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Funded by the State Library of Western Australia, 16 Days, 16 Stories is a courageous new collection of stories presented in solidarity with survivors of domestic violence, recorded for the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.

Married at 17, Mari never knew anything but violence and disrespect in family relationships. Here, she shares a harrowing personal story of abuse, mental illness, losing her children, and learning how to live life on her own terms.

Content Warning: Please be advised that the following story contains themes of family and domestic violence that some listeners may find distressing. If you have been impacted by family or domestic violence and are in need of support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service.

Photograph of Mari Sol

[Transcript]

My name is Mari Sol. I’m from Mexico and I’m a survivor of domestic violence and trauma.

My mum abused me. She was a single mum and I was the oldest sibling, I guess. It was just me and my brother.

I come from Mexico, which is a nation that’s pretty full-on [with] misogyny and patriarchy and everything. So just by that, I just had everything to lose in the first place. On top of that, my skin didn’t help, my complexion, that didn’t help. I’m a white person in Mexico. It’s pretty much being the rice on the beans, especially when you are not in a high level of income.

So yeah, in my family there were a lot of women already. And, my brother was the first boy and he was beautiful. I started taking care of him when I was six years old and pretty much taking care of the household, the cleaning, the chores, on top of my studies.

I grew up Catholic; it’s 90per cent of the population in Mexico. So, I was not even allowed to be myself. I was not even allowed to have fun as a kid or do much stuff. So, when I was a teenager, I got tired of it. And the only way to get out of a household, which is Catholic as much as my own was, was to get married. So, I got married when I was 17. But because of the fact that I never knew anything else, my ex-husband was also abusive. So, I ended up in the same thing.

I was extremely depressed, and I just wanted a time. That’s all I wanted. I just wanted to have a breath, and to think what was happening, just that, you know, like, “What is happening with my life?” And when I got back to him, he just didn’t let me see my kids anymore, just like that. He just didn’t let me see them. So, when I asked him why, he just told me, “If you’re not gonna be with me, then I’m going to leave you alone. If you are not with me, then work it out on yourself.” And at that point I didn’t have my mum anymore. My brother, I had no idea where he was and that was it. That was my whole family from the beginning. So, I was alone, and I was on the streets because I was depending on him and I didn’t have my kids. So, it was just too much to handle. I just didn’t know what was me. What was life? What was anything? What was right, what was not? So, I tried to kill myself, more than a couple of times, and I ended up in a psychiatric hospital and they couldn’t even let me go because I didn’t have anybody to take care of me. So, I ended up in the streets. I just could not face reality. I just could not face reality at that point.

When I lost them, my boy was five years old and my daughter was two years old, so she was still a baby and he was, I don’t know, he was not even in elementary school, you know, he was still on the asking period of  “Why this? “Why that?” And I could not see them for a couple of years. I just could not see them because he didn’t let me see them. He was just so angry at me that I was not with them that he just wouldn’t allow me to see them. So, after that I was just, you know, trying to work it out, how to manipulate the situation or how to come to an agreement with him or with somebody, you know, like somebody, I just wanted to see them. I just wanted to yeah, just see them. So, it was just hard. I just couldn’t even think about them, because it just hurt too much. You know, just the thing that maybe they have a flu, or they have a fever, you know, or wondering if my baby was leaving the diapers or not, or if they were fed or not. I was not there.

When you’re a mum, you’re a mum on a daily basis, you know, you’re a mum while you’re providing that care, that day-to-day that help with the homework, that shouting in the morning to get ready, that lunch pack. And you know, I didn’t experience that. I’ll never do that. I never did it. So, for me it was not only that, it was the guilt. Like, is it worth it? Is it really worth it leaving this asshole and go through this pain? And for me it was, because I wanted more. I didn’t want to be with him and it didn’t matter how much was the cost of that. It didn’t matter. I prefer going through hell on my own terms than going through hell put it by somebody else.

For me, I think I hit rock bottom,as they say, when I found myself stalking this guy who used to treat me like shit. And I was still obsessed on having him in my life because I could not face the fact on being alone. I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t know how it was. So, I started thinking like, okay, if he doesn’t love me or that one doesn’t love me or my kids are not even allowed to see me, I just kind of like, I needed a hero. I needed a superhero to come and rescue me. And there was nobody available, so I just had to became one. I just had to.

I got tired of being sad and I got tired of being, trying to shake people, to listen to me or to love me or to look at me twice. And I started looking at myself. I started taking care of myself. I started, instead of being angry that I was filthy or that I didn’t had something to eat and that nobody cares, well I care, so I’m going to do it.

So, I started studying a lot and I got really passionate about psychology and natural medicine and holistic counselling and all that sort of different alternatives in which people can be helped to find themselves. And I ended up finding myself in the process and I want to share it because I think if I don’t share it, then my life has no purpose because that’s all I got. That’s who I am.

So, I started getting excited again. And I guess that’s the first step. Getting excited about life, getting exciting, doing stuff that’s going to bring you joy. Even if just like go for an ice cream. It makes you looking forward for something and you can start just like that, you know? Like, “Oh, I’m looking forward for my pedicure on the weekend.” Or…you get excited. And I guess just because of my background, if I didn’t do things right, I got punished on anything. I guess for me it’s just like that, I want to work for things so that things turned out right. Nobody will punish me but me, at this point, and I want to keep it that way as far as I can. And I guess that just opens up like the new chapter, you know? Like, yeah, I let other people drive my life, but I don’t want that anymore, you know? So just please step out of the car, and I’ll work it out, kind of thing.

The only good thing that came out of here is to inspire others, to not be afraid, and that you can do it too, you know? Kind of like say like, “Oh, okay. She got it worse. She managed to do it.” And from my story, it’s the fact that I lost my kids. I didn’t just lost a partner or dreams or plans. I lost my kids and my chance to be a mum again, and that does not take away the fact that I’m a strong woman because I still am. And even if I’m alone or if I don’t fulfil the ideal of whatever that I thought it was when I was a kid or from my culture or from my background or from whoever, who wants to judge me, which I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people who would like to do that, it doesn’t matter. It’s on my own terms and on my own terms, I decide what I want to be and who I want to be. And I want to be happy and fulfilled and if I can do it, I think it gets easier for some others. If I could manage to still smile or to still play or just still be silly and laugh after what I’ve been through, I think most of the people can too because it passes. It’s just a matter of time. It’s just time.

Copyright © 2019 Mari Sol

This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by Mari Sol. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.

Production by Rita Saggar and Claudia Mancini. Recording by Terri Bellem.

Photo by Claudia Mancini.


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