Domestic violence shelter full through the holiday

Domestic violence shelter full through the holiday

Advocates for the victims of domestic violence say that through 2016, they have seen a steady stream of victims seeking help from places like Savannah's SAFE Shelter. They expect to see the number of victims surpass last year's total.

But the executive director of the SAFE Shelter says, unfortunately, especially through the holidays, victims don't seek help as much. The theory is, victims want to try to maintain a sense of normalcy and family through the holidays. But the executive director of the SAFE Shelter explained why that decision is such a dangerous one.

The 48-bed SAFE Shelter, the largest domestic violence shelter in Georgia, is housing and helping beyond capacity. It's the result of a two-year trend that's seen numbers begin to increase in the summer, and max-out until the end of the year.

"Right now, today, we have 56 people in our shelter. And that's 24 women and 32 children," said Cheryl Branch, the shelter's executive director.

Branch said around the holiday's, there can be a lull in the numbers of victims coming to them for help. For those wanting to keep the family together, despite violence in the home, Branch posed this question.

"You can ask yourself what's more important. I want the illusion of the picture-perfect, family on TV-kind of Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, New Years...or at what point am I going to say this is enough," Branch said.

In her decades of experience of a victim's advocate, Branch said the abuse typically gets worse over time, and the holidays can only give the illusion that everything is all right.

"Ask yourself," Branch said, "I've prayed, I've done this, I've done that. I've done everything he's asked for. Has anything worked? How was last Christmas? How was the last Thanksgiving? How was the last birthday for one of your children?"

Branch said she's thankful for the families that did spend the holiday with them, out of harm's way.

"So see you have options, you have options and you have choices, and that's what's important. But it starts with one phone call."

So far this year, there have been six local intimate partner-related homicides, up one from 2015's total.

Click here to find our more about SAFE Shelter. Call 912.629.8888 for the Crisis Call Line.

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