Survivor Stories

In the movies, boy-meets-girl is the starting formula for happily-ever-after.

For Ashley, however, meeting “Mark” was the beginning of a nightmare instead, one that almost took her life.

“He got mad and slammed me into the wall. I heard the crack and fell to the floor in so much pain,” Ashley said. “I couldn’t breathe; he had cracked my ribs.

“I was scared and ashamed then,” she said. “It’s like you’re brainwashed; you lose your identity.”

Following incidents of abuse that left Ashley with permanent long- and short-term memory loss and trouble with facial recognition, she’s rebuilding her life with the help of InterAct, Wake County’s only dual-service agency serving victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

InterAct and its community collaborators provide physical and mental health care, substance abuse counseling, budgeting and job training, legal assistance and afterschool programs to help victims not just survive the immediate crisis, but to offer a continuum of services toward self-sufficiency.

In Wake County, an estimated 100,000 people have or will experience violence in their homes; in the past quarter alone, more than 1,000 individuals filed for domestic violence protective orders in Wake County.  

“We have to break the silence on these issues,” said InterAct Executive Director Leigh Duque. “This is everybody’s business.”

Jennifer agrees. A seven-year survivor of domestic violence, she now volunteers with InterAct to help others. 

“I came from a loving home, went to college and grad school, have a good job. If it happened to me, it could happen to anyone,” Jennifer said. “It’s happening right here, to our neighbors, our co-workers and friends. As a community, we have to be willing to talk about it.”

“Fundamentally, domestic violence is about power and control,” explains Dr. Stephanie Francis of InterAct. “Perpetrators use a number of different tactics to take and maintain that control: physical violence or the threat of, verbal or emotional abuse. When it starts it can be hard to identify. It can be subtle, but it escalates.

“Domestic violence does not discriminate. It crosses age, race, education level, socio-economic level. Anybody can be a victim, or a perpetrator,” she said.

Ashley says she was not aware of InterAct’s services until it was almost too late.

“It’s important to let people know that there’s help and empathy,” she said. “I had no idea about InterAct until I had nowhere to go. Now I refer people; they have so many resources. And being able to tell your story — no matter how far in you are, there’s a way to get out. This is a special place to help domestic violence victims.

“The person I was and the person I am now are pretty different, but I’m alive,” she said. “I’m alive.”  

Jennifer sees it this way: “Know you’re not alone — there are people who care and want to help. You don’t deserve to be mistreated, no matter what. Reach out and take that bold step to ask for help.”

If you need help, call InterAct’s 24-hour domestic violence crisis line at (919) 828-7740 or toll-free at (866) 291-0855.

To give help, visit for ways to volunteer, or shop the organization’s Pass It On thrift stores in Fuquay-Varina and Raleigh.

To read more of Ashley's story, click here.

To read more of Jennifer's story, click here.

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