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#MeToo Movement impacts local domestic violence shelter as requests for services double in 12 months

Posted at 5:51 PM, Oct 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-18 18:42:14-04

STUART, Fla. – A local domestic violence shelter says their hotline phone has been ringing off the hook.

“We have seen a twenty percent increase in the last twelve months in the number of hotline calls we’ve received,” said Jennifer Rey, the Program Services Director for Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, otherwise known as AVDA.

“We have seen a nine percent increase in the number of people we have sheltered and a 48 percent increase in the number of people we have served through our outreach programs.”

The reason? Rey believes it has a lot to do with the #MeToo Movement.

“When the #MeToo Movement started, we anticipated that our calls would increase,” said Rey, who sees similar trends whenever a domestic violence incident make headlines.

“It has been on the national media. It has been on social media. The fact that survivors know that everyone out there is supporting them and willing to talk out this is really just making people feel more comfortable now, than really ever before.”

The increase in calls means an increase in fundraising efforts since shelters like AVDA’s are totally free for women and children who seek help there.

“When we see an increase, it means we have more people in shelter than we have beds sometimes,” said Rey, who admits she recently had 64 people staying in her 62-bed shelter.

The need for more funding inspired Rey and her colleagues to create a campaign focused on making the conversation about domestic violence more comfortable: The Purple Pajama Party.

“You can invite your family, friends, and colleagues, and what is more comfortable than pajamas?”

Educating others on warning signs is something Sandra Lawson knows all too well. “I lost my sister. It will be five years this weekend,” said Lawson.

“I feel like if you are aware of what the warning signs are, you are more likely to be able to get involved and help. There were probably a lot of signs that were there that we just didn’t notice, and maybe we could have interjected and helped.”

Lawson never got to have that conversation with her sister Gemma Burlakoff, who was killed in a domestic violence dispute with her husband on A1A in Boca Raton nearly five years ago.

So on Thursday, she hosted a ‘Purple Pajama Party’ for her employees. “The effect that it has on your family life, your personal life, and even your work life, I know I had to take some time off from work. Getting back into the swing of things was very difficult because it really takes a toll on everything,” said Lawson.

According to AVDA, one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and one in three teens will experience dating violence before they graduate high school. If you want to host your own Purple Pajama Party during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, click here.