Sonia Acosta sits in a chair at Partnership for Families, Children and Adults on Eighth Street in Chattanooga on Tuesday before talking about the tires she received from Neediest Cases. Acosta suffered over a decade of abuse from her husband that has left her with daily headaches and impaired vision.Photo by Alex Washburn.
When it rained, Sonia Acosta's car would slide across the road and she'd cry out prayers.
"Oh no, Lord, please," she'd say.
Having left her husband a year ago, she had no money to replace the bald tires on her car, which she uses to pick up her two youngest children from school, to drive to her part-time job as a house cleaner -- when she could find the work -- and to drive to the Crisis Resource Center on East Eighth Street, where she told other women her story of escaping domestic violence.
Without her husband, Acosta struggled to make ends meet. She didn't have anyone to ask for help. So she turned to the Crisis Resource Center at the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults.
A few weeks ago, her victim advocate at the Partnership, Lydia Salva, saw Acosta using a portable air compressor to fill her bad tires, so she signed Acosta up for the Neediest Cases fund at the beginning of December.
On Tuesday, Acosta received four new tires, paid for with money from Neediest Cases.
"I am very thankful for [Salva] because she is a very special person," Acosta said Tuesday in Spanish. "And I want to thank each person that has donated money for charity."
When Acosta came to Chattanooga from Mexico City with her husband 12 years ago, she did not have any family or friends and she didn't know the language, which she said her husband used to manipulate her.
She said she left her husband because he had hit her so hard in the head that she was sent to the emergency room. Now she's teaching classes at the Partnership and helping others get out of abusive relationships.
"I told them it's not easy to set yourself free from the abuser, but it is possible," Acosta said. "I told them that they have a lot of value. They are women who deserve to be treated with respect."
At first, she said it was hard to explain to her children why she left, but now her 17-year-old daughter says she's not dating until after high school and her 21-year-old son just left home to take care of himself.
"She's a very brave woman," Salva said about Acosta.
Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...