Victim of violent attack wants others to know they're not alone

A traumatic incident was the catalyst for a Bay Area woman to begin helping others.

Melissa Mihok knows the pain of a violent act. In 2008, her downtown St. Petersburg workplace was robbed. A man put a gun to her head.

"They took it a step farther and tried to kidnap me and dragged me into a different part of the business and I was raped and attacked," Mihok remembered.

She survived, but the attack stayed with her. "Through the trauma I experienced... I couldn't even walk down the street without feeling that someone was coming up from behind me," she explained. 

When she tried to seek help, finding a counselor was difficult.

"I recognize that there was a need for crisis counseling services in our community for those who have been affected by sexual assault and domestic violence," Mihok said.

She made part of her healing process helping other victims and Heels To Heal was born.

The program gives domestic violence and sexual assault victims 12 free counseling sessions.

"I really wanted to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to get the crisis counseling services that they needed, even if they couldn't afford them," said Mihok.

Those who provide services to victims say it's an important step for their clients to take.

Licensed clinical social worker Jennifer Teoli said, "I get to see people go from being paralyzed and addictive to living a life with joy again."