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Beauty Pageant Winner Breaks the Silence About Domestic Violence

In the US, one in four women are victims of domestic violence, and every day three women are killed by their partners. Women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence. When Kristen Paruginog was 18, she fell into the arms of a man who would physically, mentally, and verbally abuse her for three years.

“I’ve been through hell and back. I’ve been tied with my hands and legs behind my back while he suffocated me. He strangled me to the point where I thought I was going to die,” says Paruginog.

Kristen Paruginog is a former beauty pageant winner turned advocate and educator against domestic violence. In 2011, she shared her survivor story through a Facebook post which received an immense amount of support. Paruginog was so moved by the feedback about her experience with domestic violence that she was inspired to do more.

She began connecting with survivors and the families of victims who lost their lives to their abusers. The story of a woman named Brandi, who was only 22 years old when her boyfriend shot and killed her, particularly stuck with Paruginog and evoked a passion to carry on the legacy of women whose lives were tragically cut short by domestic violence.

This is when Break the Silence was born. Paruginog personally invested thousands of dollars into her campaign, and at 22 years old, she became the youngest founder of a national domestic violence organization.

“My entire heart and soul is in Break the Silence,” she says.

Break the Silence (BTS) is a nonprofit with a mission to empower the victims and survivors of domestic violence so that they are free to tell their stories, overcome their fears, and live healthy, fulfilled lives. Paruginog and her team believe that the best way to end domestic violence is to educate individuals across the nation. Through faith in the possibility of a world without domestic violence and unity, the organization seeks to transform the current condition of our culture and empower individuals seeking help in a unique way.

When Paruginog was being abused, she was uneducated about domestic violence. She was also unaware of the local resources in her community that helped people facing such violence. Paruginog had these personal experiences in mind when she created certain programs for BTS.

Paruginog feels that if she had been educated on domestic violence, she would have escaped sooner. This explains her development of 
educational programs such as the Guide to Healthy
Relationships. To bring more awareness to local resources, Paruginog created the Advocate Hotline, which connects victims to support in their community.

After Paruginog escaped her abuser, she began her journey to healing. In order to support victims experiencing a similar journey, she created the Women’s Revitalization Retreat, along with Women Empowerment Groups, which both offer opportunities for women to engage in workshops and activities that empower, challenge, and connect survivors.

In 2015, BTS helped over 300 families, individuals, and organizations, and educated over 12,000 students nationwide on domestic violence. In 2016, BTS was deemed a top-rated nonprofit by Great Nonprofits. Many innovative campaigns have been started through BTS, and more campaigns and events are created all the time. Anyone can support BTS by fundraising or donating to the cause. If you would like to get involved, click here.

Photos courtesy of Break the Silence

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