GLENDALE — After suffering years of emotional and physical abuse, domestic violence survivor Sandy Correa made a move to break the cycle of hurt when her son was a child.
Correa, who was raised by a single mother, grew up in a tough neighborhood and never once thought a man would hit her. She went to college, where she got her bachelor's and master's degrees.
"I beat the statistics of my neighborhood. I was doing great," Correa told dozens of people, who attended the Domestic Violence Candlelight Vigil on Thursday night at the YWCA of Glendale.
Correa's powerful story was one of several messages told by city and police officials, including Mayor Ara Najarian, Councilwoman Laura Friedman and Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa.
"We must let women know that they are not alone," said Chairwoman Paula Devine of the Commission on the Status of Women. "Let's all help to break the cycle."
Correa told the large crowd that when she met her ex-husband, a Cuban refugee, she instantly fell in love with him.
But soon after, he began emotionally abusing her through jealously and control, she said.
"I thought maybe this is what marriage is about because I don't have the example of what marriages are supposed to be like because I come from a single-parent family," Correa said. "I didn't know if I was supposed to tolerate it or say something."
Correa maintained silence, but she said the abuse escalated to violence, including choking and hair pulling.
While his abuse increased, Correa said she came up with excuses for his behavior.
When she became pregnant, she said he accused her of sleeping with her boss. And when she responded, Correa said he grabbed her hair and shook her.
"I remember closing my eyes and thinking, 'My child is going to come into this world soon. He didn't ask to come into this world, and I am not going to tolerate it."
At her son's 1st birthday party, Correa said she told her ex-husband that she wanted a divorce.
"At that moment, I thought my world was going to end ... but my priority was my son," she said. "I was not going to allow the cycle to continue. It started with me, and it was going to end with my son."
Finally, after two drawn-out years in court, Correa officially divorced him.
"I won my sanity," she told the crowd. "I won my freedom and I won my son."
Correa told the women in the audience that they don't have to tolerate domestic abuse and must stop it for themselves and their family.
"Anybody could be the victim of domestic violence, and I survived," she said. "You have the power to say 'No more.'"