Empowering victims to leave: Sandy City continues conversation about domestic violence

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SANDY (ABC4 News) – Sandy City is kicking off a week-long schedule of events for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Local law enforcement reported seeing a 6 percent increase in the total number of domestic violence incidents in the past year. But officials believe it may be because of more victims feeling empowered to come forward.

In a room of dozens of people, Sandy City resident Martina Alvera shared her story Monday morning of surviving for domestic violence for 11 years.

“Domestic violence comes in many forms – verbal, emotional, psychological, and physical. It does not discriminate. It does not care about your financial status, your place in the community, your ethnic background, your upbringing, your religious beliefs, or your environment,” said Alvera.

Alvera explained that as a victim, she was in denial at times and tried to justify her abuser’s behaviors. Contrary to what some may think, she explained it’s not easy for victims to leave their abusers and could take years before they can actually walk away.

“Everyday was like walking on eggshells. I couldn’t just pick up and leave. I don’t know where to go. I would go with family, but they don’t want this problem in their lap and I don’t want them to know about my problem. I could go to the local shelter but then I felt guilty thinking, ‘Well, maybe other people need this more than I do,'” she said.

She recalled that when she finally reached her breaking point, it was partly thanks to a Sandy Police officer that she was able to gain the strength to walk away.

“The last straw was my abuser stabbing me with a used drug needle in front of my daughter. She shouldn’t have to see her mother bleed,” said Alvera. “I remember the police officer sitting down with me and telling me, ‘You don’t have to live this way.’ He gave me a brochure and told me, ‘We have people in our office that can help you. You don’t have to live like this anymore.'”

Their goal, according to Sandy Police Chief William O’Neal, is to prevent repeated cycles of abuse and getting victims the help and resources they need.

“What we want to avoid is someone being victimized over and over again. Before when we didn’t have programs and resources, we might have just showed up, take a case, possibly make an arrest, and then leave,” he said. “But now, we’ve made it so our Family Crimes Unit can intervene. Whether it’s a therapist, a place to stay, or resources to end the cycle…there’s options for victims.”

In the past year, Sandy Police reported a 6 percent increase in the total number of domestic violence incidents (804 from September 1, 2018, to August 31, 2019). They also shared the following statistics:

  • 269 domestic violence assaults (22 less than last year)
  • 535 verbal domestic incidents (72 more than last year)
  • 165 children witnessing domestic violence (32 less than last year)
  • 278 child victims (8 more than last year)

But Chief O’Neal noted the increase may be due to more victims feeling empowered to come forward. However, he believes these numbers are not an accurate portrayal of the epidemic and there are still cases going unreported.

“Most of these victims live in fear of repercussions thinking, ‘If I call the police, what’s going to happen to me next?’” he said. “A lot of times, these people, they don’t want to call the police. ‘I’ll just endure it’ or they’ll even think this is normal or I deserve this or I’m just trying to keep the family together.”

City officials said they hope to decrease the stigma and encourage more victims to come forward through their awareness and outreach efforts.

For more information on Sandy City’s domestic violence awareness events or their resource list, click here.

Domestic Violence: Support for victims and survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence is available 24/7 at 1-800-897-LINK (5465). If you or someone else is in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.

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