through our small town with his truck. He tried to run me off the road, hit my truck and pulled a gun on me with our daughter in the car. For that, the cops took him home and took his gun, but he got it back the next day. His employers used their influence to protect him. I felt so hopeless that I lost 70 pounds.

My family didn’t try to help, even though they and my brother knew what was going on. My mother was still going through her own abuse and still believing that “Happily ever doesn’t exist. You just get up and fix their lunch anyway.” My best friend was the only one who tried to help, but she couldn’t do much. I was his prisoner.

The Last Straw

When my husband beat me and put me and both girls outside in freezing cold weather, I called 911 and they called LCDVAP. My Advocate came and rented a hotel for us and got involved in helping me, but we went back home eventually.

The final time he beat me up, my girls were 6 months and 2 years old. He came at me

full blast, pulled me out of my room, beating me up, kicking me all over with his steel toed boots. When the 2-year old got in between us, he hit her in the face with a broomstick and jerked her pierced earring out, ripping her ear lobe all the way through.

Neighbors heard and called the cops, who called my Advocate. He threatened to kill me and kidnap the girls and take them to Mexico, right in front of the cops. My daughter’s injury finally made officers take him seriously. He was arrested, but his employer bailed him out and he was back home within 15 minutes. Because he violated his restriction order, they hauled him back to jail and put an immigration order on him to prevent bail.

The program helped me get an income-based apartment and food stamps, and I started to move on. They came with me to court when I divorced him in 2006 with the help of Legal Aid. Because he’d been to court 3-4 times, the judge didn’t even give him a chance to protest the divorce. He said, “Just raise your hand even if you don’t want it, and repeat after me.” I was finally a free woman.

Round 2

Years later, I met and married another guy who promised he wouldn’t treat me badly. When I got pregnant with my son a couple of years later, he started changing...having an affair, being gone for days and getting a better paying job. He began to call me fat, tell me to shut up and punch me in the face.

When my youngest daughter had an asthma attack triggered by his abusive behavior, I called the cops and he was arrested. He paid a fine and I took him back, in denial that he would change. By this time, we knew that our son was autistic and nonverbal and has epilepsy. He started being aggressive to our son, leaving marks on him, drinking more and more. He wouldn’t let me have friends or go anywhere and wanted to approve everything I wore.

The final straw was when he beat my son and threw him up against a speaker, hurting his head. He ran away but the cops found him, arrested him, and put an immigration hold on him. Just as before, a child’s injury forced me to go into Mama Bear mode and caused the police and doctors to take the situation seriously.

While in jail, he repeatedly called me to come get him out, which violated his protective order. My Advocate was able to get the calls to stop. He’s currently in prison. We got divorced in late 2020 after 8 ½ years of marriage.

Living in Peace

Both my husbands made me believe I was the worst person walking around on the earth. I couldn’t even stand to see myself in the mirror. Even though I was depressed for a month after my last divorce, I found new energy to move forward. I started walking to relieve stress and lost 40 pounds. Though life is still challenging, nobody’s here yelling at us. I still have to remind myself that it’s okay to be outside. It’s okay to go to the park, to buy what I want and to wear make-up.

I’m now 35 years old. My mom finally divorced my dad. She has some health issues so I’m taking care of her and my son, who is now 5. I gained full custody of my son and continue to be his caretaker and advocate for the help he needs. My oldest daughter (17) has already been accepted to college and my younger daughter (15) is planning her future, too. I don’t want them to live the life I lived. I would do anything in my power to help them.

I teach them no man should put his hands on you. And if he does, you need to move on, no matter how hard it is.

The Leon County Domestic Violence program is very supportive of me and my family. They never let a thanksgiving go by without bringing us thanksgiving dinner and helps us at Christmas too.

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