Women of Hopkinsville shared the reasons they stayed in abusive relationships Thursday at the 13th annual Sanctuary Inc. dinner.

Some stayed because of their children, others stayed because of time invested, finances, shame, fear. Many stayed because of love.

Regardless of the reasons they stayed, Sanctuary Inc. helped them escape.

Idalia Luna, one of those women helped by Sanctuary Inc. and executive assistant to the mayor, shared her story through spoken word with the crowd.

"I stayed because I grew up where abuse was common," she said through tears.

Luna shared that her grandmother, mother and she was abused. Her father abused her and so did her first child's father.

"The data was stacked against me," she said.

Luna held onto an 18-gallon blue tote, reliving the moment she escaped her abuser.

"It stayed true blue through it all," she said of the one tote she took when she fled. "I knocked at a door, holding my child's hand and this blue tote ... it kept my earthly treasures in safekeeping."

Luna said she and her blue tote are no longer on the run.

"It is now used for toys and memories," said the mother of three.

Sanctuary Inc. Board of Directors Jo Glover said 1,013 clients were assisted at Sanctuary Inc. this year alone; 960 peer support group meetings, 183 emergency protection orders filed, 168 women and children provided emergency shelter and 92 families were assisted in finding new homes.

Glover shared that partnerships have been formed with Christian County Jail and Grace and Mercy women's home, and a new exercise therapy program will begin at Sanctuary soon.

Kentucky Legal Aid also offers free on-site legal consultations for the women at Sanctuary once a week.

"(Legal Aid) has given victims the opportunity to meet with legal officials and help them put the past in the past," Glover said.

Like Luna, Sanctuary hopes to help more women escape the grip of abuse. Through donations from community partners and donors, they will be able to continue.

"We're proud of the work we do and continue to do in guiding individuals through some of their most difficult times to success," said Heather Lancaster, executive director of Sanctuary Inc.

Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or zalleyne@kentuckynewera.com.

Sanctuary Inc. Award Recipients

Community Partner Award: Brad Boyd and Christian County Jail

Helping Hands Award: Jennifer Lovelady and Olivet Baptist Church in Herndon

Lotus Award: Tracey Clark

Phenomenal Woman Award: Idalia Luna

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