At 18-years-old, Tiffany Sparks married her high school sweetheart in Gilmer, Texas. For the first few years of marriage she was hopeful for a perfect family life.
"After about five or six years of being married, my husband began to be more controlling and a little bit verbally abusive," Tiffany Sparks said. "After my son was born he started getting physically abusive."
For the last 11 years of her marriage the brutal beatings progressed. Her son witnessed the abuse over the years that resulted in broken hands, arms, ribs, a broken jaw, and collapsed lungs.
"I remember the last week and a half that I was with him it was every day; sometimes two or three times a day where he was abusing me. I finally got to the point where I just couldn't take it anymore," Sparks said.
She had no where to run and no idea how to leave her ex-husband.
Sparks said, "I just knew in my heart that I really had to leave because I had a feeling that if I didn't I wouldn't be alive."
Sparks tried to hide her injuries and bruises but they were noticed.
"I would wear big sunglasses, long sleeved shirts and blue jeans. There was a period of several years I never even owned a pair of shorts," Sparks said "Another lady who had been through a similar situation told me how to get away and she helped me get in contact with the Women's Shelter."
In 2004, The Women's Shelter developed a safety plan to get the abused woman out of Gilmer.
"From there they hid me in a church until I could get to a safer place. My mom was able to come and get me and bring me back to Nacogdoches," Sparks said.
More than 80 percent of her body was bruised. The Women's Shelter in Nacogdoches knew Sparks needed medical attention.
"I had a life support machine for ten days when I first got her," Sparks said. "They were asking me about funeral arrangements."
Nine years later, photos of her injuries bring back bad memories but more than anything they serve as a reminder of surviving a life or death marriage.
Sparks said, "It's a really good feeling because I don't have do what someone else tells me. I can do what I want to."
She now has the freedom to do things she's never done before. She's been divorced for seven years and is finally getting the chance to go back to college to fulfill her dreams of becoming a nurse.
"A lot of times I think about if I would not have gotten out and come down here I knew I would not have been alive," Sparks said. "I would not have been able to see my son graduate from high school. I wouldn't have been able to go back to school and do things that I dreamed of doing. And I wouldn't be able to enjoy life the way I do now."
Today, this survivor works as an active volunteer with the Family Crisis Center aiding other battered women in the same way she once received help.
Everyone can learn life lessons from the accomplishments of our KTRE survivors. If you would like to share your survivor story on how East Texans can strive to overcome any challenge life can throw at us, please send an email to email@example.com.