By Stephanie Hoops
Ventura County Star, Calif.
Estela Flores hit a low in 1987. She had forgotten to eat for several days, and as her body withered away it occurred to her that whatever was wrong ran deeper than her bruises.
She went to a doctor who looked at her with genuine concern and asked, “Why are you here?”
Flores choked trying to answer.
“I was so depressed,” she said. “I wanted someone to listen to me.”
She was married to a violent, alcoholic man prone to unpredictable rage. She never knew when he might smack her across the face.
Sometimes she would be silently riding beside him in the car. Other times she knew it was coming. The irony was that she was a social worker helping families cope with domestic violence and child abuse.
“Why I was there?” she asked herself. At the time of the abuse, she lived in Tijuana, México, and knew she was no longer in love with her husband. Still, she was waiting for him to change, and leaving didn’t seem feasible. Her upbringing had instilled the idea that marriage is for life. Yet the ordeal was taking a toll.
The doctor’s visit preceded two years of weekly counseling sessions. Eventually she realized her husband wasn’t going to morph into someone new — she had to. Her counselors convinced her that if she stayed, he’d end up in jail and she’d be in the cemetery. Where would her children be then? They were 3, 4 and 7 at the time.
“So I thought: I have to make my plan,” Flores said.
That was 25 years ago.
Last month Flores, 56, drew a standing ovation after talking briefly about herself to 265 people while being honored for her work as a local entrepreneur by Women’s Economic Ventures, a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit that helps launch and sustain area businesses.