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Abused women overcome pain to help others

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Twenty-three women were killed in Harris County in 2011 by men who once promised to love them.

Often, before that violence escalates to murder, a woman can endure years of physical abuse.  Most want to leave but just don't know how.

Houston Area Women's Center Supervisor Edna Mojica is helping plenty of women, but there was a time when she didn't even think she could help herself.

"His hand came towards me and he hit me.  I was so in shock," said Mojica.

She didn't leave her boyfriend.  Instead, she found out she was pregnant and married her abuser.

"He would grab me up; push me; shake me up."

"I had two black eyes, a busted lip.  He took a glass ashtray and hit me in the head with it," said a woman who we'll call Marie.

Many women seem to have the same story.  

"I felt worthless," said Marie.  "He took the blankets.  He took the pillows.  He poured water all over me.  He went on and on and on all night long.  We had mice in the room and he wanted me to sleep on the floor.  I just climbed in the bed and started weeping."

Marie stayed with her boyfriend.  Ironically, she finally left when he left her for dead.

"He tortured me for two days," said Marie.  "He hung me from the ceiling.  He shattered my ribs.  He sodomized me.  He raped me."

Why do women stay in abusive relationships?

"Because he always told me he would kill my family.  He always told me he'd kill me," said Marie.

She is still hiding from her ex-boyfriend.  

"I always have to wonder if he's ever going to find me," said Marie.  

In addition to having a fear of physical harm, she also stayed in the violence because she was afraid to be alone.

"I felt like I wasn't going to get anybody better than that," said Marie.

"I was ashamed.  There's this career woman, strong with her children, and she's in this situation," said Mojica.

Those are common feelings for abuse victims.  While many abused women are also forced to stay for financial reasons; that was not the case for Mojica or Marie.  Both were the providers for their abusers.

"It was just the feeling that I couldn't do it without him," said Mojica.  "I had four children and he would always say you can't do it by yourself."

Because of the busted lips, black eyes and bruise, Marie lost more jobs than she can count.

"You can't work in customer service looking like that, so I would have to quit long enough to heal," said Marie.

Most abused women will leave, but they repeatedly go back.

"It takes them seven to eight times to actually leave an abusive relationship," said Cristina del Canto with HAWC.

If this sounds familiar, here's a message for you:

"There are women out there that feel like they can't get out, but they can.  They can.  I feel so free now," said Marie.

"You've got to save your life.  You've got to really run for your life.  I left the state, my friends, my family, everything I knew and moved to another state into a shelter.  I was there for about four months," said Mojica.

If you are in an abusive relationship, Mojica encourages you to leave.

"You can do it. You absolutely can.  You are not alone," said Mojica.

HAWC says abuse starts long before the first hit is ever thrown with intimidation, humiliation and manipulation.  The abuser already has a hold on your mind; he has already made you believe you're not worthy by the time he starts hitting you.  A woman is most at danger when she leaves the relationship, so abuse victims are advised to first come up with a safety plan before leaving.

Even if a woman has sufficient financial resources, it is a good idea to call a domestic abuse counselor for safety tips.  You can reach HAWC's hotline at 713-528-2121.  The center also offers financial resources, employment assistance and career training.

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