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North Dakota domestic abuse survivor says help is out there

(AP) — In a year, more than 10 million Americans are abused by their intimate partners.

In 2013, there were over 5,000 domestic violence incidents reported to crisis centers in North Dakota and 94 percent of the victims were women.

1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by their partner in a lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Pastor Nicole Ajibola is a business owner in Williston.

She says her abuse started at 14 with her grandfather and she gravitated toward abusive men throughout her life, KX News reported.

Ajibola says she was tired of the abuse, and the many hospital visits as a result.

“I felt like I shouldn’t have to continue to suffer like that, you know, and still dealing with the same person, looking at the person that hurt me and is causing these pain and agonies through my body,” said Ajibola.

She says people trying to escape their abusive partners should ask for help.

“You need to reach out to people, reach out to sources. There are sources out here now that help abused women, so they have abused shelters. Run to a shelter, run to the abused shelter to get away from that person or talk to somebody that can help you get away,” said Ajibola.

There are 22 organizations in North Dakota that provide domestic violence services, according to domesticshelter.org, and the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Minot is one of them.

They offer support groups, protection order assistance and emergency shelter.

Assistant Director Tara Bjornson says domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse.

Some warning signs of an abusive relationship are extreme jealousy, isolation from friends and family and feeling trapped.

“A lot of times we’ll hear people say that the physical abuse was not the worst part. It’s the offender’s control over that, that person,” said Bjornson.

She says it’s important to know that agencies like the DVCC exist because they offer resources, listen and validate what victims are experiencing.

“There are people that will believe you. There are people that are willing to help. And, everybody deserves to live in a healthy, safe relationship,” said Bjornson.

Ajibola is in the process of starting her own organization in Williston called Women Empowerment Outreach.

It mainly focuses on drug rehabilitation but it is also available to others, including those being abused.

“We wanna give them a place to rest and also in the process of this program, we want to teach these women to become independent and self-sufficient,” said Ajibola.

Her final piece of advice is for people who are being abused to listen to the people they reach out to.

“Listen to them because they’re saving your lives,” she said.