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Even rose-colored glasses can't mask stark reality of abusive relationship

October 27, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

Of all the services Denise Bracamonte and Graciela Jones offer their clients at the Center for Family Solutions of Imperial Valley, the most important is hope.

When these two women tell clients they understand what they're going through, they really do.

They were victims once, too.

Bracamonte, a client advocate at the Center, like many victims grew up in a family riddled by domestic violence. Her stepfather, a physically abusive man, also sexually abused her.

At 18, Bracamonte had a child, an attempt she says to find unconditional love. While she never abused her daughter, Bracamonte sees now that she just wasn't ready to be a mother.

Her self-esteem in the gutter and wary of physically abusive relationships, Bracamonte walked into a 10-year emotionally abusive nightmare with a man she met while he was in prison.


The mind games, mental and emotional abuse took their toll on Bracamonte, though she stayed in the relationship. Some of the tactics he used would be to tell Bracamonte how pretty she was and how he didn't deserve her. Then he'd stay out all night and cheat on her.

"I'd still take him back," Bracamonte said.

She financially supported the household while he did odd jobs, used drugs and bounced in and out of prison. He even admitted marrying her for convenience.

And still she stayed with him.

"I was sitting there with rose-colored glasses on not seeing this man that actually doesn't love me at all, doesn't love anybody," Bracamonte said.

"Everybody saw it but me," she said

In the time they were together, including the six years they were married, Bracamonte was severely depressed. Despite having a baby together, the relationship was overwhelmingly destructive.

"At one point, I went into such a bad depression I couldn't function. I couldn't function to take care of my children," Bracamonte said.

Bracamonte even attempted suicide.

The relationship finally ended when Bracamonte learned her husband was a pedophile whose victims included her older daughter.

While dealing with the final dissolution of her marriage and the revelation of her daughter's abuse, Bracamonte and her children moved to the Imperial Valley about four years ago. They stayed at the Center's shelter for six months and took advantage of the Center's support groups and classes.

After volunteering at the Center, Bracamonte eventually was hired.

"I love working with the women, watching them bloom. It's like a flower. When they first come in they're all closed up," Bracamonte said, adding with time and assistance, victims begin to change.

"I like to let my clients know that yes, I know where they're coming from," she said.

Healing is a long process, something Bracamonte can attest to.

"I still consider myself in recovery," Bracamonte said.

"I still have my issues," Bracamonte said. Learning to feel complete without a man is something she says she continues to struggle with.

Assistant client advocate Graciela Jones has a similar, though no less powerful story.

"I am …" Jones begins to say before correcting herself.

"I was a victim of domestic violence," Jones said.

Married at just 15, Jones spent 10 years in an abusive relationship before deciding about seven years ago to leave everything and take her son and herself out of the relationship.

"The person that I am now, I wasn't then," Jones said.

Despite the abuse, Jones said she stuck it out in the marriage in part because she wanted her son to have a father. Though the marriage was ugly, materialistically Jones wanted for little. The jewelry her ex-husband bought her, however, wasn't enough to keep her in the relationship.

"What is it that you really want in life?" Jones said she asked herself.

It was scary taking that first step, Jones said. With her husband threatening to kill her and her self-esteem quite low, Jones sought help at the Center. Taking a job shampooing carpets, Jones began to build a new, self-reliant life for herself.

Now she encourages other victims of domestic violence to be brave and leave abusive relationships.

Every victim has his or her own story and nobody will ever completely understand what they've been through, Jones said. But there is caring and support out there, she adds.

"Don't look back," she says. "There's a bright light at the end of that tunnel."

Jones is living proof of that.

Today, Jones says she is happily remarried to a man who "knows what love is."

It's especially satisfying, Jones said, to see clients at the Center break away from domestic violence.

"It makes me feel I've helped. It makes me proud that they can see women who can survive alone," Jones said.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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