By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – It’s a nightmare with real images and real implications. For someone who has survived so much, getting to where she is has been an incredible success.

Natalie (credit: CBS)

“It just kind of bunches into this scary movie,” said Natalie. “A lot of different things, of different events. Life circumstances that are somehow woven into a story.”

Her story of trauma started young at age three. Natalie became an early victim of sexual assault by someone close – and it continued for years. When that ended and she grew into a teenager, along with maturity came a predatory teacher into her life.She was again the victim of assaults.

(credit: CBS)

As a college student, Natalie fell victim again and later, a man in her home town in Missouri began stalking her. She has gotten away to Denver, but her continued fears led to our agreement not to share her last name.

Denver was supposed to be a safer place. A new life and an opportunity to hold a good job and free herself of fears. She shared a ground floor apartment with her brother in City Park West, but one warm night earlier this year, when he wasn’t home, a man quietly slipped in through a window.

Natalie thought it was the cat that woke her.

CBS4’s Alan Gionet interviews Natalie. (credit: CBS)

“And it was dark,” she recalled “So I just got up and kind of rolled out of bed went to grab the cat, get out of my room and I grabbed his arm.”

She held on, but he slipped away.

“I’m a slow reactor so I didn’t scream. The cops told me that’s probably what saved me.”

(credit: CBS)

Somehow, it scared the intruder more than her and back out the window he went.

The break-in would rattle anyone. But add up all that’s happened to Natalie in the past and recovery is not a barrier, but a solid wall.

“Our mission is to help survivors… to help people impacted by trauma,” Enid Nieves said.

Nieves works at the Center for Trauma and Resilience. The unmarked building was close to Natalie’s apartment. When she found it, she found part of the answer to survive all she’d been through. She calls them, “triggers.” Triggers that open wounds and create fear.

(credit: CBS)

“A lot of these things are dictating the way I walk down the street, the way that I make eye contact with people,” said Natalie. She recalls how she felt. “I am submissive. I have to be submissive because I am a victim.”

The Center is a place that offers counseling and support for the victims of crime and tragedy.

“Some of the worst,” Nieves described.

Even family members of victims and witnesses can get help. In its decades of operation, law enforcement has come to rely on it to help people when the incident of tragedy is over, but the trauma is not.

“We are always looking at ways to help relocate someone, to help them with their rent , help them with their security deposit, help them with groceries, help them with their utility bills, ” said Nieves.

(credit: CBS)

Medical bills are huge. Sometimes the Center will talk to property owners and bosses about how people need more time. Victims of trauma tend to blame themselves.

“We work a lot with them to help them realize that it’s not their fault,” Nieves said.

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They have helped relocate people who live in fear. They provided a grant of $1,200 to Natalie who feared people could walk right into her apartment and into what she called “my space.” Now she’s in a new place on an upper floor with the help of the grant.

“It has been such a huge help to have them. I don’t know what I would have done last month.”

Natalie has shed tears and laughter in counseling at The Center.

“Those women that work there, they know how to show up. And that’s the difference.”

For Natalie, life as a victim is coming to an end. “I’m not alone, no, not at all.”

The Center for Trauma and Resilience is looking for money to help people survive some of the worst of what happens in our world. They are “boots on the ground” in that battle every day.

Alan Gionet is anchor of CBS4 This Morning and reports on a wide variety of issues and “Good Question” stories. He started at CBS4 in 1994. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanGTV or on Facebook.

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