Table decor at the 24th annual Knock Out Abuse Gala at the Ritz Carlton in D.C. on Nov. 2. (Erin Schaff/For The Washington Post)

On Oct. 16, 2011, I traveled to Michigan to try to repair my marriage.

My faith has always been the center of my life. I didn’t believe in divorce, and life as a single mother to four children seemed impossible. After a few tense moments with my husband, I went for a walk with nothing but my cellphone. My husband followed me and suggested we go on a drive to his friend’s place. He soon became agitated as I took calls settling a project for our daughter’s school. As I turned to take another call, my husband became enraged and attempted to grab my phone. He proceeded to wrestle and punch me repeatedly. My glasses flew off and broke. My head pounded. I remember screaming and scratching at his face as he held me in a headlock and continued punching me until he finally threw me to the ground.

I called the police after he left, and I realized I did not know where I was. My husband was arrested. His family blamed me. They had my purse, my luggage and my children and refused to help me. I was stranded. Battered. Alone.

Eventually, my husband returned to the apartment where I was stranded. It was such a strange time, as I struggled to process what was happening. I remember agreeing to return to Maryland as a family. And I remember finally getting to see my children. I remember the excitement on their faces when they saw their parents reunited. I remember making up an excuse about my glasses being broken and the scratches on my eye and being grateful that my face didn’t bruise. No one in my husband’s family ever acknowledged the assault. For the next couple of weeks, I remember the feeling of guilt and betrayal when, as he kissed my face, I winced from the pain inflicted by his fists.

We returned to Maryland. Our friends and church members heralded us as a couple who worked things out. No one asked what happened in Michigan. It was a moment in time that was buried. It was my secret, my shame to carry.

Incidents of violence increased in our household. As did my denial of what was happening to me. But that changed when my husband turned his rage from me to one of our children. I lost everything and, at seven months pregnant, I moved into a shelter with my four young children. I learned how few protections are offered to victims and survivors of domestic violence. I rebuilt my life and committed to fighting to help others escape the cycle of abuse.

An untold number of women share my story. Here in Maryland, where I now serve in the state legislature, holding on to that secret too often leads to murder. According to the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, between July 2015 and June 2016, 62 percent of domestic violence fatalities were committed by an intimate partner. Andrea Grinage was set on fire while pregnant. And it's not just in Maryland. In the District, Paula Renee Coles lost her life while holding her baby in her arms. Our children are no safer than we are.

Our community is ill-equipped to handle the crisis happening in too many homes across the region. That’s why I introduced legislation here in Maryland to ensure that social service agencies are engaged in homes where domestic violence is taking place in the presence of children — so we can create a system to support victims before they end up in a hospital or a hearse.

As a survivor, I appreciate the increased attention to domestic violence in October, but we need that consciousness and involvement year-round. We need it in November and December when the holiday period increases stress. We need it in January when legislative bodies return and begin deliberating policy that could help stem the tide of violence and keep families together. I hope my colleagues in Annapolis will join me in this cause.

We have to go #BeyondOctober to ensure that real change and protections are provided for victims of domestic violence. I’ve been that woman bruised, abandoned and alone. She needs someone to let her know there is something beyond that moment in time. There is someone fighting for her. I’m fighting for her every moment, every day so she can one day fight for herself.

The writer, a Democrat, represents Prince George’s County in the Maryland House of Delegates.