Meet Leticia

She bravely escaped the cycle of abuse for her children

She bravely escaped the cycle of abuse for her children

Throughout her childhood, Leticia witnessed her father hitting her mother. With their relationship the only model of love she knew, as Leticia grew older and began dating she found herself in the same domestic dynamic as her mother, with men who would leave and hurt her. At 24, she became pregnant with her daughter Kelis.

A few years later as a single mom, she met another man thinking he would be different.

Our relationship was up and down. When things were good, he was supportive and loving. When things were bad, they were really bad. During arguments he was violent and unpredictable – he’d throw a brick through a window or slash the tires on my car. I’d try to end things with him and he would break into my apartment and break things. After his anger settled down, he came back apologizing, asking me to forgive him. Stupidly, I did.

Leticia was struggling financially, working two jobs and doing everything she could to be a good mother to Kelis. The stresses of her relationship took a toll on both her and her daughter.

His destruction was costing me money, my dignity and my daughter’s health. Kelis saw him being violent.  She was terrified and never wanted him around. One day, she saw him hurt me and begged him to let me go. No child should have to experience that trauma.

In the summer of 2016, Leticia became further behind paying the bills and her mother offered to take Kelis for the summer so she could work two jobs full time. That entire summer she worked, putting as much money away as she could.

During this time she was shocked to find out she was pregnant, this time with twin boys.

I had to keep these babies. But how could I keep them away from their father?

Soon after she learned of the pregnancy, he found out too. At first, he was thrilled and supportive, joining her doctors appointments.

Just as quickly, his mood changed.

One day, he became upset and started verbally harassing Leticia in front of Kelis, calling her cruel names. They began to fight. In fear for their safety, Leticia grabbed her daughter and fled, calling the police. As a high risk pregnancy, they were taken to the emergency room to make sure the boys were okay.

While there, a social worker asked if Leticia felt safe. She didn’t. She wasn’t. She told them no, and they offered her a spot in a domestic violence shelter in Springfield.

Living in a shelter under a shared roof was better than living independently but in fear for my life. At 27 weeks, I went into labor. The boys were born early but healthy. Apollo was 2.3 pounds and Alex was 3.3 pounds. When I was ready to be discharged, we had nowhere to go. They made arrangements for a shelter in Boston so I could be close to the hospital and return to breastfeed the boys. They came home after 2 months in the NICU.

One more fight with their father, and I’d had enough. I got a restraining order against him.

At this point in her life, Leticia needed help more than ever before. That’s when she discovered Horizons. When the boys were 4 months old, and just a few weeks out of the NICU, they started in the infant room at Horizons in Dorchester. She was nervous, wondering if they were big and healthy enough to be there – and they were. Recognizing that the boys were preemies, the teachers coordinated Early Intervention who came to the classrooms to make sure they were on track and getting the resources they needed.

Over those months, and now years, the teachers have become like second moms to my boys. With their help, I recognized them hitting their milestones. I was having trouble with Apollo who didn’t make eye contact when being talked to. One of his teachers told me about the technique she uses to get his attention. They’ve helped the boys through transitions. When it came time for the boys to move to preschool where they are now, Alex had a hard time. His teachers helped him set a new routine where he could stop by and spend a few minutes with them before moving on to his class.

My beautiful boys are thriving, happy and healthy.

Having your children in loving, capable hands is one thing,  but Leticia knew that she needed help too. Her Horizons family advocates have supported her along the way. When she needed help paying utilities, they helped her work out a payment plan with the electric company. Even though she’s back to working two jobs, sometimes she can’t make ends meet. When she became low on food, the family advocates directed her to a food pantry to make sure they were getting what they needed.

As challenging as these last years have been, Leticia’s children are her inspiration for their future. Her dream is to have a home for them one day. She’s working right now to become a nail technician, having finished schooling and is working toward acquiring her license by the end of this year.

My time living in a shelter has taught me the value of self-care. You need to put your own air mask on before you can help others, including your children.  I want to start a business that gives women the chance to take care of themselves. I want Kelis to see me as an independent and entrepreneurial woman – not the person I used to be. And Horizons helped me become that woman.

Leticia and her children continue to thrive. The support they received from Horizons is a foundation for the life they’re building towards and a future full of possibilities.

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