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      Valley abuse shelters prepare for holiday increase in victims

      Brenda Heredia bought enough Thanksgiving food to feed a large family.

      Its members are not related by blood, rather the experience of abuse.

      Action 4 News hid their faces to keep their abusers from finding them.

      "Holidays we have an increase in numbers of clients, said Brenda Heredia, executive director of Family Crisis Center, a Harlingen nonprofit that helps abuse victims.

      On Thanksgiving, Heredia will cook a feast for those in the abuse shelter.

      The next day she said she'll likely welcome new abuse victims into the temporary home.

      In the days following Thanksgiving, Heredia said she expects a 20-percent increase in domestic abuse need.

      "Usually it's the drinking, but not always, said Heredia. If they're abusers, they're abusers."

      Heredia said alcohol, holiday stress and financial troubles incite abuse.

      For one victim Action 4 spoke with, Thanksgiving marks her worst memory, sexual abuse at the hands of her father.

      "We were supposed to have family over, and I wasn't going to be welcomed at the table, and I made a comment as to why, and he got upset, said the domestic abuse victim. And he told me, ~I'll show you, TM and he showed me."

      For the abused, Heredia has this message:

      "I want the victims to know it's not right. It's not their fault, regardless of what the perpetrator is telling them, said Heredia. Make the call, reach out and we will help them."

      For those who don't escape, the consequences can be grave for children.

      Heredia said a boy growing up around abuse is three times more likely to become an abuser.

      She said a girl growing up around abuse is three times more likely to become a victim.

      If you or someone you know is being abused and would like help, contact one of the following numbers.

      In Cameron County call Friendship of Women at (956) 544-7412.

      In Harlingen call the Family Crisis Center at (956) 423-9304.

      In Hidalgo County call Mujeres Unidas at 956-630-4881.