May 31, 2013 9:49 PM by Eric Ross
An increase in domestic violence calls is keeping advocacy centers like TESSA busier than usual.
News 5 spoke exclusively with a domestic violence survivor who wants to tell her story in order to motivate more victims to seek help before it's too late.
"Domestic violence has been a part of my life, my childhood and marriage," a woman we'll call Maria said.
We have chosen not to disclose her real name and have hidden her identity for her protection. Maria tells News 5 domestic violence is a common crime that often gets swept under the rug.
"A lot of times it's hidden," she said. "Some people think that no one cares if they are being abused."
It's that perception that keeps many victims, especially women from seeking help from police.
"It takes victims 7 to 9 times on average to leave an abusive relationship," Lt. Howard Black with the Colorado Springs Police Department said.
Black adds domestic violence incidents often start out small before escalating.
"He (my husband) at first was just controlling," Maria said. "He wouldn't let me practice my culture. Then it turned to violence and went from there."
Fortunately, Maria and her 5-year-old daughter were able to eventually escape her abusive relationship.
"I slept in different houses until I got on my own feet," she said.
Then one night while at home, she says she was re-victimized and assaulted by a total stranger. It was that assault that led her to seek help at TESSA.
"Being here has really made me realize that I'm not alone," Maria said. "There's other women going through the same thing. If you can fight for justice, it's going to make you so much better as a person."
The painful memories of her past will stay with her forever. Thankfully, she was able to get help before things escalated. Now, she has a new take on life and strong words for abusers.
"When you think about hitting a woman, think of your mother, your sister, or your daughter," she said. "It's almost as serious as murder. The person may still be alive but you killed something inside of them."
Anyone who finds themselves in an abusive relationship or is a victim of violence can call TESSA's crisis hotline at 633-3819.