Global statistics show that one in every three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
Little did Amy Carter (not her real name) know that she would become that one in three when she got married.
Like every newlywed, she was in love and with that love came many hopes and expectations. But her heaven quickly turned to hell, forcing her to abandon the life she built and start anew.
“It was the most difficult step to take because I still loved him back then. I still want my son to have a dad,” Carter said during an interview with the Cayman Compass.
The mother of one requested anonymity as she is still battling to break free of her violent marriage. Despite this, she said she wanted to share her story so she can help to empower other women, who may be living life in fear, to find the strength to change their circumstances.
“If you can endure an abusive marriage you can endure the separation. If you have been through hell, you might go through hell again, but this is about your empowerment and do not do it alone,” she said.
Carter said her marriage did not start off with violence; that came later on when she left her home country to come to the Cayman Islands with her husband.
Originally from South America, she said one of the major challenges she faced was living in a country where English was not her first language.
“I moved to a new country where I had no rights, where I was just being an expat. Here I was isolated from my family. It was fine until we decided to have a baby,” she said.
Things started to change
She said, for the most part, things were going well in the beginning, until the warning signs started creeping in.
“When the baby was born there was a complete change in his dad’s behaviour. There were cycles of anger and blame and disappearing. He would disappear for weekends and I would not know where he was. He would blame me,” she said.
Carter said at that time she dismissed the behavioural changes even though her intuition was telling her what was coming. She said she thought that it was normal for couples to fight.
“I was not aware of how it was becoming a trap. After a few fights, I decided to go back home to reconsider what I was doing, my family, my marriage, and as I went home he was following me,” she said.
Carter said because her husband did not speak Spanish, he thought she was being unfaithful. She said she was fearful of returning to Cayman then.
She would get emails from her husband telling her not come back, but for the sake of their marriage and her child she did.
“I was scared to come back. When I came back, he was a completely different person,” she said.
She said years later she would learn that her husband had hacked her phone and was essentially stalking her.
The fight that changed it all
Carter’s defining moment came when she saw her husband’s rage escalate to violence.
She said they had been arguing about her time in her home country.
“He started escalating, started getting angrier. He started pushing me around with my one-and-half-year-old in my hands,” she said.
“He locked me in a room, he threw me to the floor, and he started. He let my baby go to the ground and he would never let me pick him up; it was a physical brawl.”
It was then she knew it was a situation she did not want to be in, especially with a young child.
She said to fend him off she pushed him away. Carter said her husband used their contact in that incident to claim she had hurt him.
“He took a picture of himself and said I just assaulted him, so he was already preparing for the fight. I had no idea what was happening; he locked me in a room with my baby,” she added.
She said she screamed for help and even tried to break a window without success.
Carter said he came back and, in a moment, when he was distracted, she ran. With no shoes on her feet and her child wearing only a diaper, she ran.
She banged on doors begging for help, but no one was around.
A couple passing by stopped and took her and her son to the police station. The police took her back home and spoke to her and her husband. She said he told them she was crazy and would do things like run off.
She said the police told her that she needed to get out, because situations like that do not go away, they escalate.
“But I was not in a place [where] I was able to make that decision to remove myself. I needed my family. I needed that support. I think that was the big important part of it. I said ‘OK, I will stay. We will work it out.’ He [told] me we will go to counselling,” she said.
However, when the police left, his rage returned, and she grabbed her son and locked herself in the room again. Her husband, she said, had thrown all her belongings into the sea.
She said she was able to get her car keys and leave.
“That was the last time I was in the matrimonial home.”
A new beginning
Carter went to the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre for help.
She said what she learned that day was that more local resources are needed to help those trying to escape domestic violence.
She said there were already 16 other women in the shelter and she had to make a choice.
“It was either I go there with my son and go through that stress or I go back home, and I made the decision to go home,” she said.
Eventually Carter would find the strength to leave for good.
While it has been five years for her, Carter said, it was not an easy choice.
She said her family and other women told her to keep trying, to endure and things would get better.
A support group is necessary when facing domestic abuse, she explained, adding in her case she found that support at the Crisis Centre.
“I do not think I would ever have been able to do it if I did not have that support group,” she said.
Today Carter is stronger and wiser. She shares her story with other women who have experienced domestic violence.
Carter does not consider herself a victim, but a survivor, and while things may get tough, she remains resolute.
“I would never give up because of my [child,] because [my child] is the one that has shown me how strong I am and how much I can do and I will never give up,” she said. “I do not think that is an option for me because when I see [my child] everything I have gone through is worth it.”
Domestic Violence Resources
24-Hour Crisis Line – 943-CICC (2422)
Kids Helpline – 649-5437 (KIDS)
MASH Unit – 1 (345) 244-6000
Estella’s Place Walk-In Centre
2nd Floor Crown Square
Department of Children & Family Services
3rd Floor Commerce House,
7 Genesis Close, George Town
1 (345) 949-0290