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In the end, it was a fight about food that finally drove Maria* from her violent, hard-drinking husband.
She’d endured five years of physical and mental abuse, but on that final day in her home she couldn’t bear that her husband was refusing to feed his own children.
He constantly complained about having to provide, yet wouldn’t help Maria with the tools she needed to learn English (Spanish is her native tongue), get a job, or go to school.
“He hit me. He controlled the money. He cheated on me,” Maria says of the man she married.
It was an impossible situation. On the day Maria made up her mind to leave, her husband had been drinking and fighting with his own mother, and when he turned on Maria she was deeply frightened about what he might do.
“That day my children asked me for food and I didn’t have food,” Maria recalls. “I said to him, ‘I need to buy food for the children.’ He said, ‘you need to work.’ That day was enough for me. I knew I couldn’t continue like that. My children didn’t need this life.”
Maria fled with her kids — two girls, now 7 and 3 — to a community centre where staff helped them make their way to Interval House.
“I was very afraid,” Maria says. “It was new for me. I was afraid for my children because they didn’t know where we were going.”
Maria also feared what might happen if her husband somehow found her. Being outside was terrifying, so she stayed indoors most of the time. It took about two months for her to finally feel safe.
“After about two months my children were making friends,” Maria says. “We were very happy. I started to sleep well. I, too, made friends. The workers there helped me a lot with my children, with me, with my feelings. I was more happy in the shelter than my own house.”
Interval House exists to help women like Maria reinvent themselves and rebuild their lives.
Since leaving Interval House, Maria has been accepted into a transitional housing program while she waits for a permanent housing placement. She’s thrilled and proud that her children are thriving, and she knows how very far they have come.
But looking back, she acknowledges how tough it is for a woman to leave an abusive partner.
“When I lived with him I felt very scared all the time,” says Maria, now 26. “I didn’t have power in me. All the time I felt like he controlled my life. Now I feel that I have control of my own decisions and my own life. If I want to go to school I can go. If I want to find a job I feel I can do it. I feel like I can be stronger. I feel more comfortable with myself. I am now myself.”
Maria wants donors to know how much their support for Interval House means.
“I didn’t have clothes, no money, nothing for me and my children,” Maria says. “The many donations helped me. Most of the women have children. If you help and encourage the moms, the children can go forward with their life. If you help the children, they’re going to grow — and they are the future of this world.”
*Maria’s name has been changed to protect her identity.