DermStore Inspires Video Contest Winner Erica Palacios on Overcoming Domestic Abuse and What Inspires Her to Keep Moving Forward
At age 19, Erica Palacios went on a path that completely changed the course of her life. She married a man she barely knew and went to live in a foreign country where she didn’t speak the language. Before she knew it, she found herself in an abusive relationship—battered, isolated from her friends and family and scared for the safety of her three very young children. The cycle of abuse can be unbreakable for some, but Erica knew there was no other way to save her children from an abusive home than to get them out of there.
One afternoon, shortly after her husband left for an unexpected business trip, she packed a light bag, put her three frightened children in a cab and began the uncertain journey to freedom. While her story sounds like a triumph, it was only the beginning of another challenge: She had no education, no income, no belongings and three small children to care for. Despite the unfavorable odds, she strived to rebuild her life. [Watch the video at the bottom to hear her full story.]
DERMSTORE: How did you feel when you found out you were nominated to the DermStore Inspires Video Contest?
I feel very honored that I was nominated for the contest. I was taken aback when my daughter very casually told me that she nominated me because I had no idea that she thought of me as a person who inspired her. I had always thought of that part of my life as a time of failure, and to hear her perspective was shocking to me. Once the video was chosen to be in the finals, Stephanie asked me if she could share it with people at my work. I hesitated for reasons that I’m sure you can imagine and actually said no. Her reaction to my response gave me pause, and I quickly realized that this was not only about me but was for her as well. I somehow knew at that point that I was in for some changes even if I didn’t win. And by changes, I mean in my emotional perspective. The reactions and outpouring of love and support from my friends and co-workers have been amazing. This has been a truly life-changing experience for me on many levels. After much emotion and processing, I am now seeing that I may be able to help others by sharing my story. So, thank you, DermStore and everyone who voted for me.
Out of adversity, you’ve built an incredible life for you and your children. What drives you?
What drove me to better my life at that time was undoubtedly the well-being of my children. I knew that if my children were to succeed in this world that it was up to me to afford them that chance. At the time we were living in poverty and I was uneducated. I didn’t want that for my children. Once I was in a safe place I realized I had a lot of work to do. I needed to do what it took to get an education so that I could provide for my family, and I also needed to do the work of healing. I wanted to make sure that I healed my emotional self so that I could break the cycle of domestic violence for my children. I knew that my best chance of that was to be a role model for them and give them a positive and loving environment.
We all have value and something to offer to this world, no matter where we come from or what our life has been like.
After all you’ve been through, what’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned? What do you know now that you wish you’d known before?
That’s a tough question because I’ve learned so many lessons—even some just recently through this experience with winning the contest. I think the most important lesson that I’ve learned and that has had value from when I was in the abusive situation and continues to have value in my life today is to stay connected to people that love and care about you. Be open to accepting help, and don’t be afraid to reach out for support. We all deserve love, and I think for me that was something that I had difficulty allowing myself to receive in my life. We all have value and something to offer to this world, no matter where we come from or what our life has been like. Our connection with others is what provides us with perspective and opportunities that can help us. To answer the second question, I wish I would have known that bad or unfortunate things can happen to anyone. I grew up in a middle-class family. My parents were educated, and I assumed I would have the same lifestyle that I was accustomed to. I was never told and didn’t know about domestic violence. There were many red flags in the beginning that perhaps if I had known about I may not have been “sucked in” to the relationship. The process of being victimized the way I was happens over time and subtly robs you of self-love and self-respect.
Experiencing abuse—whether it is emotional, physical or sexual—chips away at the love that we have for ourselves.
For those women who may be in a situation similar to the one you were, what advice can you give them?
Even though you are being victimized, take ownership of the decisions you’ve made that landed you in the abusive relationship. It’s critical to get out of victim status so that you can take control of your life rather than giving control to the abuser. Dig down deep and find the courage inside to act and reach out to others for help. Experiencing abuse—whether it is emotional, physical or sexual—chips away at the love that we have for ourselves. So first I would say to identify a reason or something to motivate you to get out. It could be children, friends or family when it’s not possible to get out only for ourselves. Once in a safe place, educate yourself about the psychology of domestic violence and its effects and begin the healing process. Eliminate all contact with the abuser. I remember I didn’t allow myself to even hear his voice or talk to him because I knew I could easily be manipulated into going back. Surround yourself with people who want good things for you. Make a plan, develop goals and stick to it no matter what. The world has a way of providing what’s needed when we want it as long as you stay focused.