ORLANDO, Fla. - On Wednesday, Harbor House hosted its annual Purple Door Luncheon, an event organized to promote awareness for domestic violence prevention and raise money to provide survivors with essential services.
More than 600 attendees packed the tables at the Rosen Centre on International Drive for the event, which was sponsored in part by News 6 and emceed by anchor Ginger Gadsden.
Among the survivors who took the stage was Raquel González, whose abuser killed her 2-year-old daughter 20 years ago.
González shared her story with News 6 earlier this month and on Wednesday, she recalled how she escaped the toxic relationship as she spoke alongside fellow survivor WESH anchor Jazmin Bailey.
Both women noted similarities between their abusers: They were charming, attentive and affectionate in the beginning stages of the relationship, but gradually became more controlling before the physical abuse began.
"My abuse began and escalated with the verbal, controlling. I moved in with him when I was pregnant. Then he made me see how far that he could go. My worst beating was while I was pregnant and I really do believe that I thought I would die that day, but I felt like I needed to protect my baby, but I couldn't leave," González said.
She said the mental and physical control her abuser had over her made it impossible for her to leave him, especially while she was pregnant with a baby girl and had a 2-year-old daughter at home.
The abuse hit a tipping point one day when González returned home from the nail salon and her abuser was mad that the polish on her toes was not the color he wanted. She said at first he beat her, then took out his anger on 2-year-old Natalie.
The child suffered internal injuries from the attack and died two days later.
González is just one of the hundreds of survivors Harbor House helps each year thanks to dedicated volunteers and generous donations, but they don't do it alone.
On Wednesday, community partners were acknowledged for their roles in helping to prevent domestic violence and support survivors in the community.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs received the Champion of Advocacy role for dedicating resources to quell intimate partner violence. The Orlando Police Department, whose officers often see the tragic consequences of domestic violence firsthand, was honored with the Champion of Courage Award.
Other awards given out were: The Champion of Community Award to Bank of America, the Champion of Equality Award for former COO of Harbor House and executive director of the Zebra Coalition Heather Wilkie, the Champion of Justice Award for Orange County Ninth District Court Judge Alice Blackwell, and the Harbor House Legacy Leader Award to Beverly Paulk, who has been volunteering for the organization since the mid-1980s.
For more information on Harbor House, including how to donate or volunteer, go to www.harborhousefl.com.
Anyone who is in a domestic violence situation can get access to help 24/7 by calling Harbor House's toll-free, confidential hotline at 407-886-2856.
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