Tracy Acevedo endured the heavy blows and psychological abuse from her girlfriend for three years before realizing it was time to move on.
The person who helped Acevedo walk away from the pain was her daughter Faith, who was only 5 years old back in 2011.
“She was my inspiration,” Acevedo said through tears during an interview on Monday. “She gave me the strength.”
Six years removed from the trauma, the Acevedo women are now in the process of becoming domestic violence advocates through Option House Inc. They are among the many survivors that have been empowered by the resource center in recent months.
Support groups at the Option House headquarters grew after the tragedy at North Park Elementary School. More classrooms are being filled by young domestic violence victims who are developing the agency to help other youth in similar situations, explained Executive Director Heather Stevning.
Stevning said Option House is partnering with the San Bernardino City Unified School District to provide prevention services and domestic violence education at eight school sites. They are also visiting juvenile halls to speak in regards to breaking the “vicious cycle.”
“We’ve always had programs geared towards the adult victim,” explained Stevning. “But we realize kids are victims too.”
Faith, now 11 years old, approached Option House back in July during a resource fair and shared the experiences she underwent with her mother. Her demeanor and resiliency impressed community leaders such as San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos who featured Faith in a recent video production.
“Fearless Faith”, along with 12-year-old Leah Amaya and 16-year-old Melissa Stevning, will be leading a new program that intends to provide education to adolescents about domestic violence prevention, said Option House Program Coordinator Gloria Amaya.
“Faith has had strong experiences at a very young age,” Amaya said. “She could use those experiences to help other youth who have experienced domestic violence. They were also there with us the whole time.”
Despite the inroads, Stevning said the ongoing challenge for domestic violence prevention resource centers is providing rapid housing for victims that need to escape perpetrators. They’ve lobbied both county and state lawmakers to produce a plan that will expedite the process for women to obtain stable living conditions. So far there has been little luck, Stevning admitted.
“We’re not being identified as being important enough to be included in housing plans,” explained Stevning. “That’s why were trying to raise our voice to get the attention for our community.”