Strong. Confident. Brave. Relentless.

These are things I believe women should be, and they’re qualities I believe live within every woman.

But sometimes those qualities are damaged and forced to be hidden deep, deep inside a woman.

Megan Montgomery, 31, of Hoover was allegedly shot and killed by her estranged husband earlier this week. A former police officer, he turned himself in after allegedly dumping her body in a parking lot.

Montgomery was the victim of domestic violence. She had a restraining order against this man and was going through the steps of divorcing him. 

She was trying to get out. But now it’s too late.

And it makes me hurt for each individual who has been a victim of domestic violence. Montgomery was actively trying to save herself, but there are so many who never get that courage.

Her husband came and got her from a bar where she was with a group of people. She wasn’t able to speak up for herself and tell the people she was with this man was dangerous when she left with him, for whatever reason, and we’ll never know why. But I know she was scared. I know fear played a huge part in that. Domestic violence creates an environment and type of fear no one should ever have to feel. 

Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S., which is more than 10 million women and men each year. There were 32,178 domestic simple assaults and 3,867 domestic aggravated assaults in Alabama in 2017, according to the most recent statistics from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

Those are all people — human beings. For the most part — 80% in Alabama — these are women. And in most cases, it’s a spouse/partner who is the abuser.

These victims are made to feel like they can’t get escape. There’s no hope for them, they think. But there is, no matter how truly impossible and scary it may seem.

My advice goes to all the women, and men too, who are victims of domestic violence. Get out before it’s too late. Let these news stories be your motivator. You do not deserve to be a victim for one more second.

You are your strongest weapon. You have so much strength deep inside of you but you have to put it to good use. You have to say enough is enough. You have to let go of the chokehold you’re under. You have to stop surrendering to the fact you’re terrified and feel stuck. 

Love is not supposed to hurt. It may be hard, but it is not supposed to make you fear for your life on a daily basis. It is not supposed to give you bruises, cuts or, like Montgomery, gunshot wounds.

Montgomery’s alleged killer — and once lover — had been arrested for domestic violence against Montgomery before. He allegedly shot her in the arm. NBC News reported the husband was not prosecuted for a felony in that case due to a “failure to cooperate by Ms. Montgomery.”

It seems like she faced what many victims face in this situation, and that’s a fear speaking up will make everything so much worse.

A lot of times it gets serious enough to involve police but it doesn’t matter because the victim is so terribly afraid of the abuser they stay quiet. They’re too afraid of what might happen later on when the abuser gets out of jail or worse, doesn’t stay in jail and gets out on bond. They think they can handle the abuse they’re taking now because they think it definitely can’t be as bad as what they would face if they met with their abuser after speaking out.

There are so many resources available to victims of domestic violence. I’ve always been one to have a voice for those who don’t have one, and that’s why I’m speaking out on this. If anyone reading this needs a resource, use it. If you have one person you can trust, tell them. Get them to help you. You can do this, but you need help.

The Domestic Violence Intervention Center here in Tallapoosa County can be reached at 334-749-1515. It’s a safe place from immediate domestic violence. Rape Counselors of East Alabama serves sexually assaulted victims; call 334-741-0707. The Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch (256-790-9669) provides a home for younger girls in abusive situations.

An abuser can take away your confidence but can never touch the strength and power you have within you. Use it. There is somewhere to turn; this doesn’t have to be forever. Take that step and get out. Bite the bullet before it’s too late. You can overcome this.

If you know someone living through domestic violence, help them take the first step toward a sanctuary. We have to be voices and helping hands for these people before there’s no time left. Unfortunately, domestic violence will always be a living, breathing monster in this world. That’s why women, and the men affected, must stand up for themselves if they want to put a stop to it. 

Put your strength, power, resilience and bravery to good use. Your life matters too much for it to end at the hands of an abuser.

Santana Wood is managing editor of TPI’s newspapers. She can be reached at santana.wood@alexcityoutlook.com