LA CROSSE, Wis - According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, 20 people per minute are physically abused by a partner in the United States.
One local woman is sharing her own personal story about overcoming the cycle of abuse in an effort to help others.
La Crosse native Carolyn Colleen is now the program director for the Center for Cancer at Gundersen Health System.
But her story, hasn't always been positive.
She's sharing her own story through her book, hoping to transform others and break the cycle of abuse.
Colleen's story began with many dark chapters.
"I suffered childhood sexual assault that lasted about two years, starting at age 4, which led me to an abusive relationship in marriage," Colleen said.
Often juggling work, sometimes as many as seven jobs at one time as well as her schooling, Colleen was forced to stay in public housing.
"It was scary. The first night that I stayed there, someone got stabbed," Colleen said.
It's a life, she says, inconceivable to many.
"I think one of the turning points was standing in line at the Salvation Army, not knowing where my next meal was coming from," Colleen said.
After getting back on her feet, Colleen began speaking at events in La Crosse.
"One of the audience members came up to me and asked, 'When is your book coming out?' she said.
Nine months later, her book, "F.I.E.R.C.E.," explains how just five minutes can change someone's life forever.
"When you're in that dark place, having an opportunity to get through a day is almost too much. Getting through a half-hour is too much sometimes," Colleen said. "You can choose to stop, reflect, focus on one goal, breathe, and choose how you want to change those next five minutes of your life."
She hopes that others in her same situation will lead by her example.
"You set a goal, and you start to think -- start dreaming," Colleen said. "You have to teach yourself how to dream -- teach yourself to think further than just one day."
It's a book, she hopes, that will allow others to write their own chapters going forward.
"That little bit of encouragement helped me believe that there's something of value within me to have a better life. It's rewarding, to be able to pay it forward," Colleen said.
Colleen now has three children.
She completed a degree in business administration in 2008, completed her MBA in 2010, and May, she expects to complete her Ph.D. in organizational leadership.
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