October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Stephenville resident Kristel Jones is stepping forward to talk about her experience with domestic violence that occurred 16 years ago.

At the time, Jones was an 18-year-old freshman at Odessa College and had been dating her then 20-year-old boyfriend off and on for three years when the abuse had reached its breaking point

I often ask myself how I could have missed all the red flags. Jealousy, possessiveness, and controlling are just a few of the early signs of abuse I ignored, she said. My abuser successfully isolated me from friends and family very early on in the relationship, before the physical violence ever began. I had gone from being active in everything and having lots of friends, to never leaving the house, unless it was with him.

The verbal and mental abuse followed and Jones said the early physical violence was not direct.

It began by him throwing and breaking objects or punching a wall directly behind me, she said.

Eventually, Jones and her boyfriend moved in together and the situation escalated.

I experienced every form of abuse there is: verbal, mental, physical and sexual, Jones said.

She was in and out of the hospital, severely underweight and frail. She started skipping class and calling into work to hide the evidence that her abuser had left on her body.

He had whittled me down to this shell of a person, she said. I can count maybe four different instances where I feared for my life. I knew that if one thing went wrong, that it would be a very different outcome.

Jones said she had tried several times to leave the relationship but every time she did, her boyfriend would stalk her.

I felt that it was easier to stay and try my best to make him happy and avoid those situations, she said.

One night, her situation came to a head during the scariest night of her life.

I honestly thought he was going to take my life and I was honestly kind of begging him to just so we could get out of this and this could be over, she said.

Jones survived that night and when her abuser left for a four-day work trip, she made her escape.

She called her dad and he helped her move back home and she changed her cell phone number.

A few months later, she moved out of her hometown and relocated to Stephenville where she attended Tarleton State University and tried to deal with the aftereffects of her nightmare.

Those physical scars go away, but whats done inside and mentally is one of the hardest things to get over. I dealt with all of those long-lasting effects. I fell deep into a depression, severe anxiety and just really struggled with trying to find myself and who I was again outside of the abuse and outside of the control of him, Jones said.

Today at 35, Jones is a financial accountant at Tarleton, has two young boys and is in a loving and safe relationship.

She also volunteers with Cross Timbers Family Services as a victim advocate.

Its a way of using what I went through and that bad situation to bring something positive out of it, to help somebody else, she said. I've only been able to share my story over the last five or six years. I just came to a place where I could talk about it and my hope in sharing my story is that I could help just one person.

Jones wants other women who are going through similar situations to know that they are not alone and that its not their fault.

I want them to understand that this isnt about them; its about the abuser. They do not have the problem; the abuser has the problem, she said. Nobody deserves to be treated that way. True love does not hurt. There is a better life for them and there are resources and hope to get there.