GREENSBORO, N.C. — The push to put a stop to domestic violence is at the forefront this month, but it's something the Guilford County Family Justice Center works to combat all year long.
Across the nation, millions are affected. Victims can be unsure of where to turn, fearful that they won't be able to escape the abuse.
On Wednesday night, Greensboro leaders, advocates, and survivors gathered to trees outside city hall were lit up purple, as a way to kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The event honored those who lost their lives to domestic abuse, while also highlighting community resources.
One of the most utilized resources since its opening in 2015: the Family Justice Center, which has served almost 28,000 people in Guilford County.
"It can go from seeming benign to very dangerous," said Catherine Johnson, the director of the FJC, "Oftentimes survivors who are in a domestic violence relationship may not even realize the risk that they are in."
The tree lighting kicked off the "Abuse Is Never Okay" campaign, aimed at spreading more awareness and education about domestic violence and abuse.
Knowing the resources are there is a major part of getting the necessary help, according to Lalani Reaves, a domestic violence survivor.
"If they don't know about the help then they will definitely keep them going back [to the abuser] because at least they know then what to expect," she explained.
Reaves knows the pain firsthand. She says she left an on-again, off-again relationship in 2011, after five long years of abuse.
"I had called 911 so many times...but, because I went back it was like, are you serious this time?" she said, "Even after getting the restraining order, somehow or another he still located me. He would hide out in the parking lot of my job, break into my house. He would be hiding in my shower when I came home from work."
She now works with the city's Commission on the Status of Women, combatting violence in the community.
"I would tell my former self, the amount of time that I've wasted living in fear, living that nightmare every day, I didn't have to," Reaves said, "I really didn’t have to. There were community resources out there, unfortunately, I didn’t know about them."
You can find a list of other Domestic Violence Awareness Month events here.