Domestic Violence on paper looks like this: Each year in the United States approximately 1.3 million women are assaulted by their partner.

Domestic violence in person looks like this: a 36 year old woman, after more than 10 years of physical and emotional abuse, leaves from the New Orleans Greyhound bus station with her four-year-old daughter on a one way trip to San Diego — her fifth and boldest attempt to escape a life that was choking the life from her, literally.

She leaves behind her three sons, ages 6, 11, and 14 until she can get settled. What she takes is $17, a bag full of cheese and crackers, and just what would fit into the two checked and one carry one bag per person allowed by Greyhound, and hope for a better life, a life without the pain of having the person who is supposed to love and protect her being the person who is destroying her.

Domestic violence on paper looks like this: 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Estimated cost: over $5 billion annually.

Domestic violence in person looks like me. Five-foot four, light brown hair, bright, educated. I could be your neighbor, your friend, your co-worker, the woman standing next to you in line. By all outward appearances, I am your average woman, but underneath I wear the scars of a victim of domestic violence.

Today, I have traded in the dark sunglasses that used to hide bruised and swollen eyes, and traded in the secrecy that accompanied them for a voice to help empower other women to find the strength to leave situations where they are being hurt.

Domestic violence on paper looks like this: The National Network to End Domestic Violence reports that on any given day in the U.S. more than 1,700 people in need of emergency shelter due to DV are turned away due to lack of resources.

Domestic violence in person looks like this: that woman who fled DV via a one way ticket to a city 3,000 miles away because she was afraid that she might not be so lucky after the next beating (the last left her unconscious in the emergency room) turned out to be very lucky after all. She was not one of the 1,700 turned away.

Through the San Diego YWCA , she put her life back together with a transitional housing program, counseling and case management services.

Today, this woman, who we all know is me, has all of her children with her, a great job, a great future, and a voice that will never tire of speaking up for those who are still being hurt and have not yet found the courage to leave.

If you need help or know someone who does, click here to reach the YWCA’s website.

Do you have your own story to share? You never know who you might inspire to find a better life. Do it here. Do it now.

— LANA CULLIVER

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