Like many women who suffer domestic abuse, Marisol bore her partner’s insults and assaults for a time, hoping he might change and wanting to keep her children and parents safe from violent repercussions. When she decided to file a report, the authorities would not intervene. Early this year, after a particularly life-threatening episode, there was no denying the danger of the situation—either flee or be killed.
Until November, Marisol, 27, lived with her partner, Daniel, and their children—Abigail (4), Daniela (3), and Jason (2)—in a small village in Míchoacán, about two hours away from her hometown where her parents still lived. Before the children arrived, their relationship seemed fine, but after Abigail was born, Daniel became volatile and abusive. He hit Marisol frequently, refused to provide money for food, diapers, or transportation, and humiliated her in front of others.
As the years went on, Daniel’s actions became increasingly violent and erratic. Two episodes in October finally convinced Marisol to leave him. First, he took her and the children to an abandoned area outside of town in the middle of the night, and dropped them there, forcing them to walk home through miles of isolated, dangerous areas with no food, water, or phone. Then, he hit Marisol with a crowbar, leaving her scarred and injured. Marisol reported the incidents to the local police and human rights organizations, asking for their help and protection, but neither offered it. Instead, they required that Daniel participate in drawing up a mutual agreement, something Marisol knew he would be unwilling to do and she feared that even asking would provoke him. So she fled with the kids to her parents’ home in December. Within days, Daniel found them there, and scared he’d become explosive if she didn’t let him in, she opened the door. Thereafter, Daniel lived with Marisol and the children at his in-laws’ house.
A month later, Marisol and her family suffered a deep loss—her father passed away after a prolonged illness. While her dad was alive, Daniel was less abusive, but now his assaults intensified, and he perpetrated them when Gloria, Marisol’s mother, who is hearing-impaired, was not in the room.
The breaking point came soon after when, with the children nearby, Daniel stabbed Marisol in her thigh. She believes the only reason she survived was the fortuitous arrival of a neighbor who came over when he heard the screams. That attack awakened Marisol to the life-threatening reality of her circumstances—it was time to escape. The very next day, under the guise of taking the kids to school with her mom and leaving only with daypacks, they set out toward the border to seek asylum in the U.S., and haven’t looked back.
They arrived in Nogales in March, and are staying at the KBI shelter while they wait for their number to be called to present themselves for asylum. Though Marisol managed to escape a dangerous relationship, she remains on alert. She has blocked Daniel on her phone and on social media. Abigail, as the eldest, experiences the traumas they’ve been through most deeply, and continually asks when they will be able to leave Mexico. When she saw a man who looked like her father on a bus, the child shrieked uncontrollably to get off the bus. Marisol hopes to get therapy for Abigail once they’re in the U.S., so haunted is this little girl by what she has seen in her early years.
Marisol also plans to live with her sister in Atlanta while she fights her asylum case, a scenario permitted for parents with minors, but not for extended family like her mother who would be detained, though an exception might be made due to Gloria’s deafness. In Atlanta, Marisol could finally feel less daily tension, and share the details of her life with her sister, something she’s been reluctant to reveal before. She wants her kids to go to school, and recover from all they have lived through in their short lives. She hopes her son will grow into a man of kindness and generosity; she hopes her girls will learn, through her example, to stay away from people who do not treat them well, and not suffer in silence as she did. As she says, “I want them to know they can always talk to me.”