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Survivor of kidnapping, brutal abuse speaks out to help others

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Melissa says first she considered herself a victim of domestic violence. Then she saw herself as a survivor. And now she is a "thriver."

She is speaking publicly about her case in hopes of helping other women.

A Denver jury last week convicted Eric Barney of holding Melissa a prisoner in her own home for two months, beating and abusing her daily.

In court documents, police describe finding blood on the walls of the bedroom and on the mattress and holes punched in the walls of the Denver house.

Melissa says, “There were times when I did not think I would be leaving my home alive. The abuse and the fear that he instilled in me kept me from doing anything.”

Denver police issued the first arrest warrant for Barney in July 2011, after he put Melisssa in the hospital.  She says, “I had been beaten pretty bad. My head was torn up and my nose was broken and a rib was broken.”

Doctors called police. But they did not pick Barney up and a few days later he let himself back into her house with a key she did not know he had.

She says, “That’s when things really got brutal.”  She says he cut her off from friends and family. He monitored her every move, even removing her bedroom door so she could not close it.

He constantly told her he would kill her and her family if she tried to leave or call police.

Court documents say she told police that Barney threatened her if she called 911. “She would be dead before she hung up the phone.”

She says he told her he had someone watch the house whenever he left. Melissa says, “He did brainwash me and I was scared for my life and my family’s life.”

Melissa says she soon lost her job and Barney tried to force her to become an escort in order to make money.

She says she refused and abuse became worse.

Melissa says she believed she would be killed if she did not get help so she convinced Barney to let her meet her mother outside of the house.

She says he beat her up to show her what would happen if she told her mother what was going on.

“I had two black eyes, I was bruised all over. My nose was broken again, two ribs on my left side were broken.”  Her mother took Melissa to police, but she was terrified and refused to talk to them until they got her entire family to a safe place.

At the trial she says she promised herself one thing. “I made a promise that I would look him in the eyes in the courtroom. The first day I couldn’t do it.”

But Melissa was on the witness stand for two days, and the second day she kept her promise. She says, “Right before I was able to get down, they asked me once more, what did he tell you if you told police and I remember looking him in the eyes and saying he would kill me.

She says, “Just making that eye contact with him was enough for me. I knew I had done my part.”

It took the jury only three and a half hours to find Barney guilty.

Melissa says she has worked harder than she ever worked to get her life back.

She wants to see changes in the system that makes it easier for domestic violence victims to get assistance and support.

She says a proposed center in Denver that would house numerous agencies under one roof would make a huge difference. She is also seeking to help other women.

She is working with a legal aid company and you can get to her website by contacting www.greatlegalbenefit.com/mrowold.