DALLAS — You would never know by the smile on her face, but at one point in her life Carrie Dixon thought she would be dead by now. She is a survivor of a violent relationship that almost cost her life.
"I was living in West Virginia, and an ex-boyfriend quite literally tried to kill me," said Dixon, "I didn't think I was going to survive."
Dixon's fear of not surviving a violent relationship is far more common now than ever before. Domestic violence advocates across North Texas are seeing so many more cases that shelters are at capacity. That first step of leaving an abuser is critical for people like Dixon.
"I had no choice but to get out of there. I came back home to Texas. I didn't really know what to do or where to go," she said.
Dixon is not alone when it comes to survivors looking for a place of refuge in North Texas. Right now, Domestic violence advocates like Dorothy Greene shared that most of the shelters in the D-FW area are full.
Greene also stressed in many cases the hotel vouchers granted to survivors are all issued to people who have turned to shelters for help. That is another indicator that domestic violence cases are up in North Texas.
A recent National Coalition study shows in 2018, domestic violence accounted for 20% of violent crime, and 1 in 3 women reported domestic abuse. The same holds true for men, with 1 in 4 men reporting some level of abuse from their partner or family member.
Margo Wade-LaDrew serves as the Bill Pickett National marketing director. The long-time entertainment company is now working to help raise awareness to domestic violence.
Rodeo organizers are helping break the silence by drawing attention to the issue at its popular events held in North Texas multiple times a year. The Bill Pickett Rodeo events are attended by thousands and have become a popular family event around the country.
"We felt that it was time to deal with the stigma and to be able to open the doors and to provide resources," said Wade-LaDrew.
For the first time ever, part of the proceeds from rodeo ticket sales will help One Safe Place offer more survivors the help they gave Dixon.
"They helped me get housing," said Dixon. "They helped me with referrals for counseling, they helped me with police follow-up."
"Because one of the things that we have found, and I've found in work that I do in community outreach, is when people are in a safe place, when they feel comfortable," said Wade-LaDrew, "they tend to open up more, and they receive information that is provided to them easier than they would."
Survivors also learn what happens when their abusers go before a judge. One Safe Place facilitators help survivors practice what they will experience in court should their abuser face charges.
Jessie Rixie serves as the One Safe Place client director. Part of her responsibility is to make sure survivors are matched up with the right services they need to get on their feet or sustain independence for themselves and their families, especially children.
Many times, survivors may suffer guilt and blame from their abuser, who accuses them of the behavior being their own fault. Rixie believes knowing what to expect in court is a key step to remaining on the right track after escaping an abusive relationship.
"We have a courtroom here on-site at One Safe Place. We provide court prep, which will walk somebody through what to expect when they go to court," said Rixie.
But taking the first step is always the hardest step for people living in a domestic violence situation. Sometimes advocates can spend weeks, months and even years trying to convince victims to make the first move.
"There are people with open arms waiting to help you," said Dixon.
One Safe Place is a non-profit organization open to helping women, men, and children.
"We provide walk-in services. So, anybody that's experiencing domestic violence, whether that's currently happening, or it's happened in the past, they are welcome to walk in and meet with an advocate to talk about their story and their history," said Rixie, "and our advocate to kind of navigate their situation and help them find whatever they're looking for, whether that's counseling, spiritual support, help with legal services."
Now, some of that help will come from organizers of the Bill Pickett Rodeo events thanks to proceeds from ticket sales. Donations can be made through the Bill Pickett Rodeo Ticket sales here.