GLENDALE, AZ - As claims of domestic abuse prior to a Phoenix apartment fire surface, Amilia Duchon-Voyles can’t help but feel a sisterhood with the woman and three children who are fighting for their lives in the hospital. A fourth child, a 14-year-old girl, died.
In 2004, Duchon-Voyles was almost killed by her abusive husband.
She had tried several times to get out, but each time she found herself back in the relationship despite the violence.
“It's somebody you're in a relationship with, it's not just somebody you haven't had good times with also,” explained Duchon-Voyles.
Her breaking point came when she realized she was unintentionally teaching her daughters to stay in an abusive relationship.
Duchon-Voyles couldn’t stand the thought they would someday be in her shoes. So the third time, she left for good.
“I just fled. I came to Arizona to start over with my children,” said Duchon-Voyles, as she choked back tears of those dark days.
The last time Duchon-Voyles’ husband assaulted her was here in Arizona, when he discovered where she was secretly living.
“My older son held my daughter and my younger daughter watched him tie me up and beat me and try to smother me with a pillow. He then strangled me until I passed out,” recalled Duchon-Voyles.
In that moment, when her husband was smothering her, she feared not for her own life, but her children’s.
“I thought that all of us were going to die,” she said. “I thought that he wouldn't leave the kids for witnesses, that he would take their lives and then his own because I just didn't see a way for us to get out of that room.”
They did get out of that room. Duchon-Voyles’ husband thought she was dead and turned to the children to apologize for killing their mother and left.
While her 2-year-old girl thought Mommy was dead, Duchon-Voyles regained consciousness. She was alive.
As she and her children worked in court to rid themselves of her former husband for good, they also became advocates to help other women get out.
“The scariest part is walking out the door,” Duchon-Voyles now tells other women at the Swan and Butterfly House, a domestic abuse shelter where she works.
She tells ABC15 the first step abused partners need to take is to confide in someone, whether it’s a friend, relative or church member.
Next, create a safety plan.
“The most dangerous time is when you leave, so plan for that, maybe leave when he's at work or leave when you know he's not going to be home for a while. Make sure you have the things that you need, maybe leave some money stashed at a friend’s house or a bag already packed at a friend’s house,” Duchon-Voyles says.
Document your abuse. Even if you don’t report it to police, your documentation can be used as evidence in a courtroom.
Also know the Domestic Abuse Hotline number -- 602-263-8900. It’s one line for all the domestic abuse shelters.
Workers will be able to direct you where to go, so you aren’t stuck looking for a shelter in a time of need.
Also, there's a website with available resources called Arizona Resources for Domestic Violence .
But most of all, be brave enough to take that final step and leave.