One in three women will report being physically abused in their lifetime by a husband or boyfriend, according to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline's Web site, www.ndvh.org.
"Domestic violence is a crime that affects victims of any age, race or social background, a crime that knows no boundaries," said Fort Collins Mayor Ray Martinez, a former police sergeant at Fort Collins Police Services. "Domestic violence is an issue in every community in the nation. It affects everyone. It does not discriminate – there is not one type of victim in domestic violence cases."
While some may think December can be a dangerous time for potential victims of domestic violence because of added stress and increased tension in the home, Vicky Lutz, executive director of Crossroads, Larimer County's domestic violence shelter, does not necessarily agree.
"We have not found any statistics that either support or refute the belief that December has the highest rates of violence," Lutz said. "Domestic violence is not a seasonal crime. It takes place every single day of the year."
Because domestic violence occurs consistently, Crossroads offers 24-hour-a-day services to aid domestic violence victims including a safe house, counseling, legal services, child care, and a victim's response unit and crisis line.
"This year, we have had over 7,000 phone calls to our crisis line, a number that is up 20 percent from last year's amount," Lutz said. "We hope that this increased amount of calls can be attributed to an increased awareness about domestic violence, an awareness that is causing victims to call in to get help, even before an act of violence takes place, but we are not sure if that is what has caused the increase."
Domestic abuse can happen many different ways – it is not limited to just physical abuse. In fact, Lutz said, abuse usually does not usually start out in a physical form.
"In many cases, the victim will begin to be isolated by their abuser, slowly being forced away from the outside world. When isolation stops being effective for the abuser's needs, it normally escalates to psychological abuse," Lutz said. "The abuser tries to eliminate the various outlets for their victim, forcing the victim to only see a reflection of themselves in the abuser. When this is not enough control for the abuser, violence is often the next stage of domestic abuse."
Statistically, 16- to 24-year-old women are at the highest risk to be abused by their partner.
"We are always told by our mothers to be wary of walking down the street alone," Lutz said. "Yet, girls between the ages of 16 and 24 need to be just as careful with their own boyfriends in some cases, for they may be in just as much danger with them."
Some people, including Lutz, feel the key to stopping domestic violence is awareness and making sure that victims know that there are agencies and support services to help them.
Dakota Cervenka, a freshman animal sciences and agriculture business major, agreed with Lutz.
"Domestic violence is a crime that takes place a lot more than I think people realize," Cervenka said. "The victims sometimes don't know what to do to get help. They feel like it is their fault that they are being abused, when in reality, they have no part in causing the abuse."
Victims of domestic violence or those who feel they are in danger can contact Crossroads for assistance on the crisis line: 482-3502, or toll free at (888) 541-SAFE. Those interested in helping victims of domestic violence can contact Crossroads at 482-3535.