Child gives mother courage to flee abuse
Domestic abuse affects people from all walks of life. The impact on the children can be devastating. One child gave his mother the courage to flee from abuse.
"I went through abuse for six years," Martha Robinson said. "it can happen to anyone. You are not immune."
Robinson, an educated scientist with her Masters in Business Administration, said she suffered beatings and mental and verbal abuse from the man to whom she pledged her love - her husband.
"He's taken my hair, and pulled me and smashed my head on the ground," she said. "He choked me, burned me with cigarette burns."
Robinson said the abuse caused her to suffer several miscarriages. One day, after her husband threw her down the steps, she said she lost her first son.
"I went into the hospital and I gave birth to my son. He lived for an hour, so I held him in my arms and just watched him gasp for his last breath," she said.
This incredible pain was followed not long after by her greatest joy - the birth of her son Leo, now 8 years old.
"He is absolutely the reason I left," she said.
Robinson left her husband, fleeing to Indiana from another state, because of these words from a then 4-year-old Leo:
"Daddy's just so mean to you. Why do you stay with him Mommy?"
She and Leo found safety first in an emergency shelter, but for nearly a year now, they've found a home at Coburn Place safe haven.
Coburn Place is a safe and secure long-term transitional housing apartment complex for abused women and their children.
"The average stay is about 15 months, but we want families to stay as long as they need to, up to 2 years," Coburn Place's Marina Keers said.
That time gives kids the time to learn to be 'kids' again, through play, counseling and day camps.
Coburn Place gives moms counseling, advocacy services and support groups.
"It's been a blessing. I couldn't ask for anything more," Robinson said, whose greatest gift from Coburn Place has been watching her son heal. Leo was wounded deeply from witnessing so much of her abuse.
"A lot of times he would just cower in the corner and just stand there and his eyes would be all big," Robinson said. "He would just have this look of fear. He'd be screaming, daddy don't choke Mommy! Stop fighting!"
The horror still haunts him today, and Robinson said he's afraid to leave her side.
She warns parents who are being abused that their children suffer long-term scars. "Gather enough strength to leave because you don't realize the damage that it is doing to your child,"
She understands how scary it is to leave. Abuse victims, like her, are often controlled by their abuser, isolated from family and friends, their self-esteem devastated.
"He conditions you to believe that you can't make it on your own, that you're never going to be able to make it without him," she said.
And Robinson believed in marriage - no matter what.
"I am African, from Kenya, and the way we are raised is that you never leave your husband. It's a cultural thing."
But she and Leo are putting their lives back together now. They've weathered the storm, the bond between mother and son battered but not broken. She urges other abuse victims to shatter the silence.
"Reach out to somebody, reach out to your pastor, reach out to your friends. Let somebody know."
If you are in abusive relationship, call 211 now for help. Experts say abuse is a community problem. Unhealthy families lead to unhealthy communities.
Learn 21 ways you can help stop abuse, and start with the first step: becoming educated about the problem. Click here for more.