In the end, this partner physically assaulted her twice – but never on the face. JJ finally confessed what he had done to her when a friend asked about the bruises she had on her arm — and she was grateful that her friend actually believed her. “Some of [my friends] didn’t believe me,” JJ told theGrio. “Honestly, at the time I didn’t really understand how wrong what he had done was.”

Like many victims of abuse who never receive counseling, JJ eventually found herself in another abusive relationship. This time the abuse wasn’t physical; it was emotional and verbal abuse from a lover and co-worker at a radio station.

“He would tell me that he couldn’t believe he was ever with me because I’d already been married and divorced, I had a child and I didn’t have a college degree,” she related. “So, he made me feel worthless and took every ounce of self-esteem I had and crushed it. When I told people the things that he was saying to me, it was so frustrating, because they didn’t see his behavior as abuse.”

When JJ finally told the human resources officer that he was harassing her, he filed a counterclaim alleging that she was abusing him.

“It was so embarrassing to have to defend myself against his false accusations,” she said. “Most of my friends in Indianapolis knew this guy, and they chalked up his actions up to just being a player or a jerk. I wish I had scars on my body so that people could see what he did to me.”

Eventually JJ left the relationship, and finally told her father, a retired police officer. He said that she needed to get help. JJ did seek treatment and today is an outspoken advocate for mental health and the need for people to get therapy in order to heal from abuse. She reminds women to break free and heal so they don’t end up in the same type of relationship in the future. She also offers pointed advice on how people should respond when someone they know tells them that they are being abused.

“When you’re being abused you’re already feeling crazy and then you have people who don’t believe you,” JJ informed us. “If someone comes to you and says that their partner is being abusive, be more open-minded. Consider that what you’re seeing isn’t all that’s happening. There’s often more going on than you can see on the surface, and very often, someone who hasn’t experienced abuse won’t be able to recognize or identify what’s really happening.”

It’s hard to say now what signs there may have been that Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins were caught in an abusive cycle. It’s impossible to know whether she could have escaped this relationship, if someone had seen the signs and offered help.

All we can do now is be more alert to abuse, whether we are enduring it, suspect it, or someone comes to us for help. The statistics are shocking, yet these real examples of domestic violence must make us all pause and take more responsibility for what happens in our communities.

Sil Lai Abrams is a writer, inspirational speaker, anti-domestic violence activist, Ebony.com’s relationship expert, and author of ‘No More Drama.’ She is also the founder ofTruthInReality.org, a grassroots organization committed to changing the way women and intimate partner violence are portrayed on reality television. Follow her on Twitter at @Sil_Lai.