Woman removes herself from an abusive relationship which opens the door to her re-discovering herself

Wendy Mata, who is a student at El Camino, was once in an abusive relationship. Although it took some time, Wendy eventually found the courage to leave. Here is her story on her life then and now. Note that Lewis is a name in place of Wendy's ex's real name to respect his privacy.

May 30, 2018

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The Redondo Beach breeze blows through Wendy’s hair as she poses for the camera. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

Just like that, the empty whisky glass went flying and hits the wall behind her. 20-year-old Wendy Mata finds herself stunned in place, on her feet, with shards of glass shattered over her body and tacked into the wavy strands of her hair.

Suddenly, a physical fight breaks out between her and her then boyfriend, Lewis. It’s now been over 10 plus years since this day, so she has trouble rehashing the details.

Yet she distinctly remembers the ringing in her ears and the vibrating of her head that ran through her body instantly following this:

Whack.

He slaps her on the side of the head.

She attempts to fight back.

He hits her again. And then leaves.

He leaves her there, alone, with her worth feeling just as shattered as the glass that crumbled over her.

“I couldn’t believe I was someone who just got hit by a guy,” Wendy, now 33, says as she recalls the incident.

Wendy is among the many women in the United States who find themselves in an abusive relationship and have trouble leaving it.

However, Wendy has survived the abuse and is now pursuing child development at El Camino College in hopes of becoming a teacher.

Although she doesn’t look fondly back at her past relationship, she has learned from it and hopes that others can learn from her story as well and discover that there is life after abuse.

It took many, many years and ups and downs for Wendy to reach the place she is now. Yet in the beginning, it all began innocently.

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The waves on the edge of the Redondo Beach Pier. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

Wendy had met her ex-boyfriend, who we will call Lewis to respect his privacy, when she was 13 but didn’t begin dating him until she was 20.

She says that the first year of their relationship was a “rollercoaster” and that it happened “really quickly”.

It all began after she had found a piece of paper in the glove compartment of her car. He had written his number on it and had given it to her a couple months earlier when they had bumped into each other at the DMV.

She decided to call him and that lead to them hanging out. It then had them eventually hooking up. This was the invitation to spend every waking moment together. They were inseparable, Wendy says.

Wendy was head over heels in love with him. However, Wendy’s parents didn’t approve of her relationship with Lewis.

Yet she ignored their warning calls and within a year of dating Lewis she moved out. She did not want to deal with their disapproval of him and their relationship.

The couple moved in together in a friend’s house, occupying one of the rooms. This is where the abuse began. Although the relationship went uphill as fast as it went downhill, it took a long time for Wendy to exit the ride. This only prolonged the abuse.

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Wendy observes the busy happening of Redondo Beach Pier. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

“It’s one of those things where I just felt powerless,” Wendy says.

Lewis not only abused her physically, throwing punches and such, but he also verbally put her down. He told her that no one would love her and that he was doing her a service being her boyfriend.

Wendy admits that she was blinded and could not differentiate between true love and obsession. But there was something else that held her back from leaving the relationship: Wendy had given up her virginity to him.

“I was really torn between the intelligent part of me and the really dumb part of me. I just wanted to make this relationship work because I (gave) my virginity to this guy.” Wendy says. “I grew up in a family where my parents had been together forever and I wanted that.”

Their friends referred to Wendy as “his old lady” and they told her everything she was experiencing was “normal” when Wendy learned that Lewis had been cheating on her.

She knew something wasn’t right with this. But Wendy could not help but stay with Lewis because of how she felt that she loved him as well as the guilt of giving up her virginity to him.

Her friends solidified this decision by telling her that she was his “main girl” and the others were just “side chicks”. They made her certain that she was the one who he was going to marry.

But in the midst of it all, her identity was lost.

“Wendy didn’t exist,” she says. “I didn’t (exist). All I was, was his girlfriend. That’s it. And that’s how people knew me. That’s how I knew myself.”

As the physical and verbal abuse prolonged, Wendy grew to hate Lewis.

Yet a large part of her was convinced she still loved him.

Finally, after various attempts of realizing that a perfect relationship would not happen between them, she left the relationship.

Being kissed by another guy made her realize that she wasn’t “unwanted” as her ex would tell her.

Since then, Wendy has thrived and has discovered who she is and says that it has been a long process finding herself.

In some ways, it was a rediscovering of herself. Wendy had always wanted to help people in one way or another and had considered going into the medical field. However, being a teacher became appealing to her.

Wendy never went to college, yet many of the job offers for being a teacher required that the applicant have a bachelor’s degree. She then made the decision to go back to school for this reason.

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Andrew and Wendy stare affectionately into each others eyes at the edge of Redondo Beach Pier. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

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Wendy’s son Anthony wraps his arms around her as they both smile into the camera at Redondo Beach Pier. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

Wendy is not only succeeding in this area of life, she has also found her soulmate, 30-year-old Andrew Cadiz. Wendy watches Andrew now, as he holds hands with their 6-year-old son, Anthony Cadiz, and walks him down the Redondo Beach Pier. They point at animals and other interesting things along the scenery of the Pacific Ocean.

She strolls along the pier a little ahead of them, the wind hitting her face causing her vibrant colored-red hair to fly through the air.

She smiles fondly as she turns her head and body to face them.

There was a time when Wendy’s parents would take her and her six siblings to the Redondo Beach Pier to eat churros at Pier Bakery. She says it “feels good” to visit the pier now with her son and boyfriend and buy as many churros as she likes.

When asked how she feels, she says, “happy”.

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Pier Bakery: a place where Wendy’s parents took her as a little girl. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

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Wendy keeps the tradition alive by visiting Pier Bakery with her boyfriend Andrew and her son Anthony at the Redondo Beach Pier. Here they snack on churros and chit-chat. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

In October, Andrew and Wendy hit the 8 year mark of their relationship. Andrew, like Wendy, is also a student at El Camino and studies air conditioning.

When looking at them, because of how they have been together over seven years and have a child together, one might mistake them for a married couple.

There was a time when Wendy did want the “white dress” wedding. Yet, her past relationship still haunts her she says.

“I’m a little terrified of ‘forever’,” Wendy admits.

Wendy and Andrew have a strong bond despite her fear. And he feels he can understand Wendy in that regard because he grew up in a household where his stepfather physically beat his mother.

“I find her (Wendy) strong that she went through all that stuff,” Andrew says. “To me, the guy (Lewis) is scumbag. I don’t condone it (the way he treated Wendy). To me, you’re the lowest form of a human being if you hit a woman. I can’t stand that.”

The one thing that made Wendy stay with Andrew is that he has a chill demeanor and they can sit and be content with however their day goes; even if it’s just sitting in bed all day.

They’re opposites in many ways, Wendy says, yet they balance each other out.

“I don’t think we have the perfect relationship, but it’s perfect for us,” Wendy says.

The couple each have their son’s name tattooed on their bodies. Andrew has its letters A-N-T-H-O-N-Y going down his arm vertically and Wendy has it printed on the back of her shoulder.

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Wendy’s son’s named tattooed behind her shoulder. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

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Wendy’s son Anthony’s name tattooed on her boyfriend Andrew’s arm. Here the Andrew and Anthony survey the fish sold down at the Redondo Beach Pier. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

Wendy is content with her status in life and feels grateful finally being Wendy. She looks at her past as a lesson, yet some part of her can’t believe that that girl who was in an abusive relationship years ago, was her.

Wendy recalls the last night she spent with Lewis as his girlfriend. The last night she experienced abuse from Lewis.

She drives the car, Lewis sitting shotgun, as they make their way home after hanging out with some friends. He was upset because he learned that Wendy had been seeing another guy the last time they were on a break from their relationship.

He’s drunk as he goes off about other girls he’s involved with and saying he shouldn’t have gotten back with Wendy. He threatens to grab the wheel. Wendy firmly responds. “Tomorrow…tomorrow, you won’t remember this, but I promise you, I will,” she says to Lewis, tears in her eyes and pain in her heart. “Tomorrow things will be different.”

She drops him off on a curb somewhere because she could not handle it any longer. And that’s when Wendy drives off down the road.

A road to re-discovering herself.

A road to finding Wendy

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Wendy, Andrew and Anthony spend quality time at the Redondo Beach Pier. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

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Anthony for a moment is shy and runs into the arm s of his mother at the Redondo Beach Pier. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

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Wendy and Anthony find solace in each other despite claiming to have opposite personalities. Photo by Jaime Woods.

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Wendy and Andrew try to persuade Anthony to try the churro dip at Redondo Beach Pier. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

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Anthony smiles as he braces himself along the rails on the Redondo Beach Pier. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

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Wendy, Andrew and Anthony observe crabs on Redondo Beach Pier. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

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Wendy and Anthony affectionately hold one another and grin at the edge of Redondo Beach Pier. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

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Anthony starts to get comfortable in front of the camera at Redondo Beach Pier. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

 

 

 

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When Wendy asks Anthony to do his “tough guy” pose for this shot, he refuses and exclaims that it’s not cute. Photo by Jaimie Woods.

 

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