ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Nearly 40% of Rockford’s violent crime comes from domestic violence calls, and the city is now turning their focus to teens.

Seventy percent of teens committing violent crimes have been cross referenced as either being a witness or survivor of domestic violence. That stat is one of many reasons that Rockford formed a grassroots team. It is a group of seven paid members who either have a past conviction or first-hand experience on Rockford streets.

One of the members went from handcuffs to earning a master’s degree. She explained the reason that some people believe this group could be the answer to saving lives.

“That isn’t who I want to be, that isn’t who I am,” Treterra Flowers said.

There were few images that Flowers has of her face during her time in prison. When blurry mirrors made it hard to see her reflection behind bars, she used her time served to focus on what was on the inside.

“That environment is the type where either you isolate, or you focus on something in the mind that will take you out,” Flowers said.

She believes that her life was saved the day she was handcuffed for home invasion. Prison became her escape from an abusive relationship and a life that became unrecognizable.

“It was the worst situation I’ve ever been in,” Flowers said.

Flowers said that she grew up in a happy home. However, away from her family, she was a 17-year-old influenced by criminals. It is a trend that is being seen right now in Rockford’s crime rate.

“One of our grassroots members said to me, ‘we’re a community in mourning in certain neighborhoods,’ and that weighed on me because we are, we can see it on the faces of so many of us,” said Jennifer Cacciapaglia, manager of the Mayor’s Office on Domestic and Community Violence Prevention.

She is now one of seven on the City of Rockford’s Grassroots Team, a unit that connects with families in homes where some of the city’s most violent offenders are not even old enough to drive.

Flowers now looks at her past in a positive light.

“It was a dress rehearsal for the people I serve,” she said. “I would not be as reliable and trustworthy if I hadn’t gone through what I did in my life.”

She is using her past to help shape futures, getting her GED while incarcerated before going on to achieve her master’s degree before being released.

“I saw people around me who didn’t have an out date. That was a light for me, I did have a day to come home,” Flowers said. “I just needed to know what to do with the days in front of me.”

Flowers feels that she is making a difference, looking back while living a life she never pictured as a troubled team. She was sentenced to 10 years but ended up serving six. She said that it was a complicated situation, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but did not intend to commit a home invasion.

She is now hoping to inspire more people by sharing her story face-to-face with many who feel like they have lost their future. She said that prison save her life.

“It did…it did,” Flowers said.

If you are a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, visit our Stateline Strong page for resources.