‘I’m Safe’

Family Place offers opportunity … and sometimes shelter from abuse


Veronica Castillo has lived at Buckner Family Place in Midland for nearly two years. While she is earning an education and paving the way for a future for herself and her 9-year-old daughter, she also recognizes she’s found a safe haven at Family Place from the abusive relationship she fled. In her words, she never takes for granted that “I’m safe …”

It’s a long story: I was in a relationship in another town for nine years, very abusive. It was a lot of physical abuse and also verbal abuse, you know. And words really can damage your self-esteem completely. I was hit, I was verbally abused and he called me names. Just knowing that my child was hearing that, too… It brought me down completely, as a woman, as a mother.

I wasn’t happy in my own house. I felt like a prisoner. I had to have everything like meals ready at a certain time. If not, it was just chaos. I was just there to serve him and nothing else.

The day we moved, we went to Safe Place (a local abuse shelter). That day was unexpected. I was picking my little girl up from school and he came up to me and started making a big scene at the school ground.

My sister was picking up her son at the same time and she told me, “You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to put up with this.” I’m like, “Well, I can’t,” because he would always be threatening me that he was going to take my daughter away from me. He would say, “You’re never going to leave me. If you do, cops are just cops. They’re just human beings. The only difference is they wear a uniform.” You know, just intimidation.

My sister went and talked to a police officer and he said, “We can help her. There are different ways that we can help her.”

One of the detectives came and talked to me. I was scared. He said, “I want you to come and talk to me.” I told him, “I can’t because he’s fixing to get here after work and if he sees me talking to a police officer, I’ll get it.”

So the detective brought my older sister and my other sister, and they came back to the house. He said, “You’re moving. You’re just leaving. Leave everything. All of this is just – it’s not important. I prefer to see you drive 45 minutes away than buried eight feet under ground.”

He told me to get my most personal belongings – birth certificate, Social Security card, driver’s license – and just a couple sets of clothes. They drove me to Midland. I didn’t know what I was there for, what Safe Place was all about.

I’m very thankful for Safe Place. They helped me, got me a protective order. But you can only be there for three months and I decided to go back. Since we got a protective order, I was thinking it probably would be a lot better now: I can go back to my family, go back to my work and see how he reacts; I’ll stay for a week and a half or two weeks. Well, that didn’t happen. He was still going to the house, breaking in and Mom was there.

I remember my advocate told me, “Veronica, sometimes you have to cut the tree from the bottom. I mean leave everything. Even though it affects everything, it will be for the better.”

And sure enough, I can see that now. I left my family, I left my work where I had been for 10 years. After asking around, my advocate said, “What about Buckner?” I said OK. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but God was showing me the way. He was leading me to something and I didn’t even know what was going on.

So now I’m at Buckner Family Place. I’m safe. I’m in school, something that I never imagined I was going to do. You don’t have those kinds of dreams whenever you’re in a relationship that bad. You’re just working, trying to survive day by day. Here, it’s positive. You know what I mean? You have expectations.

My bad relationship was affecting my little girl a lot. Her grades and her attitude were going down. She was seeing the fighting and she was getting to that stage of hitting her mom just because he did. She thought it was something normal. But with a lot of help from Family Place, she went to counseling and got a lot of help handling it. She’s a whole different person. I’m so happy for her. Her grades are going up. She has As and Bs, something she didn’t have.

I’m studying business administration at college. I was a bookkeeper at a grocery store, so I felt like I might as well go with it. I enjoyed doing it, so I might as well get a degree.

I’m very grateful for Buckner. They’ve done so much for us. They want you to finish your career that you’re planning. They’ve given me everything that I can ever imagine – and a better future for my daughter, which is the most important thing.

You come here and you’re like, “I am worth something; not just for me, but for my daughter.”

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