Survivor shares her story of abuseApr 08, 2021 12:37PM ● By Becky Ginos
FARMINGTON—It took Mickey Gonzalez 19 years to leave an abusive relationship but she doesn’t consider herself a victim – she’s a survivor. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Gonzalez and others are speaking out to help those who may be afraid to speak out for themselves.
“I tried to leave at least three times,” she said. “The first time he beat me in front of my children. They witnessed it so it was very traumatic. I had bruises all over.”
Gonzalez moved out with her children and filed for divorce. “But I ended up going back because my daughter was young and had a hard time, she wanted both parents. Addiction is something that needs to be addressed but that piece never changes if they don’t want to do it.”
Her breaking point came when her husband became so violent he almost killed her. “He shot me in the right leg with a 45 hollow point. “I should have died that night. My trachea and throat had so much trauma from him trying to choke me. I was terrified. He put a gun to my head and shoved it down my throat.”
He posted bail the next day, she said. “As I became a little more coherent, I realized I literally had nothing but my hospital gown. A friend drove me to Walmart to buy everything I needed.”
Gonzalez ended up having five surgeries following the ordeal. “He took everything. I went from having a house with my children and a corporate job to living in a hospital with the clothes on my back.”
After trying to fight through the justice system and finding herself homeless, Gonzalez found Safe Harbor Crisis Center. “They literally saved my life and helped me on my journey to find myself.”
Utah’s sexual assault rate is higher than the national average with one out of three women experiencing some form of violence in their lifetime, said Myra Gerst, Prevention Advocate at Safe Harbor. “The issue we face is conviction, four out of 995 will actually be convicted. That’s less than 1 percent of cases that will end in conviction.”
Survivors don’t get the validation and justice they deserve, she said. “If a friend, colleague or daughter says they’ve been sexually assaulted, believe them. Understand that anyone can be a survivor.”
“It’s a difficult topic that affects the lives of so many,” said Glady Larsen, director of development at Safe Harbor. “How difficult it is for them to disclose ultimately depends on the reaction they get from family and friends. It makes a world of difference for them to be more empowered or more traumatized.”
The goal is to educate the community to understand what resources are out there, she said. It’s important to talk about the topic to bring it to light. The more we understand what it is the closer we come to ending that cycle.”
Safe Harbor is breaking ground this month on a new Lifeline Prevention Center on the grounds next to the Layton IHC. They’re also hosting several events throughout April in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Visit safeharborhope.org for more information.
Gonzalez is working to rebuild her life. “I’m still struggling, especially since he’s just been released,” she said. “I know what I’ve become and I don’t want to go back. Healing is a daily process for me. I tell myself ‘I can do it. If he (God) brought me to hell he’ll bring me through it.’ That’s a higher power for me.”