SAN ANTONIO - The Bexar County Family Justice Center serves almost 4,000 new victims each year, but leaders say a lot of people still don't know it exists. That's why former clients are stepping up to praise the organization.
The center houses every service a domestic violence victim needs under one roof.
It took two years of abuse and one last instance of traumatic, life-altering violence for Marianna Sanchez to escape her relationship.
"The reason I didn't reach out before is because I truly feel like I did deserve it," she said, citing the mental abuse she'd experienced.
When Sanchez finally called police, they led her to the Family Justice Center. She and her son, who was 4 at the time, took advantage of the center's long list of services.
"Legal assistance, counseling, child therapy, financial assistance, financial literacy, group therapy, they can run a police report. They can file a police report," said Lisa Cunningham Ginn, executive director of the Family Justice Center, of the center's services.
Cunningham Ginn said it's crucial to have all of that care in one building.
"I feel like we lose a lot of victims in their struggle to get assistance because of the logistics," she said.
"It takes so much courage just to come in these doors, so if it were six different places that I'd have to go to, I don't think I would have done it. I mean, I sat in my car for, like, an hour to convince myself, 'Just go in and do it. Do it.' And imagine if victims had to do that six or seven times just to get the help," Sanchez said.
Cunningham Ginn said 12 lives have been lost to domestic violence in Bexar County this year.
Sanchez wants victims to know they don't have to become a statistic.
"You deserve better. You don't deserve what's happening to you, and you should get out because you're worth it," she said.
Two years after her abuse, Sanchez is thriving. She is a full-time student at the University of Texas at San Antonio and ran for mayor of Leon Valley. She volunteers at the Rape Crisis Center and runs a nonprofit for teen moms. She's still struggling and healing, but she's moving forward and said others can, too.
The Family Justice Center's services are free for Bexar County residents, or if the abuse occurred in Bexar County.
Victims can continue care for as long as they need, which cuts down on the number of survivors who return to an abusive relationship.
Anyone who is in an abusive relationship or knows someone who may be in one can call the center at 210-631-0100.
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