LOS ANGELES -- Anabella Vara was pregnant at 14 and married at 15, and by the time she was 21 she was living in fear. On Valentine's Day 1999 her husband, Daniel Perez, looped a rope around her neck and tried to strangle her. She and her 5-year-old son fled to her parents' house, but two months later he kidnapped her at gunpoint and shot her in the head.

Vara survived, almost miraculously, with little more than a slight hearing loss. Behind the left ear is a dent where a 9 mm slug entered her head. On her right temple another scar marks the spot where the slug exited.

"I woke up in the hospital, and my sister said, 'You were shot,' " she recalls. "I said, 'Where?' She told me, 'In the head. But you'll be fine.' "