Mother looking to restart her life

Cold-cocked by the blow, Jennifer Pumpetch’s mind drifted into a state of near bliss.

In that hazy moment, she heard the faint sound of her 10-year-old self laughing with her classmates on a playground, somewhere in her native San Francisco.

But as she regained consciousness, and her eyes focused on the danger around her, the 38-year-old woman looked up to see her boyfriend primed for Round 2.

“Get up,” he yelled at her, Pumpetch said.

Pumpetch managed to get up and endure more abuse that July morning in Vallejo.

Later that afternoon, she told her boyfriend of eight months she had “an appointment” to attend and never returned.

“I felt like I died in that moment,” Pumpetch said recently. “I probably didn’t, right? But when I got up, I knew it then, that was the last straw.”

For Pumpetch, the single mother of a 17-year-old son, leaving an abusive relationship and moving to another city was more difficult than she expected. After couch-surfing among family and friends, the pair moved into hotels, then teetered on the brink of homelessness.

But with the help of a grant from The Chronicle’s Season of Sharing, she was able to put down a deposit on an apartment. A Section 8 housing voucher also assists with rent while she continues to look for work and lays the groundwork for starting her own business.

Alma Vasquez, a case manager at the Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco, said Pumpetch has thrived since reaching out to the group last summer, and has reset her life. The group, which has provided counseling and therapy sessions for Pumpetch and her son, is dedicated to ending childhood poverty.

“Without the Season of Sharing, Jennifer believes she would still be looking for a house,” Vasquez said. “The two have been through a rough couple of years and are happy they now have a place to call home.”

Looking back, Pumpetch still marvels how she missed the red flags. She was street smart – she grew up in Bernal Heights and hung out in the Mission District as a teenager. She also had a strong sense of faith and religion; she worked as an executive secretary at the True Hope Church in the Bayview neighborhood, where she later met her boyfriend.

The first time he turned violent, Pumpetch said, she was too stunned to comprehend what just happened.

“First he choked me, then he slapped me,” Pumpetch recalled. “Then he got on his knees and begged me to forgive him. … I later learned, that’s exactly what they all do.”

Pumpetch said she grew more confused as the relationship wore on. She was riddled with mixed feelings, wondering how she could love someone, yet allow that person to hurt her.

Her son, Emilio, she said, was angry. “He wondered why I would allow that to happen,” she said. “And I did too.”

At a church picnic, Pumpetch said, the other parishioners got their first glimpse of her boyfriend’s true colors. Pumpetch said friends asked about her appearance. She had stopped fixing her hair to go out, she wore frumpy clothing, and her skin had turned pale.

As she started to explain, her boyfriend grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the conversation.

“People saw maybe he wasn’t so nice,” she said.

In the final attack on July 3, Pumpetch said, she suffered a ruptured ear drum and needed an operation to regain her hearing. A police report shows that her boyfriend was arrested the following day and booked into jail on suspicion of battery.

A prosecutor decided not to pursue charges and the case was dismissed.

Today, Pumpetch has the air of someone blessed for the new start. A quaint apartment is furnished with Craigslist decor – “You can’t imagine what people give away for free.” A new relationship with her son has taken hold. A second chance at college, where she’s returning to finish a degree in criminal justice. “I want to help young girls,” she said. “Especially girls who grow up in urban environments like I did and went through some of the same things I did.”

She’s also working out the details on a new business she’s calling Golden Maya Artisanal Goods. It’s mostly home decor items, from hand-sewn pillowcases to lace doilies.

Pumpetch said that since she left the city, and quit working at the church, she has not had contact with her old friends. But that’s been fine with her, she said, as she takes the first steps of a new life.

“I’ve needed time to get right,” she said. “I’m still fixing myself from this situation.”