PHOENIX — The month of October is recognized as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
It’s more important than ever to let those who experience domestic violence to know there is help available.
Phoenix Police Department says there has been an increase of domestic violence calls since the onset of the quarantine and pandemic.
Lauren Easter recalled the years she spent in an abusive relationship.
“During that time, I experienced physical, verbal, mental, economical and emotional abuse," Easter said.
For five years, Easter felt she was ugly, stupid and worthless, all symptoms of the abuse she lived with.
Her story is, unfortunately, not unique.
“Due to the quarantine, we have a lot of victims and suspects alike that are reporting the stress of being quarantined; of losing their job, of just being housed so close in proximity, being restricted on what they can do and where they can go, that's causing the added stress to the relationship, along with whatever their normal stressors are," explained Sgt. Heather Maldonado, a detective with the Phoenix Police Department who specialized in domestic violence cases.
Advocates say there is help available for anyone who wants to leave a violent situation.
In Phoenix Police’s Maryvale Precinct, Debbie Valenzuela is a Mobile Advocate. She travels with police officers to domestic violence calls and offers services to those affected by domestic violence on the spot.
“A lot of times victims of domestic violence don't want to come forward; they're scared,” Valenzuela said.
“If they do come in, we can let them know what services and resources we can assist them with if they do decide to leave their abusive relationship.”
After five years, Easter accepted those resources.
“I know -- for me -- if it wasn’t for having an advocate, someone who really believed in me and gave me that response that I needed, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Where Easter is today, and who she is today, couldn’t be further from the place she was in just a few years ago.
“My life now is -- I’m extremely happy,” she said.
“I’ve accomplished everything I thought I wasn’t able to. I graduated from the University of Arizona with a 4.0 [grade point average], with awards and honors and I was able to get a full-ride fellowship to my master’s program that I’m doing right now.”
Easter works with non-profits to advocate for those experiencing domestic violence, helping them reach their full potential in life.
Her advice to those living in an abusive relationship: “Do not lose hope. There is a way out. There is a way of having a life free of abuse and it’s so important that you stay strong, stay diligent and just reach out: You are not alone.”
Already this year, 36 people in Phoenix have died as a result of domestic violence and Phoenix police officers have responded to more than 31,000 domestic violence calls.
12 News anchors and reporters wore purple on TV Thursday to call attention to the efforts of preventing and ending domestic violence in our community.
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