Broken But Not Defeated
February 02, 2019

Broken But Not Defeated

Floating over my body, I could see him choking me. I did not feel pain; I saw myself as stoic. I did not care if I lived or died. I was not fighting, and I had nothing left in me. Realizing that if today was not my last day on earth, I knew it was coming soon. At that moment, I decided that if I lived I would do something about my situation, about my life.

With that decision, I was back in my body. I freed myself, and I acted. I got up and packed my belongings. He was there witnessing. I was moving, but it was as if it wasn’t me. I thought that the worst case he would kill me but the worst case would be my reality if I stayed. There was a strange strength in me that I didn’t recognize. He didn’t either.

My name is Jacqueline DePaul. This is my Kintsugi story.

I had endured two years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from my boyfriend who was also military. It was a slow progression. He made me so dependent on him. I did not know how to be self-sufficient anymore. It was as if my life before him did not exist. I couldn’t do anything without him, without his permission. I had tried to leave before, but he always found me. I was no dummy. I had a degree in Physics and a high IQ. I graduated early and had moved to California on my own at the young age of 21 to find opportunities in modeling. This idea was not favored by my parents, so I felt that since I had gotten myself in this mess, I would have to get myself out of it. On my own.

I was completely and utterly alone. I had no money. I had my car and my dog. After driving for what seemed hours, I thought that I had lost my mind. How can I survive it without him? Without money? Without a plan? I went back.

But he had changed the lock. I banged on the door in complete desperation. Hot tears were streaming down my cheeks as I knocked frantically. My heart was racing so loudly, I thought it would tear my chest open. He did not open the door. What I thought was the worst thing that could have happened to me, saved my life.

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

For the next three months I lived in my car. I showered at local gyms. I parked my car in the lots of stores that were open 24 hours a day in case I needed the bathroom. I was cold with fear. My dog was also scared, as he sensed my distress. Both lost, not knowing how we would make it or if we could. I waited tables for some cash and at the same time looked for a better job; I had to turn my life around. I had no alternative because this situation had to be short lived.

The Abuse Doesn’t Leave the Abuser

“I was his," in his mind and in his soul. He would taunt me. He knew I hated the movie Natural Born Killers and the songs scared me, so he would find me at night in the parking lots and he would circle my car playing the song with his windows down so I would hear it and fear him.

Those nights were like real life horror movies. The fear was so powerful. I knew what he was capable of doing all too well. My dog and I huddled together, shaking and hoping for him to just go away.

Small Steps toward Empowerment

I decided to get a restraining order. My abuser came to court all dressed up and accused me of being a prostitute who was stalking him. The judge was confused. Ultimately, after him trying to hurt me again with a police witness, we both got restraining orders again each other. He violated it, and I called the police. I had three years of a break from him. It gave me some power back and gave me some level of calm that I needed to keep forging ahead.

I saved every cent from waiting tables and was able to rent a small bedroom. I was off the streets at last. My friends were my restaurant colleagues. They had no idea of what I was going through. Every pain was mine alone and every accomplishment, too.  

Days and weeks passed. I managed to get a new job. A “real” job. I had a desk, a computer, and I was going to put my engineering knowledge to good use. I also had a boyfriend. I was moving on. Just when I was finally feeling secure and safe, the phone rang during my first day of work. It was him, my abuser. He wanted me to know that he knew where I was at every moment of every day. The fear returned as if it had never left. How did he find out? Was he following me on a regular basis? Was the restraining order a false sense of security?

I called my boyfriend petrified with fear. He asked me a question that changed the trajectory of my life. He asked me, "Have you ever told him to go away that he does not control you anymore? Have you ever showed him that you are in control of your life and that you are not afraid anymore?"

I hadn’t. Ever.

Next call, I was prepared. I screamed so loud that I was sure I was going to be fired. I told him to leave me alone, that he was not welcomed in my life. That I was not his. That I was strong and that I would no longer accept his abuse. 

This caught him by surprise, as it did me. Despite him trying to reach out once in a while through email or social media, he has never bothered me again. I got lucky.

This is not the end of my Kintsugi story. This was just the beginning.

It has taken a long time. It has been a hard journey to have reached the point where I can say I am joyful and whole. More than a decade of time…

I did not seek professional help. I did not tell my family. I was too ashamed. So, the pain and the fears triggered many emotional issues. My body and my soul were screaming. First, it was anorexia and then overeating. Then, shoplifting and getting caught and going to jail.

I realized that I was an emotional mess.

Jail helped. I was in a cell with women who were true criminals. I did not see myself as a criminal. Everything I did was to mask the pain. Shoplifting took the pain away. It was not the things I acquired. It was just like when I was overeating. While I did it, the pain was less intense.

During my overeating time, chewing was the only time I did not feel pain. So I ate, a lot. Five to six dinners would happen while I drove from fast food restaurant to restaurant. Chewing helped. Feeling stuffed did not. Cautious about my weight, I would starve myself, and the pain would come back.   

Ten years of addiction. Stubborn and unwilling, I would not ask for help. No one knew the skeletons in my closet. Not family, not friends. I started avidly reading self-help books and working on myself. I was smart. I was a physicist who self-taught technology engineering. How complicated would it be to fix my life? I don’t recommend this tactic.

I was going to learn how to heal. I was going to fix my life. I had made this commitment to myself a long time ago when I witnessed my soul being squeezed out of my body. I was not going to give up on myself now.

Jacqueline's Healing

Today, I am a software engineer. I also run a blog called which is my creative outlet. I succeeded to break into the modeling industry. I get paid for modeling appearances, but they are my hobby which allows me to be selective. Today, modeling and writing are healing and empowering. I needed an outlet for my healing, and I succeeded to switch from self-damaging ways to creative and productive ones. My profession allows me to have a comfortable lifestyle. Mostly, it reminds me that I am strong, smart, and able to be self-sufficient. I am not dependent or controlled by anyone.

One of my most precious accomplishments was to win the Wilhelmina 40+  model search in 2011. I started modeling at the age of 40. I didn’t believe that my modeling would become something so rewarding. But finally, it did.

For the first time in my life I am in a strong relationship that makes sense. I am happy to share that it is healthy: emotionally, spiritually, sexually, and intellectually. My abuser had completely skewed my knowledge of what a relationship between a man and a woman should be. It has taken a long time and many failed attempts to get to this point.  

Now I see that I had to heal, strengthen, and figure my life out well before I could be in a healthy relationship.

I have fostered wonderful relationships. I have a keen eye to realize immediately the relationships that will be positive for me and the ones I should stay away from. It took time, but I understand myself. Today, I feel whole. I feel happy, fulfilled, and proud.

And today I can also give back. I hope that by telling my story I can impact someone's life to make better decisions, to get help and to save themselves.

Jaqueline DePaul


Model Jaqueine DePaul
Photographer: Lesley Pedraza
Make Up Designer: Claudia Rivas
More about this shoot to come in a future blog! 

You can find more information about Jaqueline here:


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