By Beatriz E. Valenzuela |
PUBLISHED: October 12, 2017 at 9:21 am | UPDATED: October 12, 2017 at 9:40 am
With her Dora the Explorer backpack filled with clothes, 5-year-old Faith Acevedo and her mother, Tracy, sat in the darkened and stark shell of an abandoned San Bernardino house they had called home waiting for the sun to come up.
There were no toys nestled within the bag because the little girl said she wasn’t allowed to have any during the time they squatted in the empty building.
As soon as the first few rays of light began to emerge, the mother and daughter made their escape, running from Tracy Acevedo’s girlfriend whom they say physically and emotionally abused Acevedo.
As the two hurriedly made their way to a rendezvous point where a friend was waiting, Faith remembered the last time they tried to leave, her mother ended up with a claw hammer embedded in the back of her head.
The day the two left was different. There were no heavy steps behind them. No screams calling them back. It was just the two of them, scared and running.
Once inside the safety of the friend’s car, Faith and her mother embraced, realizing after nearly four years, they had broken free.
“I was relieved,” said the now-11-year-old with a quick smile. “We were hugging in the car and I could feel one of my mom’s tears go on my head.”
Starting next month, Faith and her mother will begin the state-mandated 40-hour training to become domestic violence advocates through Option House, Inc., a domestic violence resource center based in San Bernardino that serves the county.
Advocates are trained in the different types of domestic violence and strategies to help survivors of abusive relationships, according to the Option House website. They may also speak at events, help new clients and lead peer groups.
“We went through it together and we’re going to do this together,” said Acevedo, as she sat in the Project Fighting Chance boxing gym Faith attends three days a week as part of Project Unity, an incarceration prevention program offered through Option House.
Faith’s story reached San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos and impressed the county’s prosecutor.
“Faith is such a remarkable young lady whose story of strength and perseverance will no doubt inspire others to break the cycle of domestic violence,” Ramos said in a statement. “Last week, I had the chance to meet her, and the fact that she wants to be an advocate for other children is something we don’t see very often.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Faith’s story was highlighted in a video created by the District Attorney’s Office in partnership with Option House Inc. and Project Fighting Chance.
“I am strong and I am a fighter,” said Faith, “and I want other kids to know they can be strong, too.”
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