MEMPHIS, Tenn. — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and one survivor is making it her life’s mission to help others in need.

If there’s anyone who knows about betrayal and heartache, it’s Penny Mickey. She says she spent three years being physically abused by the man she shared vows with.

“I thought I should just stay and pray, and I tried,” Mickey said. “Even though I had a really strong career, I had absolutely no control over my finances. So, I really had a hard time planning an exit strategy with zero dollars.”

Mickey says it wasn’t until she gave birth to her son that she made the tough decision in 2007 to leave and never go back.

“I was determined that I did not want my child to see me abused and potentially repeat abuse in his own life,” Mickey said.

In 2020, she started the GradUS Project with the support of her new husband and the Family Safety Center, which focuses on helping survivors become financially stable when trying to leave domestic situations.

Mickey is just one of the many people who shared their story at the “Domestic Violence Ends When Awareness Begins” conference, put on by the City of Memphis and the Family Safety Center.

Organizers say the purpose of the event is to educate and provide resources to the public regarding domestic violence.

“We just have to be mindful that it does take a person who’s experiencing domestic violence seven or eight attempts before they actually leave that situation,” said Martha Jackson, director of Coordinated Community Response & Special Programs.

Mickey says she wants people to know there is help available and true love doesn’t hurt.

If you know someone in a domestic violence situation, you’re encouraged to contact the 24-hour crisis line at 901-800-6064.