Emerge! sees spike in domestic violence crisis calls

Emerge! sees spike in domestic violence crisis calls
(Source: Emerge!)
(Source: Emerge!)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - New numbers just released from Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse show a spike in the number of people calling its crisis hotline.

Officials report there were a total of 5,701 calls between July 2015 and July 2016.

That's up 27 percent from the same time the year before and the most calls received in Emerge! history.

Ed Mercurio-Sakwa, CEO of Emerge! said the numbers don't necessarily mean more violence between loved ones and family members.

"It's really hard to know," he said. "There's not an easy way to measure the actual level of domestic violence in particular because it's one of the most under reported crimes that exists. In fact, research shows only one in about 10 cases get reported and that has proven to be driven by massive shame and guilt and also tremendous fear."

Mercurio-Sakwa believes the reason for the increase in calls could be a combination of factors.

One is more marketing.

"There's more outreach, more efforts in the community to make sure people who need help can get it and know where to find it," he said. "We hope that's part of what's behind this."

A second reason he suggested is the organization's partnership with law enforcement.

"When a law enforcement officer responds on scene, they're assessing level of danger, risk of injury, or death and when somebody is at high risk, they're getting them plugged into our services right away," he said.

Mercurio-Sakwa predicted asking for help is also becoming more widely accepted.

However, he said he believes there's still more room for improvement.

"We want people to know it's OK to ask for help. It's not something you need to be ashamed of, it's confidential. It's safe to reach out," he said. "We also want people to know that it's OK to offer help to others instead of assuming it's between two people behind closed doors. It's really something we as bystanders need to get involved in."

Emerge! also reported there were 25 domestic violence-related deaths in 2015 compared to 19 in 2014.

"It makes me incredibly sad to think about the fact that it's completely preventable," Mercurio-Sakwa said.

For more information about Emerge!, visit http://www.emergecenter.org/

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, the 24/7 bilingual crisis hotline can provide emotional support safety planning and other services at 520-795-4266.

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