“In 25 years, I only received one offer of help. I knew my family loved me but they just didn’t know what to do for someone in my situation. AVDA gave me the hope that there was an organization out there to help me.”
After 25 years in an abusive marriage, Gwen Martinez received the lifeline that gave her a new beginning in 2016. Help came in the form of a referral from her brother, a minister in a Houston church, who suggested she call AVDA and legally leave her abuser.
Gwen’s abuse began just 57 days into her marriage, when her then-husband strangled her until she lost consciousness. With four boys growing up in the home, Gwen feared for both her personal safety and the safety of her sons. In addition to the physical abuse, her husband’s behavior involved other forms of abuse including emotional, verbal and economic. While she doesn’t point to one specific, final incident, Gwen knew that the behavior was escalating: “If he wasn’t hitting me, my keys were taken to prevent me from leaving. The police were constantly being called to the house, and I knew that I needed to get out – both for my physical and mental health.”
Ultimately, Gwen left and stayed with her brother while she secured her protective order, received safety planning and initiated her divorce case with AVDA. Today, she is legally divorced and moving ahead with her life. In addition to her divorce, Gwen was granted spousal support, 50 percent of her ex-husband’s pension and 401k, and part of the proceeds from the sale of her marital home. She has been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of the abuse, but has taken strides to heal emotionally and hopes to return to work in the coming year. An active volunteer with AVDA, Gwen wants to provide that same lifeline to others in need. While she enjoys a strong relationship with her sons, she acknowledges the impact that the domestic violence has had on their lives, with three of the four having their own struggles.