Domestic Violence Awareness Month: How can you help?

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(ABC 6 News) – October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but this is an issue happening year-round.

People in our communities are experiencing domestic violence and it can go unnoticed.

Groups in our area shed light on those who are victims and survivors of domestic violence and their families.

"So many people are victims of domestic violence and there isn’t anybody that raises their hand and says ‘yep, yep, I want to be a victim.’ It’s a difficult thing," Jeannie Thompson, Director of Youth Programming & Community Outreach at the Women’s Shelter & Support Center in Rochester, said.

Statistics say one in four women and one in seven men will become a victim at some point in their lifetime.

"People often don’t know about us unless they need us. We just want to make people aware that there are services available," Thompson said.

At Family Service Rochester, they’re collecting your old phones and chargers to give to those who are experiencing domestic violence. If you have an old phone lying around at home that you’re not using, you could help save someone’s life. To donate, you can drop the phone and charger off at either of the Family Service Rochester locations.

"But if they still work, they can be activated to call 911. This is just another way of increasing their safety," Brenda Chilman, Director of Community Engagement at Family Service Rochester, said.

This is something Family Service Rochester has done for years, but they are seeing a greater need right now.

"We came to a point where our stockpile was depleted. So we are kind of sending out the need again, the word hey we need some more phones so this is a good time if you’re upgrading or have an old one sitting around the house," Chilman said.

The pandemic changed a lot of things. The Women’s Shelter & Support Center in Rochester saw a decrease in its crisis line calls during the pandemic.

Thompson says it’s because people were sheltered in their abuser’s homes. "So they couldn’t reach out to the crisis line and we were seeing a huge uptick in the number of protective orders that were being filed and then folks were contacting us through the emergency room." She says their injuries were much more severe than if they had been able to access services earlier.

"What I’ve heard from our staff is that the cases of domestic violence are getting more extreme and that has been the biggest change, and a concerning one," Chilman said.

But case numbers are still up. The Rochester Police Department reported 507 domestic-related offenses in 2020 and 443 so far in 2021.

The Women’s Shelter offers a 24/7 crisis line, emergency shelter and lots of support groups. Advocates are available 24 hours a day.

If you are involved in a domestic violence relationship or you have a family member that is, you can call the 24-hour crisis line at (507) 285-1010.