As part of our 15th anniversary celebrations, we will be featuring a series of guest posts throughout the year on the topic “What Day One Means to Me.”
Nicole is a client who volunteered to share her story. She hopes that by speaking up, she is able to prevent others from winding up in her position.
I was 20 when I met my husband. I came for one summer to New York from Ecuador. I had no idea how my life would turn out after that summer.
I met him, and as most stories go, everything was a fairytale at the beginning. He was always a bundle of joy-- helpful, considerate, thoughtful and loving. All these traits got me to fall for him, and I decided to stay in New York when he proposed to me late that fall. We got married very quickly, and I moved in right away. I was so happy I never paid attention to the time or the speed of things.
Things began to change a few months later when we moved in together. He changed from being happy to angry, from being helpful to not doing anything at all, from being respectful to not being respectful. I left my family, my country, my life to be with him. I even had to re adjust my immigration status because of him. But nothing I did seemed to please him. At first I didn’t notice the leverage he had on me, or the disparity in the power and roles. He was the one in charge. He isolated me from my life and began to control everything else, who I talked to, where I was, what I wore, everything. I would try my hardest to make him happy and to not make him angry . I felt like I was killing myself all the time for things to go back to how it was at the start, to be with the person he showed me then instead of who he was now. I used to cry all the time not knowing what was I doing wrong.
My family wasn’t that helpful. They didn’t understand what I was going through, and since they’re very old-fashioned , they told me every time that it was ok because he was now my husband. I remember the day he grabbed me by both wrists. When I escaped, he punched a hole in our wall. It was horrible. I had to leave, I was not happy anymore. Stripped away from my family, friends, culture, I was lost, I did not not recognize myself. I was becoming equally as violent as he was with me. I left my husband and in the midst of all my confusing feelings, I was given a referral to Day One.
Day One helped me with counseling and legal help to fix my immigration status. My situation bonded me to my husband because he had promised to be my sponsor and help me with what I needed. These things never became a reality but were a tool to manipulate and use me to his convenience. With the help of Day One, I was able to recognize all the verbal, emotional and psychological abuse I was enduring, all the guilt I felt , the undermining of my feelings, shaming of my accent and more. Thanks to the counseling provided I was able to gain my self esteem back and have hope for my new life here. Words are not enough to thank Day One for all the help and tools that changed my life. I was hopeless, afraid and desperate as a woman and immigrant, but Day One made me realize I matter and so do my dreams, most importantly they reminded me that love should always feel safe.
Thanks Day One, I can only hope one day to be able to help other woman immigrants like myself in the ways you have helped me.