With October, National Domestic Violence Month, right around the corner, a local survivor wants an opportunity to spread her message to Tampa Bay's sports teams and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
TAMPA, Florida - Patricia Parra Perez is one of the strongest women you could ever meet.
Not only did she survive a 2004 bullet to the head from the gun of her ex-husband, but as she lay bleeding, she watched him shoot their two children, 11- and 12-years-old, dead, before turning the gun on himself.
Ten years later, she fights off tears to share her story as many times as possible, to help other women and families struggling with domestic violence.
"I have to give a voice to those people that need one," she added, noting that domestic violence victims often try to conceal the abuse. "I don't want my kids to have died in vain."
IF YOU ARE IN DANGER: Call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233)
While a series of headline-making incidents in the NFL community has shined a national spotlight on domestic violence, Perez says most people don't recognize how bad of an epidemic domestic abuse is.
With October, National Domestic Violence Month, right around the corner, Perez says she would love an opportunity to spread her message as broadly as possible. That includes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who recently admitted mishandling the suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
USA TODAY reported that 39 NFL players had already been arrested this year, with several of the alleged infractions of the domestic nature.
Perez says she'd like to educate the NFL - as well as local Buccaneers players - about domestic violence. She also hopes to meet with officials from local college teams, the Rays, and the Lightning, who recognized Perez as their 2013 Community Hero of the Year.
But the epidemic goes far beyond professional athletes, as 10 Investigates discovered. Local law enforcement agencies spend huge amounts of time responding to hundreds of domestic-related calls each week. Just between the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and Tampa Police Department, 12 individuals are arrested every single day on domestic violence-related charges.
"The tolerance of (domestic violence) has become less and less each year over the last 10 years," said HCSO spokesperson Larry McKinnon.
While many victims are unwilling to cooperate with investigators, McKinnon said deputies are now prosecuting suspected abusers anyway.
STATS: Disturbing facts on domestic violence
This December will mark 10 years since Perez's most horrific day, and in addition to remarrying and giving birth to two more children, she has made recent progress on the domestic violence front.
Her new charity, the Means of Hope Foundation, aims to better-connect victims of domestic violence with resources that include legal help, shelter, and even a change of identity. But she stressed the importance of not re-victimizing women who are afraid to leave their husband or significant other.
"Would you leave if somebody threatened to kill you or your child?" Perez asked rhetorically, recalling the abuse her husband put her through. "Would you leave if you had no money? Would you leave if they count the miles on your car? Would you leave if he sleeps by the front door?"
Her suggestion was to offer help, not criticisms for the women who often find themselves trapped and afraid to tell the truth to even their closest friends and family members.
WARNING: Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet and/or computer usage might be monitored, please use a safer computer and/or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233) or one of the below resources.
Perez also suggested getting victims reach out for help as soon as possible, so that counselors can help them better-negotiate their situation. Resources include:
- Bay Area Legal Services - free legal help across Tampa Bay
- Gulf Coast Legal Services - free legal help across Pinellas, Sarasota, and Manatee counties
- The Spring of Tampa Bay - domestic violence shelter and services for Hillsborough Co. (813-247-7233)
- CASA St. Pete - domestic violence shelter and services for Pinellas Co. (727-895-4912)
- SPARCC - domestic violence shelter and services for Sarasota and DeSoto counties (941-365-1976)
- The Dawn Center - domestic violence shelter and services for Hernando Co. (352-686-8430)
- Sunrise Pasco - domestic violence shelter and services for Pasco Co. (352-521-3120)
- Salvation Army Domestic Violence Program of West Pasco - serving Pasco County (727-856-5797
- Manatee Co. Sheriff Domestic Violence Unit
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