Lynnette Bowens Varela met her now ex-husband when she was just 15 years old. She fell in love with him quickly, and she fell hard.
“I just thought he was the whole package,” she recalled. She married him at the first opportunity she could: right after high school graduation.
But soon after they got married, he flipped a switch.
“I didn’t marry who I dated,” said Lynnette. He hit her for the first time when she was pregnant with their first child. Then the abuse became more frequent: from once every few months to every month, to every week, until it became a daily occurrence.
“[I was] so scared and so embarrassed, that [I] just do not know what to do,” she said. He kept her isolated, not allowing her to speak to any friends or family members.
She decided to see a therapist to help her “get out.” But when her husband caught wind of her plans to leave him, he switched their medical plan to Kaiser Permanente in an attempt to stop her.
“Little did he realize he walked me directly to the people … [who] were going to get me out.” She loved meeting with the therapist she found at Kaiser Permanente, whom she credits for helping her work up the courage to finally leave her husband of 22 years.
She also credits that therapist for helping her let go of that part of her life.
“When you get it out, it can’t fester in you … it’s such a freeing process,” said Lynnette.
The most important thing to Lynnette was the peace it brought to her family, particularly her daughters Valentina and Ricarla.
Today, Lynnette is a role model in her community; she’s sharing her story, promoting domestic violence awareness and mentoring young women about the importance of seeking help.