WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - Among the 211 names of Texans that died as a result of domestic violence last year, there is one in particular that hits close to home, Yajaira Garcia.
Police say the 17-year-old was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend last November.
She was one of many teens in the Texoma area that experienced an abusive relationship. Advocate Stacey Lingbeek knows all too well what that is like.
At 18 she married for the first time, “I had three failed marriages. All of them were abusive.”
She eventually found herself all alone on the streets, trapped in sex trafficking and struggling with addictions.
But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. She found First Step. They gave her a safe place to stay, but it took two more stays at their shelter for her to start to regain her life and recognize her relationships were toxic.
She said, “You have mental situations, you lose your self-worth. I thought it was normal and that it was my fault. True love and real love doesn't treat you that way.”
Now at 36, she says it is her four kids that help her continue to strive to become her best self. “I'm going to have to help them heal. That's the difficult part of the cycle, and that's why I want to speak up and break that cycle,” Lingbeek said.
She, along with Wichita Falls Police Chief Manual Borrego, and Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana, spoke at First Step’s 17th Annual Candlelight Vigil Wednesday night to show domestic violence victims they are not alone.
“Through events like this we hope to get bigger and better and bring more awareness,” Mayor Santellana said.
Although it’s hard to relive the trauma, Lingbeek feels it is her duty to continue to tell her story – not to only be an example to her children but to also be a voice for those who can no longer tell their own stories.