As I sat on stage holding Penny's hand and hearing her story of survival, one thing became very clear to me. Her story could be my daughters', my niece's, my sister's.... she could have been me. Statistics teach us that one in four women are affected by domestic violence. Growing up with my aunt and uncle, I remember vividly the sound of glass breaking, slaps, and yells as they physically settled their disputes. Just over the fence, in the house next door, when night fell, we would hear our neighbor's discipline of her daughter turn from punishment to abuse. It never escapes my mind that domestic violence does not have just one face; it could be me or you. The affect leaves pain on the inside that lasts much longer than the last strike.

When my husband and I relocated to Dallas, one of my primary focuses was how I could help those who had been affected by domestic violence overcome the statistics that plague them. It was my prayer that I could create an environment where women would feel free to connect with other women about their experiences, struggles, and fear. Some of the ladies who joined the safe haven in our church, known as, Rahab International Ministries, were survivors of domestic abuse, others were still gaining strength to leave, a few, like myself, witnessed abuse as children. We all had one thing in common though, in that room we all had a chance to let down our masks and share our scars. It takes strength to share intimate moments of your past, to subject yourself to criticism and judgment.

As a pastor's wife I knew that the journey to recovery for Penny and her children would not be an easy one but I also knew that she was a different person than she once was. She showed undeniable strength as she recounted what had to be one of the most painful experiences in her life. Seeking help and direction on how to move on, Penny displayed courage to take her life back, help her children, and create a better tomorrow for her family.

My eyes scanned the audience, sprinkled with survivors of domestic abuse, I noticed the look on their face as they walked down their own memory lane. Remembering their own stories of survival, the discovery of the strength they never knew existed. In my novel, The Crossing, we chronicle a character's personal story of domestic abuse and the fear that paralyzed her as she tried to move forward. Beyond providing a safe haven or an escape, we must help those who have been personally affected deal with the post-traumatic stress that occurs. We often find that an abuser inflicts fear both mentally and physically; their power does not leave when they walk out of the door. It is for this reason, we must provide more than an opportunity to leave, we must offer an opportunity for their mind's to be free.

I commend Penny for sharing her story with millions. Her strength and determination to be free will plant a seed that allows another woman to change her destiny. While she and her family will have a long road ahead of them, it is my heart's prayer that she never forgets how far she has come, how blessed she is to still be here, and how much strength lies within her soul.

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Serita A. Jakes has been a speaker in the Christian ministry for more than 30 years and serves alongside her husband, Bishop T.D. Jakes, at the 30,000-member Dallas church, The Potter's House. Passionate about issues concerning women and family, Ms. Jakes also serves as executive director of the church's WoMan-to-Woman ministry and found the much-acclaimed God's Leading Ladies Enrichment program for women and teenage girls. Ms. Jakes has collaborated with several women's organization across the country to promote women's rights and recently published The Crossing, a novel based on real-life characters confronting domestic violence, post-traumatic stress disorder and a daunting journey of self-discovery and healing.