We take a moment on this page to tell the stories of a few of the courageous women who have taken the brave step of leaving abusive situations. These women have gone through the Mujeres program and are now leading independent lives with confidence.
From abuse to success!
Our head of catering, Arlin, was willing to write out her remarkable story in order to encourage others. We have translated it from Spanish for you to read below.
(Translated from Spanish) - My name is Arlin. I was born in the north of Colombia on the Caribbean Coast in 1977.
I come from a humble family; we are 7 siblings. One sister was murdered by her partner 22 years ago. At that time, I did not know it was a Femicide.
At 6 years old my mom left the house, I saw her leave but she did not come back. I did not understand why, until, when I was 22 years old, my Mother told us that my father was violent at night while we slept.
At 10 years old, I had my first entrepreneurial business selling cookies, bread, and sweets. What I earned I used to buy an ice cream on the weekend. That made me happy sometimes but I was also very tired.
I was a victim of attempted rapes from a very young age by people known and close to me.
I was always a good student, I loved school!
I had to learn to cook, the aunts who took care of me told me: one day if you get married you have to "fulfill your duty as a wife".
At age 14 I decided to go to Cartagena, there I started to study and to work
My childhood and youth were a constant situation between family instability, violence and hard work. My days started very early and ended very late.
I met the father of my children at 18. We had a short relationship and then we went to live together. I guess I wanted my own stable family. I got pregnant with my first child almost immediately and simultaneously began the extreme violence.
I did not separate from him because I felt I was alone; I did not have anywhere to go back to. For 14 years I lived in a state of violence and my children were continually beaten and mistreated as well. He threatened me with knives, burned my clothes, raped me on several occasions and continually threatened me with murdering my children if I left him or if I reported him. I made 3 complaints but the Justice System was not effective, well, sometimes I did not make it effective out of fear, because he was an extremely dangerous man.
Once I thought about killing him. I thought about leaving, even without my children, I was so desperate. I thought about killing myself several times, my life was so full of violence.
I know almost all of Colombia; this man forced me to move from one place to another because he did not pay the rent for the places where we lived.
I arrived in Ecuador against my will in 1995 because he told me that the guerrillas were pursuing him, I went through several cities in order to legalize our refugee visa, we had to be 100 km from the border. So, we arrived in Quito and had contact with UNHCR –an organization that supports refugees.
I was offered to travel to Canada but I lost the opportunity because I needed his permission to leave the country where my children were born and only their father could give it me.
I never thought about having 6 children but I did not have access to contraceptives and when I talked about having my tubes tied, he told me that only prostitutes did that.
My life was always looking for strategies to survive my situation, how and where I could work and earn money. I had to hide the money from him.
I decided not to bathe when he was in the house to keep him from approaching me. It was my survival strategy, (she laughs and adds: "now I can laugh at all that happened to me").
I have many marks and blemishes on my body, I never went to a hospital despite the strong injuries that I received. I was ashamed
I could not say hello looking people in the eyes, not even his family members because he was extremely jealous. He beat me in front of all the people and in my face, I wanted them to know that he was doing that to me.
One day I was sure that he was going to end up killing me. I asked for help in Hyas –a migrant care organization, they wanted to intervene but I asked them to let me do it my way.
I put together a plan. I left the children in some different places, so while he left for a moment, I went to look for them and I ran away. I left with three bags of clothes, a blender, an iron and my children.
The organization that was supporting me, allowed me to stay in a hotel and gave me food and personal hygiene items, but soon after, they got me out of there because he already knew I was there and threatened the people of the hotel with death.
That's how they offered me two shelters, one in the eastern part of Ecuador (the Amazon Basin) and the other in Cuenca, at the Casa María Amor.
We arrived in Cuenca on May 18 at 6 am in the morning. I looked for the house, I knocked at the door and I was received by a woman named Olí. She welcomed me, so warm, so close. Then she offered me a cup of chocolate with bread. I did not want to eat; I did not want anything. Now I think the trauma kicked in.
They told me about Mujeres con Éxito, a place where they can train me and strengthen the knowledge I already had about cooking. The certificates I received allowed me to get a job. The training transformed me. It gave me the opportunity to have an autonomous life later.
They covered my emergency needs, they offered me therapy along with my children, legal advice, schooling and care for my children. This assistance was transcendental.
I was in this sanctuary for 7 months and I decided to leave. The Host House was a safe place and they supported me but I wanted to go and find my own space. However, since I've known Casa María Amor, I've never been too far from it.
When I left, I had informal jobs, cleaning houses, cooking, odd jobs, so to speak. I looked for Hyas (Migrant Assistance Organization) again, they supported me with food and I started to acquire some household items.
In all my life, the most difficult thing, and what limited me, was the care of my sons and daughters. It drove me crazy organizing how to leave them in day care centers, school or any place where they would take care of my children while I worked. My 12-year-old son did the day care of my other small children, I think it was very difficult for him sometimes, but it was the only way to survive.
I had very precarious housing situation and many times I experienced episodes of discrimination because of my nationality… and I had many children, and I did not have a husband ... because of so many things ...when a social worker visited me and told me that my living situation was a disaster, that it was an inhumane space to have to my children, I collapsed. I felt very bad because she did not know how hard it was to at least have a place to live. Then I got strong, there was no time or money to be sad.
With the support of Casa María Amor I was able to put together a folder (curriculum) with my experience. I finally got a job at a restaurant. It was one of my best work experiences. However two years later the restaurant closed and I was out of work again.
Life continued and the possibility of working at Casa María Amor presented itself, I have been here since 2012 and I accompany the women on the road to their eventual autonomy.
My life has changed in many ways: I feel free. However, I still have problems, it is not a perfect life. I am 42 years old and have 6 children, sometimes it is very hard and difficult but the resilience I feel allows me to stand up, protect myself and above all, remember that I am not alone, Casa María Amor will always support me.
From my history of violence, I must say that I was with my partner for so long and yet, at the same time, I was always alone.
I thought about staying in Cuenca for 8 days...I've been here for 9 years.
Casa María Amor receives more women every day with stories like mine...Others were unable to find Casa María Amor: their partners murdered them.