Family Justice Center in Greensboro sees uptick around the holidays

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- For 25 years, Eileen Martin was in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage.

"There's a lot of that stress and anxiety and fear,” Martin said. "For 25 years, my self-worth was pretty gone."

She says it always got worse around the holidays.

Simple things like driving to visit family would turn violent.

"Getting pulled off the side of the road and basically screamed at," she said.

She says it’s a time of year that's often stressful for families in crisis.

"You have that pressure of trying make things calmer and trying to make the kids safe and still try to get around the dinner table and pretend that everything's
OK," she said.

Since Monday, more than 100 clients have come in for help at Guilford County Family Justice Center which works with victims of domestic violence.

"We've had some people calling in to get some safety planning,” said Kieran Sharp, a navigator at the Family Justice Center who helps point victims in the right direction.

She says many of their clients are worried about their child's safety or their own while visiting family or having to be in contact with an abusive ex.

"Abusers may use that as a time to try to exert that power and control that has been taken from them," she said.

Sharp says if you have to make contact, don't go alone.

"Take someone with you, not someone who's going to escalate the situation, just someone who's going to be there," Sharp said.

For survivors like Martin, she says the holidays are much better now that she’s gotten away from her abuser and started a new chapter in her life.

"You deserve love,” she said. “You deserve respect."

If you or anyone you know is in an abusive relationship, you can call the Guilford County Family Justice Center at (336) 241-SAFE.

You can also call the 24-hour crisis hotline for Family Services of the Piedmont at (336) 273-7273.