"I knew then I had two choices: leave or become a statistic."

When I first met my ex-husband, he was very charming but after we moved in together he became more and more controlling— it was like living in a boot camp.

We were living in Argentina, where I was born, but he was from Canada. We moved here because my country fell into terrible financial crisis, the whole society was crumbling. I hoped things would be better in Canada, but of course they got worse. Every day, coming home from work was like returning to prison. He broke dishes, threw things, screamed, threatened. He had no “off” button. I was losing my spirit, my passion for life, to the point where I didn’t even recognize myself.

One morning—the day before Christmas—my daughter and I ran to the window to witness the magic of the first snowfall in our garden. Our Christmas tree had been flung out onto the front lawn, the branches scattered like lost children. The wings of the crystal angel were broken. Santa’s elves had lost their heads. Everything was either under the snow or smashed to pieces. I knew then I had two choices: leave or become a statistic. I could see the headline: “Burnaby mother and daughter found dead.” I realize now he could have killed us at any moment.  My daughter and I left, taking only a small suitcase and some family photos.

We slept on the floor of an unfurnished basement apartment, side by side. My daughter would whisper in my ear: “You are my hero. I know we will make it!” Her words and trust kept me going. But I blamed myself and was ashamed beyond words. I felt alone on a life raft, in the middle of a dark ocean. But my counselor at Dixon Transition House would tell me success stories about other women, and it was like seeing the light from a lighthouse.

Slowly but steadily, the winds of freedom created new hope in our hearts. The RCMP kept us safe. We furnished our apartment and bought our own Christmas tree. I started to find my voice and shape my own destiny, breaking the cycle of violence for myself and future generations of women in my family—today, my daughter has a husband who treats her with respect.

Now my mission is to be an advocate for women and children trapped by the tentacles of domestic violence. When I speak to women at the shelter, I find it very moving—I used to have that same look on my face. For my daughter and me, our own determination and strength were crucial. But without help from the community, we could not have transformed from victims to victors.

-As told by Haydee to Diane Hill

Dixon Transition House is located in Burnaby BC and is supported by the Canadian Women’s Foundation Annual Campaign to End Violence Against Women.