‘I want to live!,’ I was screaming. The cops were on their way. I was trying to get out of the bathroom, trying to get my boyfriend off me, trying to hide in the tub.’: Single mom’s empowering story of surviving domestic abuse with infant daughter

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“’I want to live! I want to live!’ I was screaming and crying in the hallway outside my apartment while my daughter’s father, his oldest daughter and my 6-month-old were inside. The cops were on their way. This was the first time I called the cops on him. I just spent 15 minutes trying to get out of the bathroom, trying to get him off me, trying to hide in the tub, and screaming for his oldest daughter.

He slapped me across my face before he opened the bathroom door. I ran to the front door with him chasing me. He was trying to push the front door closed but I got out. I called my mom, his oldest daughter’s mother, My Sister’s Place (the domestic abuse organization), and the cops and told them everything. My mom picked me and the baby up with our things and brought me to her house. 

Coutesy of Phylisha ‘PHYLLI’ Villanueva

I left my apartment with my little baby in December and stayed with my parents almost the entire winter. We eventually had to move back into my apartment with my daughter’s father because my parent’s house was not in the best condition to have a little baby living there. We operated as roommates. He lived in the living room, and the baby and I lived in the bedroom. The relationship was 100% over in my head, but for peace in my home, sometimes I had to fake it. With the lease being up in July, it gave me about 3 months to figure out my escape. I stopped fighting back with him and kept calm. I couldn’t risk any type of physical altercations. He was losing control and it drove him crazy how unbothered I was acting.

The baby and I started staying out as long as we could to avoid being home. I was literally scared of him. Sometimes he would hold the baby, start crying and say, ‘You’re not gonna take her from me.’ Sometimes I would wake up to him pacing the kitchen talking to himself. He was angry and aggressive all the time. I was slowly finding out that he was stealing the rent money and lying. Until a Friday in June, I had to call the cops on him again. He saw my lock screen on my phone where someone sent me a text that read, ‘Don’t tell his name.’ He asked me about it and I told him, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s just girl talk.’

I turned around for a moment to tend to the baby in the crib and then I saw him reach for my phone and grab it. I’m behind him, pulling his arms back so he can’t go through my phone. It was really important for him not to know who I was working with to get out of this situation. After he shakes me off of him, he throws my phone and walks away.  I grab my phone and send voice notes to certain people in my phone about what just happened. He comes in moments later on the phone with the cops. He said I assaulted him. I stayed quiet and texted a friend who said, ‘Wait 10 minutes, and then you call the cops. He could be lying.’ When I called they said they haven’t received a call from this location. When the cops arrived, they asked for one us to leave for a while.

I decided to leave with mostly all my things and the baby’s things. A friend of mine said I could stay with her for the weekend. That weekend was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. While at her house, I wrote my first journal entry to my daughter. This was the first time I wrote for pleasure in years. Writing is how I expressed myself, poetry is who I am. My daughter inspired me to write again. That Monday morning, I went to do an order of protection. I’m almost sure someone told him I was there because he showed up. He tried to talk to me and threaten me, but I ignored him. 

Coutesy of Phylisha ‘PHYLLI’ Villanueva

While waiting for the judge, he had two women with him. He told the judge he was being abused and that I don’t live at the apartment and showed them a letter I signed asking to be removed off the lease as head of household. Which were all lies!

Fast forward almost 2 years later, I published my first book of poems and journal entries called ‘Pretty Girl Special‘ and launched it on my birthday. 

This book was born between survival and faith. June 2017 I decided I wanted to live. The relationship I was in was abusive and spiraling out of control. Becoming a new mom gave me that intense need to take care of her, which means taking care of me. I never wanted to live so bad. After a series of unfortunate events and false accusations, I was kicked out of my own apartment, leaving my 9-month-old daughter and I homeless for the whole summer. We stayed with different friends and sometimes had to commute from really far places.

Coutesy of Phylisha ‘PHYLLI’ Villanueva

I remember waiting for her to fall asleep so I could stop pretending that I was ok. I never cried in front of her. Sitting with myself one night, I realized I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I was not supposed to be that kind of women that gets abused. I was ashamed of who I saw in the mirror. I spent years away from family and friends, so reaching out felt unfamiliar. I remained isolated. Most nights, I yearned to talk to someone but I made myself believe I had nobody. My loneliness was overwhelming and exhausting and I needed an outlet. 

In an effort to relieve my mind of its heavy thoughts, I began journaling. I would write about feeling worthless, incompetent, naive and gullible; feeling like a failure. I wondered; when did I lose myself? Nostalgia felt bittersweet as I reminisced on how confident I once was. There was a time that I really knew who I was, and what I wanted. My energy was pure and healing and the world seemed to revolve around me. I had been happy once.

I wrote this journal entry to my daughter, Paislyn, on June 21, 2018.

‘Dear Paislyn:

It’s been about a year that I’ve been writing to you. Please forgive my inconsistency but acknowledge my effort. I hope you’re proud of me. A year ago we were homeless. Dad managed to make me leave my apartment and I wasn’t going to leave you behind. We stayed at two friends’ houses for the majority of the time. I am eternally grateful for those angels in my life. Last summer was one of the most devastating periods of my life. I was crushed, lost, broken, poor, and depressed. I was crying at my job every day, but every day got much better. Last summer I was a part of a new program at my job called ‘The Summer Leadership Training Project.’ This program required me to be my best self every single day, from 9 a.m. to 1 in the afternoon. 

Coutesy of Phylisha ‘PHYLLI’ Villanueva

The few first days were the most difficult. I was only able to keep it together until the last kid walked out of the room. Tears streamed down my face as I ran to the bathroom to gather myself. Things were tough, baby girl, but we made it through. September, we got a home. The day I got the keys was life-changing. I made a scene in the DSS office. I had one day to leave where we were staying and the broker was about to give up the apartment. I cried all day, first from ultimate frustration, and then intense joy.

We made it, baby. This is the beginning of the journey. We now live on Main Street.

I did it with tears in my eyes.

I did it AFRAID.

I did it LIVID.

I did it BROKEN.

I did it TIRED.

I did it HUNGRY.

I did it all with tears in my eyes.”

Courtesy of Phylisha “PHYLLI” Villanueva
Courtesy of Phylisha ‘PHYLLI’ Villanueva

This story was written by Phylisha Villanueva of Yonkers, New York City. You can follow her on Instagram here and her website here. Learn more about her book here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more inspiring stories of single moms:

‘At 7 months pregnant, I found messages online to a dozen women, telling them he hated me, wished I was dead. He was my best friend, and had promised we could co-parent.’

‘My child’s father was leaving me. I was a new mother to a 3-month-old baby girl. The only items I had were a bag of clothes and a computer. She didn’t deserve any of this.’

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