Anastasia

She stared off again, but this time, with purpose: her eyes focused in on the photograph of her three children, a sepia-colored Christmas portrait taken four years ago when Diana was still taller than both of the boys. She stood tall in the middle, each hand placed on the shoulders of her younger brothers. They were all smiling in that picture, but according to Anastasia, that too, was just an illusion.

Anastasia would not get into the specifics of the kind of abuse she endured, only to say that her ex-husband mistreated her, continually questioned everything she did, including the appearance of their home, her interaction with her own family, and the fact that at one point, she brought home more money than him. She was mindful not to speak his name, referring to him only as “that man.” It was as though even breathing his name would allow him back into her home, as though his presence could escape her voice and once again pollute their environment. According to her, she was controlled to the point where she was discouraged from speaking to her family back in Mexico, not allowed to bring friends over and was seldom let out of the house without the pressure of making it back quickly.

The worst part, however, was not what she endured, but, as she described, the consequences her children faced as a result of what they witnessed. She said she and her children were always walking on eggshells around him, never quite sure of the mood they would find him in. Eventually, the stress took its toll on their innocence.

“There are many women who prefer to live like that rather than ask for help,” Anastasia said. “Now, I realize you ought to have some dignity as a woman and realize especially, that problems between you and a man never help the children. It doesn’t help them at all. I think about my oldest daughter, about how much she suffered, she was in a terrible state, so much so that she had to be admitted to a hospital because of the severity of the depression she suffered. I can attest to the fact that remaining in a situation like the one I was in does nothing good for the children, nothing at all. When one remains silent and doesn’t ask for help, the consequences the children suffer are awful.”