Every 15 seconds, someone is sexually abused or victimized by domestic violence in the United States. For some victims, like Melissa, this sexual and physical abuse can last for years.
To realize that I wasted my abilities and talents, I wasted time on this earth, it's very sad that I allowed that to happen, and I showed my children by staying that that was acceptable," reflected Melissa.
Citing safety concerns for her three children, Melissa decided to withhold her last name and did not want her face revealed on camera. But in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, she did want to tell her story.
Melissa fled her home state of Iowa this past spring after she says her husband assaulted her in a car with her four-year-old daughter sitting in the back seat.
The day that it happened and I had taken her home, she said, 'If I yell at daddy, is daddy going to punch me too? TM It was probably the saddest thing I've ever heard a kid say," Melissa said.
Melissa and her kids sought refuge at the Harbor House in Marquette, a shelter for survivors of domestic violence. It is home to over 100 people every year, most of whom are women and children.
A team of legal professionals and social workers also work out of Harbor House, helping survivors find freedom from their troubled past.
"There is not one woman [Harbor House employee] here who hasn't given everything of themselves to every woman and child who walks through those doors," Melissa said.
"All of the advocates here give more than 100 percent of themselves to help women and children who stay here get to a safe place and realize their hopes and dreams that can have a better future," said Phyllis Loonsfoot of the Harbor House.
Melissa seems to be on her way to a brighter future. She and her kids have moved out of Harbor House and reside on Northern Michigan University's campus, where Melissa is studying pre-law.
"I dreamed about school, I dreamed about a future...I didn't think it would happen, Melissa stated.