Doris Rivera-Black tells her dramatic story of escaping the physical, emotional and sexual abuse she endured in her previous marriage. She offers hope to other victims of domestic violence as she discusses the healing she's found through her relationship with Jesus Christ. (Part 2 of 2)
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Mrs. Doris Rivera-Black: And as soon as I turned towards walking to my house, I see just this black silhouette rushing towards me and immediately I knew it was him. And you know, when you go through something like this, you have 50 million thoughts going through your head at the same time. He grabbed my arm and I'm, in my mind, I was thinking, "What is he possibly gonna do in front of my own home? He's not gonna take me. I'm not gonna allow him to take me. He grabbed my arm even more so violently and then he showed me his gun.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: That's Doris Rivera-Black, describing a shocking encounter, unexpected with her estranged husband, who had been abusing her for years. And you'll hear more of her riveting story on today's "Focus on the Family:" with your host, Focus president author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, what Doris shared with us last time was to put it straightforwardly, unbelievable. It's hard to wrap your head about it, how her fairy tale romance with a loving a caring man, literally turned into a nightmare. And tragically, he story reflects what many victims of domestic violence have experienced--emotional, physical and psychological abuse from someone they thought they could trust and love.
And as we said last time, October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month here in the United States and we need to better understand this difficult and painful issue. Why? Well, because you may very well know someone who's suffering from an abusive relationship and you need to know the warning signs and if you are that victim, please let us help you.
Here at Focus on the Family, we have many, many tools and resources for you, including our team of Christian counselors, who can get you started on the path to freedom and healing. So, contact us right away. Don't get caught second-guessing whether or not you should reach out to somebody. If you have concerns, reach out.
John: Yeah, be safe and be sure to call 800-A-FAMILY. That's our help line, 800-232-6459 or you can find details and some resources to help at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And when you get in touch, if you missed the first part of this powerful story. It's available on CD or as a download and it's going to give you some hope ultimately, about how God is with you when you need Him the most.
Jim: Doris is a wife and mother, who lives right here in Colorado Springs. She was a deputy with the El Paso County Sheriff's office, which makes her story all the more remarkable. She struggled with her husband's hidden abuse for years and his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality his irrational jealousy, the arguing, the insults and sexual abuse. But the final straw came when Doris learned that her daughter was waiting outside their bedroom one night, phone in hand, ready to call 911 just in case James, her stepfather turned violent against her mom. And that's when Doris asked him to leave and the abuse finally stopped. But that's not the end of this incredible story. Let's listen to more.
Doris: I heard nothing from him for about a week, nothing. So, I'm thinking, wow, thank you. (Laughing)
Jim: It's working.
Doris: Finally I'm free of him and free of this man who has just made my life horrible and made my daughter's life horrible. And I thought not too much of it and a week later, things changed.
Jim: What happened?
Doris: I head home and I do the normal things that I did. I make sure nobody was following me. I took one of the routes that I normally took home and as I pulled up to my street, another red flag pops up, but I knocked it down. I see a trash can settin' in my driveway. And then I noticed that it was particularly darker than normal in the driveway. And that was because the lights weren't on.
And I rationalized and said, "Well, you know, my mom probably forgot to turn on the lights and they probably thought that trash bin belonged to us so that's probably why it's sittin' in the middle of the driveway. And I parked. I sort of stumbled outside of, trying to get out of my car because of my sprained ankle and as I turned towards walking to my house I see just this black silhouette rushing towards me and immediately I knew it was him.
And you know, when you go through something like this, you have 50 million thoughts going through your head at the same time. He grabbed my arm and in my mind, I was thinking, what are you possibly gonna do in front of my own home? He's not gonna take me. I'm not gonna allow him to take me. He grabbed my arm even more so violently and then he showed me his gun.
Doris: And I thought, well, I could still try to fight him, but if I do that, there's a 50-percent change he's gonna kill me. And if he kills me, he's gonna go after my family. I can't allow that to happen.
Jim: Right, now you're doing this all, like you said, in a split second.
Doris: Split second, so all of these thoughts were going through my mind. And so, I made a very difficult decision to comply and just go with it. I thought, well, maybe I can just take this fight elsewhere. And so, he dragged me to where he had parked his vehicle up the road and I was just praying for someone to see what was going on.
Doris: Nothing, it was so still out that night. There was nothing going on. And so, he threw me into the passenger side and jumped into his driver's side and we took off. And he proceeded to verbally abuse me at first and call me every name in the book.
Doris: Rage is all I can explain it as, is rage. He was angry, angry at the restraining order I had filed. Angry that I had changed the locks. He began to express that, if he couldn't have me, no one could have me.
Jim: So, he had concocted that you were seeing somebody or--
Doris: Oh, yes.
Doris: Yes, he had several reasons why he thought I was leaving him. I wanted the house. I must have had another boyfriend, that kind of thing, so he is yelling at me. Then he proceeded to force me to do some really heinous acts while in the car. And he took me to a place called "Boone, Colorado." And there's a reason why they named that place Boone, because it's literally "Booneville"—
Jim: Yeah. It's—
Doris: --in the middle—
Jim: --the boonies.
Doris: --of nowhere. And he was very familiar with this area, 'cause he had grown up in that area. [He] took me to some train tracks, dark, nothing out there, no lights, nothing and I thought, this is it. This is it. There's nothing out here. He's gonna kill me. He's gonna kill me. And he assaulted me; sexually assaulted me, was very meticulous. He did not lose sight of me one second.
And he forced me back into the car and then he had taken my cell phone and my work pager and he had taken that from me from the beginning. And those started going off. It made him very nervous. So, at this point in time, there was a search that was started.
Jim: Were you thinking, "God, where are You? Are You gonna help me, God? God, where are You?"
Doris: Absolutely, I was thinking that, but I had an opportunity to have an encounter with God soon after that, but at first I was thinking survival. I need to survive. I have to survive. And I started getting' really sick to my stomach and nauseous and said, "I really need something to drink." And he always knew, you know, whenever I didn't eat or drink, I'd get, you know, shakes—
Jim: Yeah, sure.
Doris: --and things like that. I would get sick, so he said, "Well, you know, there's a convenience store on Highway 50. Do you want me to stop?" And I said, "Yes, please. Let's stop there." And I was just thinkin', maybe—
Doris: --there's an opportunity to escape there. And so, we were the only people there besides the attendant.
Jim: It's probably like 1 or 2 in the morning.
Doris: Right, this was closer to 1 o'clock in the morning. There is a young man as the clerk or attendant and I specifically look at this young man's face. I know he could tell something was wrong. I know the way he looked at me. but he just looked; he just looked at me.
And I told James, "I really need to go to the bathroom. I feel like I'm gonna throw up." And so, he says, "Well, let's go to the bathroom." But before he allowed me to go in, he inspected it. He wanted to make sure there was no way of escape, no windows in there or anything, so he allowed me to go in there. And I turned on the faucet. I gagged a little and this was the defining moment for me. I looked up at my reflection in the mirror and I couldn't believe what was going on. It was like a movie. And that's when I cried out to God. That's when I said, "God, if You are out there, You've got to save me." (Emotional)
Jim: Right from the heart.
Doris: Yes, from the deepest parts of my heart, my soul and my stomach, from the belly. And I just cried and I said, "I know this is not what You had planned for me. I know this is not what You had planned for me. Please save me and if You do, I swear to You, Lord, that I will proclaim Your name until my very last breath."
Doris: And immediately, I felt a peace that I cannot express in words. It was [as] though He was holding me and I felt His presence. I had never felt His presence in my life. I felt His presence. I knew I was gonna be okay. I didn't know how I was gonna get away yet, but I knew that I was gonna be okay. So, he buys me a bottle of Propel grape water and a candy bar and we pay for it.
We go out into the car and he turns on the vehicle and I'm sittin in the passenger side and he's sittin' in the driver's seat and I take a sip out of the Propel and I start gagging again. And I told him, "I can't drink this; I need water. I need water; I can't drink Propel." And of course, he's patting my back. "Are you okay, baby? Okay, let's go get some water. Let's go get some water." And I said, "I cannot go in there. I'm gonna throw up on their floor. I'm gonna pass out. Can you please, please, please just get this water for me?"
And so, he had already turned on the vehicle at this point. In the center console, he has placed the phones—his phone, my phone and the pager. And I said, "Can I please just stay in here?" And he looked at me and he said, "You're not gonna try anything stupid are you?" And I said, "No; I've already told you, we're gonna work things out. I just really need some water because I feel like I'm going to pass out. I feel like I'm gonna throw up."
So, he made a point to take the cell phones and the pager. He says, "You're not gonna keep this." I said, "Okay." But he forgot to take the keys with him. He left the key in the ignition and he went inside and I knew this was my moment. And what you have to understand is, that he had been extremely meticulous—
Doris: --extremely careful not to have me out of his sight, not to allow me to have a chance of escape, but in this moment, he left the keys in the ignition. I knew that was God. I knew it. And so, as soon as he went into the convenience store, as soon as he opened that front door and went in, I hopped into the driver's seat and I'm 5'4"; he's over 6'. I hardly could reach the pedals, but it's okay.
Jim: You found a way.
Doris: I found a way. The steering wheel was literally at my nose. (Laughing)
Doris: And I stretched out my legs as far as I could. I put it into reverse and started reversing and then I saw him turn around while he was in the store and that look of—
Doris: --he wanted to kill me. Yeah, at first it was "Uh-oh." And then it was, "I should've killed you," that type of look. And I put it back into drive and I took off. I knew I was on highway 50. I knew that, that eventually crossed with I-25, which is the route I needed to get home.
Jim: A major Interstate.
Doris: Right and so, I was a little frantic, so I was on the wrong side of the road and there were cars coming towards me so I jumped over to the right side of the road and all I kept thinking, actually yelling in the car was, "Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God." And I'm shaking; shaking uncontrollably. But just kept talking to God. "God, You have to get me home. You have to get me home."
I was trying to create attention, because my prayer was that there was a state trooper or some kind of cop out there, so I was honking the horn, flashing my lights, driving at 100-miles-per hour. Nothing. (Laughing) There was no one out there. And I thought maybe the cars who—
Jim: Passed you.
Doris: --passed me, the ones that I almost had a head-on collision with would call the policemen, as you know, hey, there's a dangerous driver out there. I had no idea where everything is at. I, you know, there was a McDonald's that I passed on the highway, but I did not feel safe stopping.
Jim: Well, I would assume that you needed to get as far away from James as you could possibly get.
Jim: And I mean, it wasn't rational. You could've gone a few miles and been far enough away.
Jim: 'Cause he's now walking I would assume. What could he do?
Jim: But yeah, so you continued. You got home?
Doris: I got home and as I got to my neighborhood, I saw the police lights—
Doris: --in the air and immediately, "Oh." But what was so powerful is, on my way home, I kept praying to God. And it was almost as though I felt just an army of angels surrounding me and I knew I'd be okay. I honestly don't even know how I got home as safe as I did, because I was in no condition to drive.
Jim: And what happened? Did you finally get out where he was and they went and picked him up? Or how did he get arrested?
Doris: I wanted to make sure I saw my daughter and I wanted to make sure my family was okay and that they knew I was okay. So, they had me do that first and I just went forth with what they needed and I was terrified that he was gonna come back, even more angry and try to go after my family, so they posted some deputies outside of my home, 'cause he hadn't been found.
Doris: The next morning I got word, it was about 7:30 in the morning that the Pueblo police department found him in his father's apartment, hiding in the kitchen cupboards.
Jim: Huh. So he was arrested. There's a profound part of the story that remains and that is how you came to a deeper relationship with Christ and how He began to work on your heart and then tell us that part of the story.
Doris: Right, well, this is the best part of the story—
Doris: --because this is when I began to understand that we could actually have an intimate relationship with our Father. And I didn't quite know how to do that at first. I knew that I had promised that to Him. I wasn't sure where to even begin. And so, I tried to go to a couple of churches, mainly the type of churches I was used to going to, but I didn't feel it. And I just asked. "God, I don't know where to begin. I have no idea where to begin." And I knew that vacant home had a new family in it and I'd met the woman.
Jim: Right next door.
Doris: Right next door, I became friends with the gal and her two daughters and her husband was military and she gained the courage to say, "Hey, I have this church that I've been attending and you know, I don't want to push you, but you know, if you'd like to join me, I'd love for you to join me." I knew this was what God wanted me to do. I knew this was a sign from God. Okay, this is what I want you to do. And so, I began to start going to church at Pikes Peak Christian Church and the first, the very first sermon spoke to me.
Jim: What specifically? What did the pastor say that got your heart?
Doris: Brokenness, experiencing hardships in life. I felt as though I was the only one in that whole room and all I could do was cry. All I could do was cry and I knew that was God speaking to me. He was using Pastor Darrin to speak to me and that's when my journey began--
Doris: --with the Lord.
Jim: And you really gave your heart to God at that point.
Doris: Oh, fully and--
Jim: But He was still there with you—
Doris: --He was still there.
Jim: --even through all the trauma and that presence you felt that night—
Jim: --that your husband, estranged husband was tormenting you. That's an amazing thing, that God works in all those details. Even before we make that profession, we're His.
Jim: It's an interesting dilemma, but He loves us that much. I'm reminded of that Scripture, Doris, where it says, He's close to the brokenhearted—
Jim: --and saves those crushed in spirit.
Doris: Oh, yes.
Jim: There's no more poster child than you were for that verse. I mean, here you were that night on the brink of being killed by your husband. That's a broken heart—
Doris: Oh, yes.
Jim: --and being crushed in spirit and you cried out to Him.
Doris: And He answered.
Doris: He is faithful and there's also that Genesis 50:20 that really spoke to me. "You intended to do me harm, but God intended it for good, to do what otherwise would not have been done, is the saving of many lives."
John: Doris, I'm not quite clear on when you came to know God in such a deeply personal way but when you did, have you been able to forgive James for all the terrible traumatic things he did to you?
Doris: Well, I'll tell you what. That is the one thing I held onto for a long time, but yes, I have been able to forgive him. I didn't want to at first, even with this new journey with the Lord. I held onto that. I wrestled with God. I fought God on that.
Doris: I often said, "Well, Lord, You can forgive him, but I'm not going to, not after what he did to me and my family, but You can forgive him. And I hope he repents and I hope that You forgive him, but I won't."
But as I prayed to God, I realized that I needed to seek God's guidance in that. I met a wonderful lady who I consider my spiritual mentor. And so she really began to speak to me about forgiveness and what that looked like and I knew that the unforgiveness that I was holding onto was really keeping me from fully being free.
And by this time, I had been remarried to a God-sent man and it was beginning to create issues in our marriage. So, here I was, I'm, you know, surrendered to God. I love the Lord. I love that He saved me and He did all this, but I was refusing to really fully surrender all of those feelings I had.
Jim: And a lot of people are saying, "I understand that." And that I get that and maybe saying, "It's okay."
Doris: Yeah, justified resentment.
Jim: I mean, look what happened.
Jim: But it's not okay.
Doris: And I asked the Lord again. I, you know, I had many conversations with God (Laughing) since that night He saved me. Lord, just show me how to do this." And then He began to really show me and I was able to see James, as wild as this may seem to many of the listeners out there, began to see him through God's eyes.
Jim: What did that look like?
Doris: He was a damaged person. He, too, had experienced some trauma in his childhood and Jesus came for him, too. Jesus died on the cross, not just for me. Jesus forgave me for what I had done in my life. Who was I to withhold forgiveness from him?
Jim: That's an amazing lesson and again, I think many, many people, Christian people struggle with that.
Doris: I can honestly say it was one of the most difficult things that I had ever done, but one of the best decisions and things that I've ever done in my life. It truly liberated me.
John: That's how we concluded our conversation with Doris Rivera-Black on "Focus on the Family" about her miraculous escape and healing from years of domestic violence in her marriage.
Jim: John, there are a couple of significant points that we can take away from this story. First of all, forgiveness is often a supernatural act. It is not easy. We may not have the power in ourselves to forgive someone who has hurt us or hurt those we love. But God will never ask you to do something without empowering you to do it. And as Doris learned, true freedom and healing will come into our lives when we're willing to surrender and forgive. I'm not saying it's easy, but it is possible in God's strength.
And secondly, domestic violence and abuse are never okay. These are not appropriate behaviors between human beings. This is not something you learn to live with or tolerate or even try to fix in your marriage. It's just plain wrong and the abuse and violence needs to stop and stop today and you need to protect yourself and your family by never letting that happen. That may mean separation and getting professional help from a pastor, a counselor or if necessary, even the police. But you must take action today. Don't wait.
Here at Focus on the Family, we have resources and tools that can help you, including our team of Christian counselors who are ready to hear your story, pray with you and refer you to a local area counselors. You're not gonna surprise 'em or shock 'em, so don't feel embarrassed making that call. And we have a Play It Safe guide, as we call it, that gives practical instructions about how to understand and get away from a domestic violence situation. And I want to urge you as strongly as I can, to let us help you with these resources today.
John: And help is a phone call away. Our number is 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or you can find details at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And if you're in a good place in your marriage and family, if things are goin' pretty well and you've got the resources to help others who may be hurting, let me invite you to financially support this family ministry. Your gift of just $29 or more provides counseling, follow-up resources and if needed, a referral to a local Christian therapist. And it might be that you can help more than one family in this way. No gift is too small or too large and so, donate today at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you have us on the phone. Our number again, 800-A-FAMILY. And we'll say thank you for your gift by sending a complimentary CD or this remarkable story by our guest today, Doris Rivera-Black.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly, I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We're gonna have a conversation with our favorite Bible teacher and tour guide, Ray Vander Laan, from the great series That the World May Know. That's tomorrow, as we once again, help your family thrive.
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Doris Rivera-BlackView Bio
Doris Rivera-Black is a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence who has made it her personal mission to bring hope and healing to other victims. This journey began when she shared her powerful story as an overcomer on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007. Doris is now a sought-after public speaker and the author of a new book titled Clothed in Strength. She is also the founder of NEVER a Victim, a program where women are taught about domestic violence/sexual assault and how to defend against it. Doris is also the co-founder of All Hope Restored, a faith-based domestic violence support group. She and her husband reside in Colorado and have three children. Learn more about Doris by visiting her website, www.dorisriverablack.com.