“It feels good to know that I’ve survived:’ Domestic violence survivor shares journey to freedom

One survivor of domestic abuse is sharing her journey to freedom

ROANOKE, Va. – At 40 years old, Erika Ramirez is finally at a good place in her life.

“I’m learning the difference between a victim and a survivor. And it feels good to know that I’ve survived,” said Ramirez.

She’s a survivor of domestic abuse and escaped one year ago, almost to the day.

“I have scars that are a daily reminder of what I don’t want to go back to,” said Ramirez. “Physical scars. Scars on my heart.”

For her own safety, Ramirez didn’t show her face on camera, but she still wanted to share her story to encourage other survivors to seek help.

“I met a man who is from Botetourt County. We did the long-distance thing for about two years, about seven years ago,” said Ramirez.

She said she made the decision to move from Northern Virginia to the Roanoke Valley for him.

“Everything was good when we did the long distance. Once I moved here, it was a completely different story,” said Ramirez. “I fell in love with a man who was addicted to methamphetamines and heroin and became a monster.”

Ramirez said her abuser controlled and isolated her.

“Held me captive, away from society, away from a phone. He was my only go-to person. He was the only human I knew. And he kept it like that for many years,” said Ramirez.

After years of abuse, Ramirez made the decision to leave and not look back on October 14, 2021.

“I was six and a half months pregnant. And I knew that the little life inside of me deserved a chance and so did I,” said Ramirez. “My abuser didn’t allow me to get prenatal care.”

Malnourished, battered, and bruised, Ramirez left home on foot in the middle of the night with just a purse. She said she walked for three hours before an elderly couple driving by saw her and pulled over.

“They asked me, did I need any help, and I said, ‘I need the nearest hospital,” said Ramirez.

The couple took Ramirez to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital where she was treated and referred to local resources. That’s when Ramirez found refuge at the Turning Point, The Salvation Army’s shelter for survivors of domestic violence.

“Walking in the door was like a breath of fresh air,” said Ramirez. “There’s a sign there that says ‘She believed she could, so she did.’ And I knew I was OK.”

Captain Jamie Clay runs The Salvation Army of Roanoke and said there’s a 69% increase in hotline calls at the shelter since just last year.

“Sometimes there’s no one that’s even speaking yet on the other line. So we know that’s a person in crisis,” said Clay. “We just want to make sure that they know that we are here for them and we will do whatever we can to be able to get them to safety.”

Ramirez’s son, Ezra, was born that December. He has a rare genetic condition, Moebius syndrome, and spent the first couple months of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit.

But even then, the abuse followed Ramirez.

“Child Protective Services (CPS) was called by my abuser and his family. And [CPS] took custody away from me because of domestic violence. I didn’t leave sooner,” said Ramirez.

With help from Turning Point staff, Ramirez regained full physical custody of her son and was awarded a protective order.

Now, Ramirez said she and her son have a bright future, and she hopes other survivors reach out for help.

“To know that you’re not alone, is a beautiful thing,” said Ramirez.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, you can call or text Turning Point’s 24/7 crisis hotline at 540-345-0400.

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