Breaking the cycle of family violence is daunting and difficult, especially for children. The Orange County Family Justice Center (OCFJC) recently shared Denisse’s story to encourage families and highlight this young girl’s experience. This is Denisse’s story, in her own words, of how the OCFJC and the Anaheim Police Department were able to assist her family.
“At the tender age of seventeen, I believed and had hope that my father would change. Close family members and friends would tell my mother and I that people like him don’t just change overnight—little did I know what they said was sadly true. The cycle of violence seemed never ending and his control intensified over time.
November 7th of 2019 started off as what I thought would be a normal day until my angry and drunk father began to threaten my mother. He aggressively frightened her and swore he would beat her up if she didn’t allow him to take her to work. I recall my vulnerable mother politely refusing his offer, but he continued the abusive behavior. He then got off his car and chased her to the front door of our house, but she luckily managed to make it inside safely.
My father didn’t know when to quit and quickly figured out a way to get in. As he barged in, my mother reached out her arms, grabbed my two younger siblings and escorted them outside—advising them to find safety at our neighbor’s house. As I witnessed my mother fearlessly protect us, my father quickly jumped through the neighbor’s window and brutally grabbed my mother. Our neighbor got in between them and tried his best to keep my mother safe. Seconds later, I began to hear emergency sirens—the policemen had finally arrived to the scene.
I called my explorer advisor the next day and explained every detail of the incident that forever changed my life. She advised me to reach out to the Orange County Family Justice Center. I had no idea this place existed until I walked through the doors. Once we arrived, we were greeted by two amazing victim advocates that I will never forget—Alejandra and Elia. They started interviewing us and gave us an opportunity to be heard. Elia, Alejandra, Detective Vargas, and two other undercover officers reassured us that they were going to do all they could to make sure we could put an end to all this chaos once and for all.
They offered to accompany us back to our house to get some of our belongings and clothes. At first I felt scared that my father was going to be there waiting for us, but the OCFJCF team members provided the emotional support needed at that moment. Three minutes after we arrived my father drove past us but took off quickly. The undercover cops went after him and finally arrested him. Seeing my father get arrested was one of the worst and hardest experiences I have ever gone through, but the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation was there with us every step of the way—offering my family protection, resources, food, and shelter.
I will forever be grateful to the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation for helping us get through the bad times, but most importantly guiding us through the midst of it all. I now proudly share my story with the hope that I will inspire my community to use their voice and their personal story to stand against domestic violence.”
If you or a family member has been the victim of domestic violence you can contact the Orange County Family Justice Center at (714) 765-1645 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233)
Denisse Barrera is now an adult and has given permission for her story to be shared in the hopes of helping others.
Established in 2006, the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation (OCFJC Foundation) is a nonprofit that is one of 15 partners of the Orange County Family Justice Center which facilitates access to the services that victims need to protect themselves and their families from further violence. The OCFJC and Foundation is built on the premise that we are stronger together. As such, they continue to collaborate with key community organizations to deliver the most effective and strategically placed programs possible. The OCFJC Foundation provides empowerment and prevention resources to victims and families whose lives have been impacted by family violence. We envision the OCFJC Foundation as a leader in eliminating family violence and abuse through awareness, education and collaboration.