PINELLAS COUNTY – A local woman said her battle with disabilities added to her struggles to escape domestic violence.
"I've been wanting to do this for a long time and finally I can,” said Samantha, who sat down to share her story for the first time with ABC Action News Reporter Kylie McGivern.
Samantha said she’s sharing her story of survival in the hopes it could help others find the courage to leave abusive relationships.
Samantha says she was abused by her boyfriend – turned husband.
"It was the biggest mistake of my life,” said Samantha of their 2014 wedding.
"He would take my medication from me - to take it for himself and to sell it,” said Samantha.
Samantha needs that medication to treat her lifelong struggle with seizures.
"I kept on going back because I was scared to be alone, for one, because of my disability,” said Samantha.
Just weeks after their wedding day, Samantha was scheduled to undergo brain surgery to reduce her seizures.
“Then in the middle of my healing, he strangles me,” said Samantha.
Samantha said she fought back, and court records show she used scissors.
"I had to poke him,” said Samantha. “And I got in trouble for that – for protecting myself from getting killed cause I would have been dead."
Samantha was charged with domestic battery. Prosecutors later dropped the charges. She said it’s important for people to know the additional challenges people with disabilities face when it comes to escaping abuse.
"When I was going through that time, my mom was there and I was staying with her and I was protected,” said Samantha.
Samantha said that protection from her family gave her the strength and courage she needed to leave the relationship.
"I'm really proud of myself,” said Samantha, smiling. "I'm here now and I get to tell my story."
She encourages other survivors, who are ready and safely able, to do the same.
"As hard as it is, you can do it,” said Samantha.
ABC Action News has long championed the rights of domestic violence survivors, striving to alert people of resources available in the Tampa Bay area, provide vital information, and encourage people to recognize the signs of abuse. This year’s campaign is focusing on “Courageous Conversations” in an effort to raise awareness about domestic violence and what you can do to help yourself and others.
Statistics show 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced domestic violence. For a list of domestic violence resources in the Tampa Bay area, visit the Taking Action Against Domestic Violence page on our website.