Mariah remembers the day her ex-boyfriend tried to suffocate her.
“He covered my mouth like this, and I was screaming like ‘Can you stop? Can you stop?’” she remembered.
“I was going in and out of consciousness all the time, I was tapping out,” she said. “Like ‘I want to go, let me go.’ He was like, ‘no, stay quiet.’”
It’s pain she’s trying to leave behind now that she’s in a good place.
She’s studying to get her GED and to get back on track after five years of physical abuse.
“He pulled my hair before,” she said. “He would shove down medication down my throat. He busted my lip in the car.”
Her darkest day came in February.
“I was screaming and screaming and screaming like, ‘help, help,’” she said.
Her ex-boyfriend pulled a knife on her and was arrested.
It’s a story of pain shared by hundreds of other victims reaching out to Somy Ali for help.
“Every day we’re getting survivors,” Ali said. “Every day we’re getting referrals.”
Ali is the founder of No More Tears, a nonprofit which helps victims of domestic abuse. She helped Mariah find a new home.
Ali says they’ve had a huge uptick in people reaching out since last year, and it’s not slowing down.
She says shelters have been turning some victims away because of COVID-19.
“It’s been bad,” Ali said. “It’s been really, really bad.”
From March 2020 to December 2020, the nonprofit housed 192 people. Since then, that number has jumped to 285.
Ali says referrals have also tripled from 10 to 15 a day to about 50 a day. Many of the calls are even from out of state.
"Everyone was like, 'woohoo 2021!' but it’s like, 'no,'" Ali said. “It’s the complete opposite.”
Opposite and alarming, if you look at cases across the country.
The National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice reported an 8.1% jump in domestic violence incidents in the U.S. during the pandemic. It’s an increase seen in South Florida as well.
On Tuesday, there were three separate domestic violence killings. One of the most gruesome cases happened on Sunday.
Shots rang out in Miami-Dade County after police say a man killed two of his family members in their own home then killed himself.
In Broward County, courts have been overwhelmed with domestic violence cases this week with 17 cases on Tuesday and 30 on Monday.
While many victims try to begin their healing, Mariah is thankful for the refuge she’s found in No More Tears.
“I feel safe,” Mariah said. “I feel happy.”
She says she’s enjoying the new space she’s in, no longer in fear.
“I can actually breathe,” she said.