Carla’s life was once filled with emotional turmoil, physical and psychological abuse, and fear for her children. Lies and intimidation from her former husband’s family brought her world crashing down. But Carla never gave up and she prevailed. Today, Carla stands tall and smiles with strength and beauty. Her future is bright, her children are safe, she’s in love with a good man, and their little baby girl is due in August.
As a native Spanish speaker, Carla A. knows that Esperanza means hope. But when we asked her what Esperanza Shelter means to her, she says with a smile, “Life.” Carla added quickly, “It also means “opportunity” because I’ve learned to be strong after being weak, I make better decisions, I’ve improved my self-confidence and now I appreciate myself.”
Carla is accustomed to tough times; life was hard where she grew up in north-central Mexico. Carla worked constantly from the time she was in the seventh grade to help the family make ends meet. She never had much schooling. And the only home she knew was a violent one that shook her to the core.
At age 16, Carla left Mexico to join her mother in Santa Fe. With a lot of hard work, they scraped by and today Carla has the same restaurant job she’s been at for the last 16 years.
The first man Carla married drank too much. She suffered every kind of imaginable physical abuse by his hand. He even tried to strangle her to death. He finally went to Esperanza’s Offenders’ Program while she and their son moved in with her mother. At Esperanza, he beat the odds, and although they subsequently divorced, he never hurt Carla again, got his temper under control and ultimately became a “good father,” explains Carla. During that time, Carla also tapped into the services at Esperanza Shelter’s non-residential programs. She thought she’d recovered from the abuse and was moving on. She was wrong.
Carla married again and had another son and a daughter with her second husband. Before long, Carla learned that this man also proved to “have a temper.” He was often physically and emotionally abusive to Carla and the children.
One day a stranger broke into their home and brutally beat Carla in front of her children. The painful, terrifying event triggered a great deal of the trauma Carla carried deep inside her from both marriages—and she decided to make changes in her life. She initiated a divorce.
If being married to an abusive man wasn’t enough, then his family joined in. Her husband and his family formally fabricated a devastating lie and accused Carla of abusing the children. The Children, Youth and Families Division of New Mexico removed the children from Carla’s care during the two-week investigation. And Carla thought she would die.
“I didn’t bring babies into the world just to have them taken away!” Carla said emphatically. “I cried a lot, lost weight and got sick,” she added.
Her eldest son explained to the agency, however, that Carla was not the abuser. He summoned the courage to tell the social workers of the horrible abuse they’d all suffered by his stepfather. Her children were returned to Carla’s care and a judge ordered Carla’s husband and his family to leave her home.
The abuse and separation from their mother took a terrible toll on Carla’s children. At age six, her daughter started to express suicidal thoughts. This little girl actually talked about ending her life. Carla could barely cope but she sought help from Esperanza Shelter. Eventually all of her children would benefit from counseling.
While on this difficult journey, Carla once again relied on Esperanza’s non-residential services including counseling, court advocacy and clothing donations that kept her and her children warm. She found she needed to work hard at the program in order to make positive, permanent changes in her life. Counseling made her strong and helped heal the wounds she carried. Carla even joined Esperanza’s Hope in Learning program to work on improving her English and to study for the U.S. citizenship test. In spring, 2017, Carla took the test and passed. A few weeks later, Carla attended a ceremony in Albuquerque where she was sworn in as a very proud United States citizen.
Carla hopes to find time to study again—this time for the high school equivalency exam. In the meanwhile she continues to work hard, raise her children and love the new, kind man in her life. She looks forward to rocking her newborn baby, believing the child will be safe and grow up happy.
Every day, with every step, Carla relies on her own inner strength to continue moving forward. And every day, with every step, Carla is grateful for the “life” that Esperanza gave her.