Walking away from an abusive relationship is often as dangerous as being in one, which is why many women choose to stay. Nearly half of the women murdered in California at the hands of an intimate partner were in the process of separating from them.
With a name like Tyger, you’d expect her to be strong. But two years ago, she nearly met her match, when her boyfriend came after her and her friend with a pair of screwdrivers. For the first time, she’s sharing her story of survival.
“I work at it every day. Tell myself that I’m OK. That I’m a fighter, that I can do whatever I want, that I can get through anything.”
It’s taken Tyger Jackson more than two years to get to the place where she can form those words clearly, and walk into a room without falling or fear.
“If I were to hide away in my room all the time, and let it ruin my life, then he wins anyways,” she reflects. “That’s just another way of them taking your life away.”
It’s a real miracle Jackson can do any of the things she’s doing now.
A former “Tough girl on 8 wheels,” Jackson helped start the Coachella Valley Derby Girls, but was dealt a hard hit, months after meeting Erick Maciel over the dating app “Plenty of Fish.”
“After talking for a little bit, we decided to meet,” said Jackson.
She said they didn’t click right away, but she and the former nurse, had things in common, including something that would seem ironic later, a shared interest in horror movies.
But after six or seven months, Jackson said she had enough, and decided to end the relationship, “Because I got scared…(Maciel) was jealous, but I just figured he was just insecure, and he was controlling.”
On March 4, 2017 Jackson went to Maciel’s home in Indio with a friend to retrieve the rest of the things she had already packed up.
“I didn’t let him know what I was doing because I was afraid that he was going to try and hurt my son. I didn’t think he would hurt me, I just knew that I stayed my kid would get hurt.”
“(Maciel’s) standing in front of the door,” Jackson recounted. “And he says, ‘So that’s it? We’re done?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And as soon as I said ‘Yes,’ that’s when he pulled his screwdrivers out of his hoodie and went after my friend and started stabbing her in the chest.”
In court, prosecutors described the next few minutes as a scene in a horror film.
“I went for the front door, and tried to open it and it had been locked,” Jackson recalled. “I turned around and (Maciel) grabbed the back of my head, and he took the screwdriver and he shoved it in my mouth,” knocking loose Jackson’s teeth.
As Maciel went after her friend again, Jackson sprinted to the backyard, running into more dead ends.
“When I went to the side gate, it was locked from the outside…I was trapped,” said Jackson.
“I was yelling ‘I’m sorry,’ and ‘I won’t leave, please stop.'”
But the blows kept coming.
“He stabbed me in the throat. I can even remember the gurgle sound that it made when that happened,” Jackson paused. “Then he stabbed me in the ear.”
“It was pretty horrific.”
While Maciel’s attention was fixed on Jackson, her friend escaped from the house, where covered in blood, she managed to flag down a neighbor and a mail carrier, who saw something horrible over the wall.
“The last place that he stabbed me was in the left eye, which the screwdriver was lodged in my eye,” remembered Jackson. “It went through my eye socket into my brain, and it was stuck in there.”
As Maciel came out of the house with more screwdrivers, somehow the mail carrier jumped the wall and onto Maciel’s back, who eventually retreated into the home.
“At first I thought, ‘This is it, this is how I die. This sucks.’ And then I thought about my kid losing his mother, and I couldn’t let that happen.”
“A few minutes later,” Jackson recalled, “There was a police officer and he asked me if I could stand up.”
Disoriented, Jackson didn’t realize Maciel had now barricaded himself inside the house, engaged in what would become a three hour standoff with the SWAT team. Two police officers safely brought Jackson out of the backyard, shielding her with their own bodies.
“I asked the police officer if I was going to be ok, and the police officer looked at me, and said, ‘Yes, you’re going to be fine.’ That’s really all he could say, you know?”
The months that followed were excruciating. Half of Jackson’s face was paralyzed, and she couldn’t really walk because of her ear injury.
“Your equilibrium is off because your balance is in your ear,” Jackson explained.
Doctors rebuilt the bones in her ear, but she is still deaf on the left side. She also went through brain surgery to extract the screwdriver.
“I made myself go for walks, and worked on it as much as I could, because my kid was here. So I had to,” described Jackson. “I had to work as quickly and efficiently as I could to get back to my son.”
The mental recovery has been even tougher.
Local services for victims of domestic violence:
Emergency Crisis Domestic Violence Hotline Numbers
(760) 328-SAFE (7233) Toll-Free (800) 775-6055
“I would have panic attacks, two or three times a day,” admitted Jackson. “One of those times I went into the hospital and I started crying, and I just couldn’t stop. And I told them, I just said, ‘I can’t. I need to talk to someone. I can’t do this alone.”
Jackson now attends regular therapy sessions and credits them with much of her progress.
“To get back out there, and be around people, and just to laugh, and be able to take my son out, too… it’s important.”
She said coming forward to talk about what happened to her is also important.
“Because I think it’s important to share your story if you’re a survivor. Encourage others to get out of your situation. There’s a lot of people in very similar situations and most of them don’t make it out, because they don’t think they have the help. A lot of times they think they’re going to be ridiculed for getting themselves into a situation like that, or maybe they’re even just so dependent on the person that they feel like they have to stay,” added Jackson.
Jackson said she now recognizes the efforts Maciel made when they were first dating, like take her out places, or go on trips, were used to manipulate her once he had gained her trust.
“You sit there, and you see it, and you know what’s going on, and you make excuses for it. like ‘Oh, he just cares a lot. He loves me, that’s why he acts like that,’ but really, people that love other people, they don’t act like that. They don’t want to put chains on you. They want to love you, and let you be your own person…without the cage.”
At trial Maciel did not deny the attacks. He said that steroid use changed his behavior.
Jackson said she asked Maciel, an avid weightlifter, about his steroid use while they were dating.
“I did ask him if he got angry, or ever had what they call ‘roid rage,'” said Jackson. “He told me it had never effected him in a negative way and he took them because he had a hormone imbalance…I had no reason not to believe him because he was a nurse, so I figured he knew what he was talking about.”
In June, a jury found Maciel guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter, not attempted murder, a decision that disappointed Jackson and prosecutor Gypsy Yeager.
“The juries are what they are, and we have to have faith in the sytem regardless if we agree with their opinons or not,” said Yeager.
“I was able to speak with one of the jurors…after his sentencing,” added Jackson. “He said the women were wondering what I did to make (Maciel) act like that, which was pretty shocking to me.”
“Tyger was a really strong woman, with roller derby, passions that were ripped away from her,” said Yeager. “I don’t know many women in her position that would have one, survived the situation she went through, and two, mentally survived, seeking employment, being a good mother, a good friend, and moving forward with their life.”
Maciel was sentenced to 18 years, four months, plus life in prison with the possibility of parole.
He also got married.
“And I feel like I saved this girl’s life by putting him in jail,” said Jackson. And I know she doesn’t feel like that, but she doesn’t know him like I do.”
Jackson said her friend also suffered serious injuries, and continues to struggle with the mental anguish the attack caused.
“I know when you have triggers, when you have certain things that you’re afraid of, if you face them,” offered Jackson. “If you turn around and say, ‘No, you’re not going to… to make me scared anymore. That’s not going to happen. You don’t control me, I control you,’ it helps. A lot… to help you take back control.”
In an email to News Channel 3, Maciel’s father Antonio called the story a “smear campaign to damage my son’s appeal in process.” He asked the station to cease airing any photos of his son, calling it “harassment, and a violation of my son’s civil rights, damage to his character, etc.” Follow up emails for additional comment from Antonio Maciel were not returned.