Anastasia

A national survey in 1990 revealed that as many as 50 percent of the men who abused their wives also abused their children. Anastasia was adamant in saying that is where she drew the line. If her ex-husband ever raised a hand to her children, that would be the end of it. She did admit, however, that although they might not have endured physical abuse, they were victims of the trauma associated with the abuse she endured, victims of the neglect of their father, victims of having their innocence lost, crushed by the echoes of the fights between their parents. Diana, she said, suffered in the most obvious way. She refused to acknowledge Anastasia as her mother, having created an imaginary family in her mind, one that was wealthy, stable and most of all, happy.

“It was like she wasn’t there,” said Anastasia. “She stopped associating with us. Her mind was always wandering, off in the distance.”

The guilt Anastasia lives with is palpable. She does not need to say how remorseful she feels about remaining in an abusive situation for 14 years and exposing her children to it. That burden is evidenced in the slope of her shoulders as they tense up during her testimony. It is evident in the creases of the wrinkles around her eyes while she glances out the window into the sunlight. The lines that reflect across her face break up her features, creating a pattern of shadows and light, a mixture of the darkness she has endured, but also, of the brightness that she hopes for her future, that she finds in her children.

“I was able to change things because of my children,” Anastasia said. “Thanks to the strength they gave me to move forward. We had to get out of where we were; we had to leave their father.”