ESCAPING DOMESTIC ABUSE
She’s had her life threatened, she’s suffered physical abuse and she’s lost two human beings prematurely.
Herminia Becker of Owatonna has endured years of domestic violence at the hands of two different husbands. During a recent interview that at times became emotionally charged, Becker shared how domestic abuse has impacted her life.
“I was like a caterpillar that was never able to fly,” Becker said in describing her marriages that were often times abusive. “No one knew what was going on in the inside.”
Becker admits she did her best to try and hide the abuse that she was experiencing over the years. She often put on a front making it seem as if everything was fine. “Nobody knew anything was wrong,” she said. “They thought I was this perfect person. I knew how to keep things covered up.”
The cover-up included hiding the behavior of her abusive husband. But inside the abuse was taking an emotional toll on her. And soon the physical abuse began as well.
On one occasion, she ended up in the doctor’s office with a bruise on her stomach. When the doctor questioned her about the mysterious injury, Becker played dumb and acted like she didn’t know where it came from. “I denied it. I wouldn’t say how I got it,” she said, adding her husband had caused it by throwing her down during a physical altercation.
After dating her husband for only two months, the two were married in Texas before moving to Minnesota a few months later. “He insisted that we get married,” Becker recalls. “I never knew the red flags back then.”
The marriage was blessed with five children. But the pain and suffering flags back then.”
The marriage was blessed with five children. But the pain and suffering from an abusive relationship soon overshadowed most everything.
For more than five years of their 13-year marriage, Becker found herself in an abusive relationship. She said there was physical abuse, often two or three times a month.
During the abusive portion of marriage, Becker lost a set of twins at seven months. She had an ultrasound done in which everything appeared fine. But three days later she had a physical altercation with her husband where “he squeezed me really tight,” she said.
“The doctors told me it was a distress pregnancy,” she said. “It had a lot to do with the abuse I was experiencing.”
One day in April 2007, Becker and her husband got into a verbal argument about a church event of all things. Still reeling from the loss of her twins, Becker did not want to go. “I was dealing with lots of emotions. I was up and down emotionally because of my twins,” she said. “He would humiliate me and mock me for crying. I had to learn to swallow a lot of my hurt and emotions.”
When she turned her back during the argument, Becker heard footsteps coming towards her. She said her husband came after her with his fist and held her down with his knee before pushing her against the wall. It all happened with him holding their baby son.
Feeling a sprain in her neck, Becker knew she was in trouble and called 911 for help. It would be the first call she ever made during the five years of abuse. Even once police arrived, she didn’t want to get her husband in trouble. But with marks on her neck, scratch marks and a sprained neck, he was arrested and charged with domestic abuse and child endangerment.
“I kept saying he didn’t mean to do it,” Becker recalls.
But now she realizes it was probably one of the best things she ever did in her life. “It was hard reporting him, but it was the best thing for him,” Becker said. “He had some anger issues that needed to be addressed.”
After divorcing her abusive husband, Becker remarried and had two more children. The second marriage has also fallen on the rocks, largely because he is an alcoholic, she said. She is going through a second divorce.
The failed marriages have taught Becker some valuable life lessons.
“I’ve learned you can’t change people and I’ve learned I don’t have to put up with abuse,” Becker said.
During her first abusive marriage, Becker ran scared because of what her husband told her. “He threatened to kill me,” she said. She added she had people follow her because she was afraid he was going to follow through with his threats.
“He was always calm when he talked, which was kind of creepy,” Becker said.
A sense of freedom and peace overcame Becker after leaving the abusive marriages. “It just gave me peace to walk away from it,” she said. “It has been nice to have a positive environment in my home. It’s a peaceful feeling.”
The on-going abuse eventually pushed Becker to reach out to the crisis center in Owatonna for help with resources. She credits the center for helping get her life back on track.
“It was quite scary,” she said of reaching out. “Steele County has a lot of great resources. The greatest resources for me has been transitional housing and the crisis resource center,” Becker said.
Said Becker: “It was amazing how we found the right resources and fell right in with it.”
Her advice for others who find themselves in abusive relationships is simple. “Reach out and find resources,” Becker says. In addition, she also encourages people to make sure there are no controlling behaviors that will escalate to abuse.
Domestic abuse has been prevalent in Becker’s family for many years. Her mother has been in an abusive marriage for most of her life, but still remains in it. For Becker, she is proud to have broken free from the cycle of abuse that has haunted her family for a few generations.
Becker admits she put up with the abuse longer than she should have because of religious beliefs. “I was told we have to love someone for better or worse,” she said.
Since she broke away from the abuse, Becker has learned how to make positive changes to her life. “I’ve learned how to not be entangled like spaghetti,” she said. “Everyone should be able to be their own identity.”
At 37 years old, Becker is attempting to get a college degree. She is also working as a home health aide for Allina Health Systems in Owatonna.
For Becker, she’s no longer that caterpillar who never could fly.
“I figured out I could be a butterfly,” she said.