Melinda Cuéllar’s desperate act in her life came when she jumped out of a car to escape her armed husband and years of domestic violence.
The mother and grandmother from southern California has become a powerful advocate for women’s rights, a fighter, who was recognized by the state Latino Legislative Caucus with a Latino Spirit Award for Achievement in Community Empowerment on May 7. The annual event hails California residents, such as Cuéllar, for their achievements.
Cuéllar now fights for women caught in domestic violence situations. Since her kidnap ordeal in late 2015, which ended with a police standoff, she’s gotten stronger and empowered herself as a certified domestic violence counselor and founded organizations to help women escape the horror.
“I’m a survivor of domestic violence. It’s my passion to empower and encourage those that are still bound by the abuse to let them know there is life after abuse. They can get out,” said Cuéllar.
She does her part to help others through Divine Connections and HOPE (Hold On, Pain Ends).
“I have learned my worth. You got to remember that we are worthy, and that we are worthy of love,” she said.
“I learned about my own love; my self respect. To love myself again.”
She hopes to help women recognize the red flags, and not ignore them, through her various speaking engagements and programs of the foundations.
“Don’t turn the other cheek. Don’t wait until it resonates; it becomes harder for you to leave,” she said.
Cuéllar, whose youngest son was a teen at the time, was in her abusive relationship for seven years.
“It could take someone up to eight times to leave before they stay gone. The healing does take time, but you can overcome,” said Cuéllar.
The entire family can be affected by domestic violence, added Cuéllar, “Children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, everyone is affected by domestic violence. They feel your pain. They want you, of course, to get out. My kids, yeah, that broke my heart.”
Her children went through various emotions, and, that she, herself continues to battle the memories.
“It’s a long process, but you’ll always have triggers: Songs, events. I prayed to the Lord. I don’t dwell on the thought. Some days I’ll still cry about it, but I’ve learned to shake it off,” she said.
Cuéllar’s personal message: “I know you’re scared; I know you have fear because that’s something that they do, they instill it in us, but you can find your inner strength, everything that’s within you. You can rise up. Trust in family and friends. You can contact my organization, but nevertheless, do not stay quiet. Do not stay bound. And save your life. You got to get out while you can.”
She wants people to remember to reach out to your local domestic violence entity. Get help. Call the police.
Cuéllar said her organization is on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook under the following hashtags: #fightermelinda and divineconnectionshope.