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How do you escape domestic violence?

Ashanti Hunter

HOUSTON - Ashanti Hunter was brutally gunned down by her boyfriend as she tried to flee from him. Her children witnessed her murder. Her story generated an unprecedented response from viewers.

More than 500 people retweeted the picture of the mother of three and debate erupted online about whether or not women should take or leave abusive relationships. Experts say the answer isn't a simple one.

Counselors at Houston Area Women's Center say these types of endings are far too common. According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, 34 women were murdered by their partners in Harris County in 2015.

"If an individual is getting ready to leave or leaving, the abuser's power and control, is really, really threatened," said Aly Jacobs, Manager of Counseling and Advocacy at the Houston Area Women's Center. "Most times they take extreme measures to keep that power and control within their hands."

Hunter was killed by her boyfriend Albee Lewis as she fled with her children. Experts say leaving can be the most dangerous time for domestic violence survivors. That's why planning is critical.

"That safety plan really does have to be individualized because each person has a different set of safety needs," said Jacobs.

There's no right answer for women dealing with abusive partners. On average, it takes seven tries for women to successfully and safely leave.

"What is safe for me, may not be safe for you," said Jacobs.

So experts say don't judge a woman for whatever choice she makes. But all women need to know help is out there to escape your abuser.

"Ultimately the survivor knows what she needs best," said Jacobs. "And she knows the abuser the best and what she'll need to stay in order to stay safe leaving."

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If you're dealing with an abusive relationship, you can call 575-894-3557. Advocates can meet with you and help you fill out a danger assessment form and safety plan. Together they'll help you come up with a plan to help you.

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