One year and five months has passed since I saw their faces. The weight of their absence crushes me every day and the sadness consuming me feels like a constant ache in my heart. At first, I cried constantly and stopped eating. At night, as I laid in bed, sleep alluded me.
VERACRUZ, Mexico — On December 31, 2021, I felt the world open up and swallow me whole. Thirteen days earlier, my phone rang. When I answered, I heard my ex-partner’s voice. He said he wanted to take our children on vacation to Mexico City. He arrived at 2:00 p.m. and they set off for the beach.
As the days passed, my children sent videos and we communicated regularly. Everything seemed fine until my ex-partner dropped a bombshell. I listened as he articulated his intentions: he had no plan to ever return my children to me.
“Is this a cruel joke,” I wondered. He began throwing wild accusations at me and my mind could not process his words. I kept asking, “Are you serious,” over and over. He threatened to fabricate any story necessary to ensure the kids never came back to me. That was the moment my nightmare began.
I left my partner on three occasions before our permanent separation in 2017. Each time I tried to leave, he took out his revenge through our children – withholding and isolating them to ensure my return. After so many issues, a judge granted me full custody in 2018.
When that terrible call came in on December 31st, I sprang into action. The moment I hung up the phone, I made plans to travel to Mexico City to confront him head-on. With the Christmas and New Year’s season in full swing, the earliest I could file my complaint with the courts was January 3, 2022. For three long months, I tirelessly pursued every legal avenue I could think of in Mexico City, relentlessly searching for my children.
One year and five months has passed since I saw their faces. The weight of their absence crushes me every day and the sadness consuming me feels like a constant ache in my heart. At first, I cried constantly and stopped eating. At night, as I laid in bed, sleep alluded me. It became impossible to focus on anything other than the guilt and anger I felt.
Doubts about my ability to resolve the situation crept in. “What am I doing wrong,” I wondered, “and what more can I do?” From the day they were born, my children became my entire world. Now I faced a world where I woke up every day without them. I remain determined to fight. Over these seventeen months, I also became determined to fight against the injustice of the system in Mexico.
Day after day, my nightmare continues. I have learned that justice does not work in Mexico. The Prosecutor’s Office possesses two stacked folders on investigations into my ex-partner who has a history of illegal abduction and emotional abuse. Yet, they tell me, “We are looking out for the wellbeing of minors here.” I plead endlessly and nobody listens.
Even after filing a lawsuit for illegal abduction which classifies as kidnapping – a serious criminal offense – the authorities make no arrests and issue no warnings; and he continues to threaten me. Fear consumes me, day after day, as I wait for the system to turn on me. [Melissa has interviewed in public media on multiple occasions and works with the National Women’s Front, which advocates for and walks alongside victims. Despite public outcry, her case has gone nowhere.]
With each new appointment, extreme anxiousness invades my body. I feel terrified of the system, but the only thing I can do to get my children back is to keep confronting it. At this pace, it could take years, if ever, to see my babies. Some days, when it dawns on me, unimaginable terror leaves me absolutely helpless. I don’t know if they are safe or if I will ever see them again. Will he poison them against me? Do they think I abandoned them?
[In March 2023, the Mexican Chamber of Senators approved amendments to the General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence and the Federal Penal Code, to consider vicarious violence as a crime. The National Women’s Front continues to help women like Melissa, trapped by the system.]
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