Pine Belt nonprofit serves victims of domestic violence

Pine Belt nonprofit serves victims of domestic violence

LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - A nonprofit organization in Laurel is helping victims of domestic violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Domestic Abuse Family Shelter is helping victims of the crime.

“We just try to be a voice for the voiceless during this time,” said Rebecca Stewart, Executive Director for the Domestic Abuse Family Shelter.

The United Way Agency serves 11 counties in South Mississippi; Forrest, Lamar, Marion, Jones, Covington, Wayne, Greene, Perry, Jasper, Smith and Jefferson Davis.

It has a 24-hour crisis line and two locations, one in Hattiesburg and one in Laurel, that provide victim advocacy and counseling services.

Stewart is reminding people domestic violence does not discriminate.

“We all know someone who is a victim of domestic violence,” said Stewart. “Domestic violence victims are everywhere. Domestic violence knows no boundaries. Whether socioeconomic, the color of your skin, your education level, your status in life. It doesn’t matter. There are victims everywhere you look.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, domestic violence refers to intimate partner violence, which can come in the form of physical and sexual violence, stalking or psychological aggression.

The CDC says one in four women and one in nine men have experienced some form of intimate partner violence. It also says 43 million women have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

The Domestic Abuse Family Shelter served 209 victims in 2019.

Stewart says the shelter has received an uptick of calls during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We feel like the reason we’ve seen an increase in calls is because you’ve had children that were staying at home, you had parents that may have lost their jobs so you had financial instability,” said Stewart. “You had people that were not working, then you had, you know, the whole dynamic was there in the house. So, of course tensions rise, and if it’s already a domestic situation, it just adds to it.”

All services provided by the shelter are free of charge for victims.

If you are a victim of domestic violence and need assistance from the shelter, you can call its 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-649-1092.

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