WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (CBS4) – Domestic violence and abuse aren't the easiest subjects to discuss. As National Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to an end, a Colorado advocate is pushing more than ever to empower others battling through it.
Erin Baer shared her story of triumph with CBS4's Mekialaya White on Wednesday morning.
"I had no idea that this guy that I was interested in was going to be a monster," she began candidly.
Baer explained that the relationship with her then ex-boyfriend began in 2008, "He started abusing me mentally, physically, emotionally, sexually... pretty brutal."
The abuse didn't end there. It also had its grip on her finances.
"He wouldn't pay for rent, and he wouldn't pay for food. I had to supply everything for both of us. I ended up being $18,000 in debt just because I was in a relationship for 7-8 months with this man," Baer said.
"They break you down and make you think your sole purpose in life is for them and them only. And it's very demeaning. It's very isolating. It demolishes everything that you thought. Especially when you come from a childhood that wasn't the greatest, they feed on that."
She finally found strength to leave the volatile situation through the support and patience of friends. A close friend asked her to do some research on domestic violence, and that gave her the gentle nudge to act.
"I was like, 'Are you kidding me right now?' I can relate to this, there's no way I'm in this situation, but I was. But I was shameful and hopeless, and I was like, 'Now what do I do?' So I called her up and I was like, 'Elaine, I need to tell you something.' And she said, 'I already know, honey. I already know.'"
From there, picking up the pieces and regaining independence took time. She started working at a local gym, and a mentor helped her get into bodybuilding and personal training. Those new hobbies gave Erin control of her own body and well-being. She then married and is happily looking forward.
"There is hope for every woman – and man – out there. You have to say, 'I'm worth it.' And it's not I'm good enough, it's that you're enough, period," said Baer.
She's also taking her message worldwide. Baer started an organization, which partners with Colorado non-profits to help give back to the community, called "Beaten to Badass."
Her artwork and proceeds from her recently-released book, From Beaten to Badass, all go toward people impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault.
"Your circumstances don't define you. You are a badass, you just have to get back up," Baer said.
Baer urges anyone who is going through anything similar to get help, saying there is no shame in it. It's the first step toward victory.
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