Editor’s note: October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To bring awareness to the issue, the Empire-Tribune featured a two-part series on women who have survived domestic abuse. A special thanks to Cross Timbers Family Services for their assistance with this project.

By SARA VANDEN BERGE Managing Editor

She only cried once while telling her story. The tears came when she described the moment she tried to kill the man who had terrorized her for years.

Jaime (not her real name) had endured years of extreme mental and physical abuse at the hands of her long-time boyfriend, with whom she had two kids.

But one night, after she had taken the kids to the park earlier that afternoon, and failed to have dinner on the table precisely at 6 p.m., she endured a particularly violent beating.

But when he went after the kids, something inside her snapped, and she reached for the pistol she kept loaded inside their home.

“I pointed it right between his eyes and told him I wasn’t afraid to use it,” she said. “Then he told me that if I was going to pull it out, I’d better use it.”

That was all the prodding she needed. Staring him straight in the eyes, Jaime pulled the trigger, but nothing happened.

“I can still hear the click of the gun,” she said. “He had unloaded it.”

Furious that she had tried to kill him, he grabbed the gun from her and busted her with it in the mouth.

It was a moment that would forever change her life and ultimately set her on a new path that would free her from the violence that would plague her for eight years.

Jaime said things between the couple weren’t always bad.

They met while she worked at a local convenience store. She was 17 and a single mother trying to pay the bills. He was several years older, a regular customer who took care of Jaime and her young daughter.

“He was someone I thought was Mr. Right,” she said. “He offered me the world.”

Shortly after the two began dating, they moved in together. Jaime was expected to keep a perfect house and have a hot dinner on the table when he got home from work.

“He played a lot of mind games with me,” Jaime said. “And he had a lot of rules.”

The first time he ever showed any sign of physical violence was when she cut off her long hair.

“He didn’t like it,” she said. “So he grabbed my wrists and twisted them backwards. I thought they were broken.”

The incident left her shocked and scared, but by then, the couple had a child together and she wasn’t ready to give up on the relationship.

She continued living under his harsh regime, spending all her time walking on egg shells and trying to make things “perfect” to avoid getting beaten.

She was timed when she went to the grocery store. If she were late, she’d get beaten. She was required to clean the baseboards once a week. If she missed a spot, she’d get beaten.

To isolate her from family and friends, he moved her to California, where the violence escalated.

“He would beat me with anything,” she said. “I’ve been hit with rubber hoses, curtain rods - you name it.”

In late 1992, Jaime became seriously ill and was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis. The couple moved back to Texas to be close to family. Soon after, Jaime became pregnant with her third daughter.

“As long as I was pregnant he wouldn’t beat me, but as soon as the baby was born, it would start up again,” she said.

One day after he got drunk and beat her, he passed out on the bed and she decided to get even.

“I tied the sheets around him and I beat the hell out of him with a curtain rod,” she said.

When he woke up, he cut himself out of the sheets with a pocketknife from his pocket, then gave her one of the most severe beatings she had ever gotten.

Soon after, was when she tried to kill him with the gun.

By then, she realized the situation had escalated to a dangerous new level, and that’s when she decided to leave.

She packed up her children and went to live with her disabled mother. It didn’t take long for him to come looking for her, however, and when he did, he was mad.

He broke down her mother’s front door and assaulted both Jaime and her mother. The police were called, he was arrested, ordered to pay a $150 fine, then released.

That was the last time she and her girls would ever hear from him.

Today, she still marvels at how easy it was to break free, though she remains haunted by her violent past. Jaime said she shares her story “with anyone who will listen” in the hope that she can help one woman rid herself of abuse.

“I talk about it because if you don’t it will always eat at you,” she said.

Remarried to a wonderful man, Jaime is a victim’s advocate with Cross Timbers Family Services.

“I know what a lot of these women go through,” she said. “I always tell them not to go back. Just leave. I know it’s hard, but they can do it.”

SARA VANDEN BERGE is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379, ext. 240.