Shanté Cotton, a 31-year-old life coach who live in the University City area, is passionate about empowering others to make their dreams come true.
Getting to that point hasn't been easy, however. She had to overcome physical and emotional abuse by her boyfriend of 10 years and leave the relationship in June 2009.
In 1998, Cotton, an 18-year-old high school senior, was living in a motel room and being supported by her boyfriend, who was nine years older. Her mother made her move out when she turned 18, and he was there, taking care of her and paying the bills. She quickly became dependent on him.
Cotton said he professed his love to her early in the relationship and quickly began controlling all the other relationships in her life, isolating her from most of her friends.
The physical abuse began with a slap in the face in 1998 and escalated throughout the years, especially when alcohol was involved.
"I'd say I was going to leave him, and the violence would get worse," said Cotton, who now volunteers at the Battered Women's Shelter.
She left him in 2006; but after losing her niece and her father in 2008, in her grief she was drawn back into the relationship.
At that time, she was depressed, drinking a lot and close to suicide.
In early June 2009, Cotton thought her life was about to end when her offender held a gun to her head. He then tried to strangle her and raped her, she said. Cotton said she remembered running into the streets completely naked afterward, thinking, "I've got to tell someone. I can't live like this anymore."
Within a week, she'd placed a restraining order against him and started attending church again at New Birth Charlotte in Huntersville.
"I finally felt at peace," she said.
After overcoming such a tragic situation, Cotton knew she wanted to use her experience to help others in similar circumstances.
Last June she self-published a memoir, "Broken Butterfly," about her struggles as a victim of domestic violence and her ability to rise above it.
Cotton is now a certified advocate for victims of domestic violence with United Family Services and a motivational speaker with the Mecklenburg County Women's Commission's Domestic Violence Speakers Bureau. She wants domestic violence victims to know they are not alone.
"The sun always shines bright after the storm. You can have a life again," she said.
Through her life-coaching business, Ignyte Inc., Cotton offers free life coaching to women who are victims of domestic violence.
If you need assistance, email Shanté Cotton at firstname.lastname@example.org.