One woman shares her horrific story of domestic violence
Sept. 11, 2010 at 4:11 a.m.
Not many people say they are proud of a stabbing scar, but Robin Vasquez has her reasons.
The half-inch mark on her upper left arm has evolved from a painful memory into a tatter-winged, purple butterfly tattoo.
The scar on the 28-year-old came after her ex-husband beat her in December 2007.
The issue of domestic violence rose again to public concern in the Crossroads in July when a Victoria man shot his wife, stepson and granddaughter and then killed himself.
Domestic violence occurs frequently, but is on the decline this year compared to 2009, Victoria Police Chief Bruce Ure said.
"Unfortunately, it's not uncommon to get brutalized to the point of hospitalization," Ure said.
The decline in cases gives Vasquez hope for others who may be in abusive relationships.
"He left me within inches of my life," she said. "It's not OK."
FACE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Vasquez's memory of that winter night is foggy.
The last thing she fully remembers is coming home from a Christmas party.
That night, her ex-husband stabbed and bruised her body and broke most of the bones in her face.
Her ex-husband did not let her call for help until the next morning, she said.
"I kept telling him, 'I need help. I'm dying,'" she said.
The only way she can piece that night together is through police, who told her he used his hands and objects around the house to abuse her.
The Advocate is not identifying her ex-husband to protect the privacy of her 10-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. Victoria District Judge Robert Cheshire sentenced her ex-husband to 10 years at the Dominguez Unit in Texas for aggravated assault on a family member with a deadly weapon, according to court documents and Advocate archives. He began his sentence in October 2008.
DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND
Lane Johnson, a licensed professional counselor at Gulf Bend Center, said it is hard to understand how a domestic violence case works, or why one person would snap.
"There is so many variables. It's hard to pinpoint," he said. "A lot of the variables have to do with longtime ongoing frustrations, angers, threats. Sometimes it takes just one little event to put them over the edge ... "
The source of violence, Johnson said, goes back to primitive human nature.
A person's survival strategy is to become aggressive and defensive when threatened, he said.
Johnson compares violence as the anger version of a panic attack, which is an intense moment of fear or dread which causes a flight or fight mentality.
Oftentimes, when a violent person settles down and begins to focus, they feel grief or remorse and think the only way to escape is through suicide.
Rather than looking at individual cases, though, the public needs to look at the overall picture, he said.
"Domestic violence trends measure not only mental health of the individuals, it measures the mental health of a community and society," Johnson said. "Sometimes it takes a village to address those issues."
Vasquez said her ex-husband had hit her before and been verbally abusive, but she stayed because she thought that was typical for a relationship. The severe beating in December forced her to re-evaluate her life.
AWARENESS UP, CASES DOWN
Life for Vasquez is good these days.
She has remarried, and she and her children have received counseling through Mid-Coast Family Services.
Daniel Barrientos has been with the family service organization for 13 years and has seen an increase in the services being used, he said. The agency was founded in 1982.
"Domestic violence cases in the Crossroads have remained virtually quiet, but the area does see its share of shocking cases," he said.
Since 2008, there has been an increase in services used, but Barrientos is not sure whether that translates into an increase in cases.
"Domestic violence has been around for years," he said. "Now people have a place to turn to."
In 2008, 79 individuals received counseling, Barrientos said. So far this year, 192 individuals have been seen, he added.
The increase could be just in the awareness of services, he said.
Between January and July of this year, there were 286 domestic violence incidents in Victoria, according to statistics provided by the Victoria Police Department.
Last year between the same months, that number was 325, which is a 12 percent decrease in incidents.
"It's hard to quantify the cause of the decrease," Police Chief Ure said. "There are so many factors that attribute to domestic violence."
Agencies like Mid-Coast could be helping in the decrease, he said.
"We have to keep pushing the message out that domestic violence is a violation of the law," he said. "People will be held accountable."
Statistics in 2007 show Texas had 189,401 reported domestic violence incidents, according to the Texas Council on Family Violence.
Of those, 136 women were killed.
Vasquez is thankful she escaped being part of that statistic.
She said she was not worried about the day her ex-husband will be released from prison. She understands her ex is receiving counseling in prison.
These days, Vasquez is looking forward. She will be moving her family close to Austin in the coming weeks for a job opportunity.
This is happiness, she said.
Still, her story will follow her throughout her life and she wants to continue to spread the word that abuse is not OK. That's why she chose to speak out.
Her car bears a bumper sticker offering a simple plea, "End domestic violence."
"People say, 'That won't happen to me,'" she said. "But it can."