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Suffering 10 years of abuse, domestic violence survivor speaks out

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YAKIMA, Wash.- "I shouldn't be alive today," said Melinda Rivero, a victim of domestic violence for 10 years.

Shouldn't be, but is.

Rivero is just one of many who never imagined the person she was closest to would be her abuser.

Yet just a few weeks into the relationship she says red flags appeared.

"Jealously was one of the big ones. Control. And then it wasn't really too physical until I think after our first daughter was born," said Rivero.

It was then that Rivero became a piece of property.

"I was pretty much his possession. I wasn't allowed to go anywhere. I wasn't allowed to have a cell phone. We moved multiple times to keep me away from family and friends," said Rivero.

Rivero was trapped and says her daughter quickly became a weapon being used against her, with threats of taking her away.

Staying seemed like her only option.

"He would say that, “Who's going to take you? Who's going to want you. Where are you going to go? You have nobody else,” said Rivero recounting the ways she was manipulated.

For Rivero, violent fights and arguments became routine.

YWCA Executive Director, Amy Flynn says Rivero’s way of thinking is common for victims of domestic violence.

"The things that they experience every day may have become so normal to them, like shoving and yelling and threatening, that they don't realize it," said Flynn.

But often times there's a breaking point. For Rivero it was when Child Protective Service (CPS) took her daughter away because of violence and substance abuse in the home.

"I just couldn't be around him anymore. So I just left and I ran. I felt like I had nothing. Like I had nothing to live for anymore," said Rivero.

Finally, she was out, or at least she thought.

"We want them to get out of that situation and they make the choice to leave. But that's the most dangerous time for them,” said Flynn.

Rivero says her abuser was constantly trying to find her and making threats, exhausted and fearful for her life she returned.

"It got very violent. He got very paranoid after I left the first time. He ended up dead bolting me in a trailer so I couldn't leave," said Rivero.

And once again Rivero became pregnant.

"The violence and the physical abuse was extreme at that point,” said Rivero.

Rivero would stay there until the birth of her daughter.

Her abuser then drove her to an out of state hospital in Oregon, with ulterior motives in mind.

"After I had her, I found out that he was attempting to sell my daughter for a vehicle and an amount of money. And that was the point where I really saw the evilness in him," said Rivero.

Rivero and her abuser went home without their baby girl, who was instantly taken into CPS.

Months later though, in the midst of a routine fight in their car, a bystander called police reporting a situation of domestic violence.

A traffic stop doubling as a life saver.

"Finally someone didn't turn a blind eye or judge me for not saying what happened," said Rivero.

Despite Rivero's fearful silence, police arrested her abuser and Rivero was offered safety through the YWCA.

"I had never known that there were shelters. I didn't know there was somewhere to go," said Rivero.

Three years later, Rivero is strong. She now is working on her career, focusing on being a mom, and speaking out for those who remain voiceless.

"I shouldn't be alive today and maybe I am alive so I can share my story and I can reach out to woman who have gone through this and just let them know it doesn't have to be forever," said Rivero.

Leaders at the YWCA says last year alone they served over 6,300 individuals right here in our community that may or may not have reported the situation to police and many still remain silent and unaware of resource, but there are resources.

If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation call 9-1-1 immediately to get help or the YWCA hotline at 509-248-7796.

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