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'You got to want to fight': Domestic violence survivor shares her story as shelter sees an increased need for their services

Posted at 7:45 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 20:48:25-05

KILLEEN, TX — Sadly, there is always a need for the services provided at domestic violence shelters like Families in Crisis.

The program was established in 1980 to assist and empower victims of family violence and sexual assault in Bell, Coryell, and Hamilton counties, including Fort Hood. Program organizers say they typically see an increased need for their services in January.

“So I had to come to a decision. Do I want to exist or do I want to live? I decided to live and do something about it,” said Maria Carmona, a domestic violence survivor.

After going back to her abuser five times over a 12-year period, Carmona wrestled with the internal struggle of leaving her ex-husband. After multiple incidents over the years, the last one was different. It landed her in the hospital, bringing her within inches of her life. It was then she knew it was time to go.

“When somebody’s holding a gun to your head every day and tells you, "If you tell anybody, I’m going to come back and kill you," that’s for real, and that has been done to me,” Carmona said.

Waking up in the hospital after an attack from her ex-husband was the reality check Carmona says she needed. From there she turned to Families in Crisis for help.

“My case manager said, "You could sit there and feel sorry for yourself, or you can stand up and fight," and I said, "Okay, I’m going to give this a shot,"” Carmona recalled.

After receiving ongoing support from Families in Crisis, she never left. She now works as the director for the homeless shelter. She has been with Friends in Crisis since they opened in 2015.

Carmona says there are multiple reasons why and when someone chooses to leave their abuser.

Suzanne Armour, program director for Families in Crisis, said January is a time when they see an increase in people reaching out for help. However, the need for services changes year-round.

“During the month of February and March, we will see a decrease in clients, and then that will increase in April. That increase will slowly continue into May, and then what happens is when school gets out in June, that’s the time where a lot of moms or dad will make that decision that that’s a good point to leave that situation,” Armour said.

Regardless of when someone decides to leave their abuser, Armour says Families in Crisis is available every step of the way. The group provides services like emergency safe shelter for survivors of family and sexual violence, transitional and permanent housing assistance, crisis intervention counseling and so much more.

“I just want people to know that we are out here, whether they just want to talk about their situation, they can call our hotline 24 hours a day,” said Armour.

Carmon calls her scars, some of which are still visible, war wounds. As she still works to repair her internal wounds, she encourages others who are in a similar situation to hers to keep their head held high.

“You can get out of it but you got to want to fight," she said.

For more information about the services, click here.

Domestic abuse is an issue that has impacted both women and men long before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the outbreak forced stay-at-home orders, advocates worried that survivors would struggle to seek help because they're stuck with their abusers at home.

For red flags and how to help, click here.