ORLANDO, Fla. - During the month of October, the community honors the victims and survivors of domestic violence.
It's a problem that many times goes unreported because of fear or embarrassment or retaliation. For one Central Florida survivor, she's made it her mission to speak out about her painful experience because she wants to help others so that they don't fall into the same trap.
Raquel González was 19 when she met her abuser. At the, time she was the mother to a baby girl.
"I wish it had -- sometimes I wish it had happened to me, but then you know, I have a feeling that my daughter risked her life for me to come out here and help others and that's my mission," González said.
It's been 20 years since González lived through the worst of her days. At first, she said her abuser was charming, affectionate, but then he turned on her after she said he knew he had control over her.
"The color of my toe nails and the color of my nails were a different color and it triggered him to yell at me, call me names, I'm stupid. And then it escalated to punching me and then he turned on her," González said.
She recalled when her abuser started to beat her baby girl, Natalie. Two days after that violent episode, Natalie died from her injuries.
"I don't want any women, young girls, to have to live the nightmare I live every day. Her death is not in vain at all because we all -- my family -- has become more outspoken about domestic violence. When you hear more about it, it doesn't mean that it's happening more, it's just that people are speaking out," González said.
González shares her story through Harbor House of Central Florida -- a nonprofit organization that helps domestic abuse victims.
"Abusers biggest ally is silence and people not talking about it. The violence has always existed but people feel more comfortable reaching out for help because one: they're seeing it more. They're seeing violence happening in Hollywood, things that are happening in Washington, D.C.," Michelle Sperzel, CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida, said.
González offered tips about recognizing a domestic violence situation.
"Look for signs. Someone who's becoming very verbally abusive, and trying to take control over what you say, what you do, where you go, it's time for you to just walk away; there's no changing anyone. You'll be so surprised to see how many are out here to help you and there is a life after your abuser," González said.
Now married, González shared this last message so people in the community can learn to be more supportive.
"If we would be more compassionate and understanding and not judge the women that don't leave and that are in these situations. It would be so much more beneficial for them because if we're gonna attack them and say, 'Why don't you leave? What, you must like getting hit,' you're doing the same thing that abuser is doing to that poor victim," González said.
If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, help is available through emergency shelters that Harbor House offers. The number for the 24-hour crisis hotline is 407-886-2856
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