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About two dozen people listened to personal stories of abuse and brutality Sunday evening at a domestic abuse awareness event at the Capitol.

The event was held during October because it's Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Jeannie Lahman, president of the Capital Area Missouri National Organization for Women (NOW), said Cole County was ranked 15th of 114 Missouri counties in the highest number of domestic violence incidents.

She is now "healthy, happy and loved" after suffering sexual abuse by her mother and another family member at the age of 8 and by others during her teen years.

Other NOW members read stories of women who have been served by the local Rape and Abuse Crisis Service, a 36-bed shelter that also provides counseling, advocacy, case management and other services concerning domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

The names of the women were not disclosed.

In one of the stories, a woman said she was poisoned by her husband over a period of time until her blood levels were toxic.

Another said she had been married for more than 30 years. "My husband abused me physically, emotionally and verbally," she said. "I stayed with him because of the kids. After the last child left home, he beat me one last time. I walked out the front door. After 30 years, I began to feel safe and independent. Thanks, RACS."

Alden Hendrickson, executive director of RACS, said domestic abuse is predominantly a problem among men. However, one story was that of a man who said his girlfriend verbally attacked him and hit him. As time went on, she began to throw things at him.

"I would not hit her back or get into a shouting match with her," he said. "I was raised men don't do that to women. I just took it until I had enough. I called for shelter and counseling. Thanks RACS for helping me see that gender doesn't matter when it comes to abuse."

Victims and advocates said there is life after abuse, and those in domestic violence situations must take care of themselves first.

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