Harbor House honors survivors of domestic abuse during Purple Door luncheon

News 6 recognized for community advocacy

ORLANDO, Fla. – During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Harbor House of Central Florida is bringing attention to this critical issue during its signature event: the Purple Door luncheon. 

Harbor House officials said the event honors advocates, celebrates survivors and remembers those who lost their lives to abuse. 

Raquel Gomez was one of the survivors who attended the luncheon at the Rosen Centre on Wednesday. She said the abuse she experienced 20 years ago still haunts her. 

"The abuse began verbal, then it got physical, isolation, brain wash, manipulation and control, but at the beginning he was so charming," Gomez said. 

Gomez said her abuser started abusing her 2-year-old daughter and killed her.

"I'm doing this for her. I will be the voice for Natalie and for all of those children and women and men who are going through things right now," Gomez said. "I want to reach out to them and let them know they're not alone."

That was one of the takeaways during the Purple Door luncheon. Harbor House offers immediate and long-term resources to domestic violence victims and their families who are escaping their abusers. 

CEO Michelle Sprezel said last week, 42 adults and 60 children were living in Harbor House's emergency shelter.

"We help you in that immediate moment and then what happens with her life is really a partnership of all the different people who helped get her safe," Sprezel said. 

But the nonprofit organization can't do this work alone. Harbor House honored the survivors and thanked the community who supports their mission during the luncheon. 

Harbor House honored News 6 with the Champion of Community award for shining light on this issue by hosting phone banks that connect callers with critical resources and raising funds for the organization.  

Jeff Hoffman, the vice-president and general manager of News 6, accepted the award on the station's behalf.

"We're very fortunate to join with the entire community of committed people who are determined to raise awareness and to end domestic violence," Hoffman said. 

Sprezel said anyone can sign Harbor House's newest "I Am" campaign to become an advocate and spread the message of love and support for survivors. 

"That's what is amazing, hearing from a survivor because you get a better understanding about life on the other side of the bruises. There's life beyond domestic violence," Sprezel said. 

About the Author:

Amanda Castro

Amanda Castro, a proud UCF alum, joined the News 6 team in November 2015 and was promoted to weekend morning anchor in April 2016. Go Knights!

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