Crisis Services of North Alabama officials explain importance of domestic violence awareness

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. All this week, WAAY 31 is taking a closer look at the issue in North Alabama.

Posted: Oct 7, 2019 5:58 PM
Updated: Oct 7, 2019 6:55 PM

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. All this week, WAAY 31 is taking a closer look at the issue in North Alabama.

Domestic violence can take many forms. There is physical violence, but it can also includes verbal, emotional, financial and psychological abuse.

Curt Lindsley is president of the Board of Directors for Crisis Services of North Alabama, a private non-profit that operates the HOPE Place shelter in Huntsville.

"It's literally an epidemic problem," Lindsley said. "The need is so much greater than what is available resource-wise."

The numbers are staggering. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people every minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. That's more than 10 million every year.

"Statistically, one out of four women and one out of nine men, at some time in their life, will experience domestic violence," Lindsley said.

In North Alabama, in 2017, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency reported 6,747 domestic violence-related assaults, 73 rapes and five deaths tied to domestic violence.

As shocking as those numbers are, they're actually down significantly from a generation ago. The norm is changing. Society does not tolerate domestic violence and doesn't look the other way as often. Women are less dependent on their spouses for financial support, and there are more resources available to help those who find themselves in an abusive relationship.

Tanya Reagan, manager of the HOPE Place shelter, barely made it out of her abusive relationship alive. She's convinced her ex-husband would have shot her had she not found refuge and help.

"That's what caused me to leave. Having a gun pointed at my face and threatening, that one was for me," Reagan said. "Had gotten a restraining order at that point and had temporary custody of the kids, and he came back to probably kill me and perhaps the children."

He went to prison. She has dedicated her life to helping other women climb out of the pain and darkness of domestic violence. She is now the shelter manager of HOPE Place, which is unfortunately almost always full.

"We have a 25-bed facility and that's not near enough," Reagan said.

The demand for emergency shelters still far surpasses the available beds. It's a crisis Lindsley says impacts all aspects of society, rich or poor, white and blue collar.

"Each year, 8 million hours of work are lost due to domestic violence, which is 32,000 full-time jobs. For the U.S. economy, it impacts between $5 billion to $12 billion in lost time from work," Lindsley said.

The abuser is controlling, often isolating the victim from finances and other relationships, creating a dependency that becomes almost impossible to escape.

"And so it really creates a very difficult financial situation for so many people that are going through domestic violence," Lindsley said.

For Reagan, escape was literally a matter of life and death.

"I know without a doubt, had I not received shelter services, not started learning what was happening to me, not been told if your gut tells you something's not right, pay attention, I don't think I would be here talking with you today," she said.

This shelter costs more than a million dollars a year to operate. They rely on grants and donors to pay the bills.

Lindsley says awareness is a double-edged sword. As more survivors come forward, shelters have to find creative ways to help.

"And so if we have a situation where we have space and another shelter does not, or vice versa, then we're hear to help each other," Lindsley said.

If you or someone you know is involved in an abusive relationship, help is just a phone call away. You can call the Crisis Services of North Alabama's helpline at 256-716-1000.

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