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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Every day when Donna Combs comes to work, she’s surrounded by yellow.

She handles payroll for bus drivers in a Piedmont school district.

Purple has become part of her identity.

“Hair is very important to women,” she said. “This is an attention getter. It is a conversation piece everywhere I go.”

Donna Combs wants strangers to become curious enough about her purple hair to start a conversation — opening the door for her to share her story.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month — purple is the color signifying that cause.

Combs says the abuse started as a child.

“My mother was very abusive mentally, verbally, physically,” she said.

“There were episodes of sexual abuse from a day care worker and then as I got older, [from] a family friend and that takes away from who you are, so as a young person, as a young woman, I thought that’s all I had to offer so I made many bad decisions in my life.”

Combs has four children, but motherhood at times came with challenges trying to shield them from witnessing the abuse.

During one relationship, she was shot with a sawed-off shotgun on Mother’s Day.

“I had a sawed-off shotgun to my head while my children laid, one on my lap and one at the floor. It very well could have been all of our last day,” she said.

With the help of a church support group, Combs was strategically able to leave, later filing for divorce.

“I started believing in me and I knew that I deserved better,” she said.

Her story was published in a Communications textbook at North Carolina A&T State University after Combs’ daughter had the assignment of interviewing a domestic violence survivor.

“That was part of my healing, sharing my story helps me to heal,” she said.

Combs has since spoken at a women’s conference and volunteers with Family Service of the Piedmont assisting domestic violence victims.

That’s her way of doing what others did to help her.

“Had they not paved that way for me, I could still be in it, so if I can reach back and help someone else, that’s what it’s all about, paying it forward.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you can contact Family Service of the Piedmont’s 24-hour crisis line.

The Greensboro number is (336) 273-7273 and the High Point number is (336) 889-7273.