WACO, Texas — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
"It is an opportunity for all of us to stand together and say this should not happen anymore," Texas Advocacy Group's Executive Director Heather Bellino said of the month. "And if it is happening to you, we believe you and are here for you and there are resources available to you."
According to a report by the Texas Council on Family Violence, 204 people lost their lives in 2021 by an abuser. It was one of the worst years for domestic violence in Texas.
Texas Advocacy Group reports as many as 1 in 3 Texans will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, a growing number in recent years.
"There has been an increase specifically around the pandemic, but I think also there has been an increase in reporting since back in 2005," Bellino said. "Now that people are talking about it, it's to wipe away a little bit of that shame."
With conversations around domestic violence becoming less stigmatized, Bellino said it's important to be patient, supportive, and believe if someone comes to you for help.
"What we need to do is create a safer space where people who are being harmed feel safe enough to ask for help and also the consequences of asking for help are lower," she said.
There are some signs of abuse that a of domestic violence victim may show. That can include isolating from friends and family, a change in their personality specifically when their partner is around, or unexplained cuts and bruises.
While it is important to know the sign of domestic abuse, sometimes it's hard to tell. Abusers can often appear very friendly and are well-liked by those around them. Experts say they can be really good at hiding that part of themselves.
Diana Aviles recently lost her cousin Monica Delgado after her long-term boyfriend allegedly killed her and two of her children in McGregor at the end of September. She said they never thought this would happen.
"He was very quiet when he was around so I honestly didn't know him very well," Aviles said. "We're just in shock. We can't believe it happened like this, that this happened to a family member."
"They had problems like any other couple, nothing big," her brother Joel Delgado-Aviles said through a translator. "Just normal problems. It was very unexpected, we didn't expect anything like this at all."
Her brother knew the boyfriend since he was a child and said there were no signs. He last saw them together a few weeks before the murders for his birthday.
"It was good," Delgado-Aviles said. "They came over, they were celebrating, everyone was there. It seemed normal."
"A lot of times they do come across being very charismatic and friendly," Whitney Thomas, executive director for the Family Abuse Center, told 25 News. "They don't want to be seen as a bad person; everything is behind closed doors. They manipulate their victims to have the same way of thinking."
Thomas said it's common for people to be unaware of an abusive relationship and sometimes it can be risky to ask those hard questions.
"If an abuser feels as though they are being questioned, it can escalate the situation which you don't want to put it on the victim and children involved," she said. "You have to really tread lightly with the victim. If it's a friend, you can ask sort of open-ended questions but in a caring way."
Research shows it can take a victim as many as ten attempts to leave their abuser and an average of seven police visits before they ask for help.
"Take this as an example of why you should speak up, to protect your children more than anything," Aviles said.