Domestic violence is a big problem in our community, affecting women from all walks of life, regardless of age or income.
The mayor of Tucson has proclaimed today as Emerge Center against Domestic Violence Day, recognizing the efforts taking place in our community to help families get out of violent relationships.
Counselors at the Emerge Center against Domestic Violence have a very heavy caseload; This is where women come to for counseling, help and support.
Staff members say they are getting more than 5,000 calls and are providing emergency shelter for about 1,000 people every year.
Forty percent of them are children.
"We have 50 beds in our emergency shelter and those stay full on regular basis," Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse CEO Ed Mercurio-Sakwa said." They are full, so if I needed help, what would happen? We are lucky enough to have hotel partners that will help us with overflow."
More than 300 people showed up at a mother's day lunch this afternoon to celebrate the brave women who have had the courage to walk out of violent relationships..
Staff at Emerge tell me one of the biggest challenges they're facing right now is the budget, a growing caseload, and less staff to handle all of the work are putting a lot of strain on services for those who need help in our community.
"We've seen hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cuts over the last several years," Mercurio-Sakwa said. "[We're] currently waiting to see what the state will do in terms of sequestration and apply that to state funding. [We're] waiting to see what additional cuts we might have."
The staff is in wait-and-see mode right now.
Those budget cuts are impacting everyone; the staff at the Emerge Center against Domestic Violence has been hit pretty hard.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been cut in the last few years, and there may be more.
Tucson police are also slammed.
They say the domestic violence unit is handling an average of 950 domestic violence calls per month.
They have ten detectives dedicated to just these types of calls and about 150 of these cases end up being prosecuted as felonies.
"It includes all different kinds of things," said Sgt. Mike Lapedus, the domestic violence unit supervisor with the Tucson Police Department. "It can be something as simple as a disturbance, definitely something being broken, threats [and] physical assaults."
Local domestic violence shelters are full tonight, but officials say they have partnered up with local hotels, so they will never turn away anyone who needs emergency shelter.
We spoke to one domestic violence survivor tonight who suffered abuse, both mental and physical, for years before finally getting the courage to walk out.
"Unless you're there, you don't know what it's like," domestic violence survivor, Dolores Villasenor, said. "I used to be one of those people that said, ‘Oh my gosh, I would never put up with that.' When you're in that situation, it's different. You have to know when it's right for you to get away."
Tucson police say state law requires them to make arrests in all domestic violence cases involving injuries or the use of a deadly weapon.
But in the city, they've taken it even further; Police will make arrests even in misdemeanor cases where they suspect domestic violence has taken place.
Safety notice: If you are in danger, please use a safer computer, call 911, your local hotline at (888) 428-0101, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence hotline at (800) 799-7233 or (800) 787-3224.
More information can be found at www.emergecenter.org.
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