ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Survivors of domestic violence joined community leaders on Monday as Mayor Jerry Demings issued a proclamation declaring October domestic violence awareness month.
Through Harbor House domestic violence survivors have help with housing, financial management, childcare and even pets.
On Monday during a meeting at the sheriff’s office, one survivor shared how Harbor House helped her and her son get through trouble and how that has transformed their lives.
“We have at least 500 calls a month, and just about 6000 individuals that reach out to us every year on that hotline,” said Harbor House CEO Michelle Sperzel.
Last year, Orange County had more than 7,000 reported domestic violence cases, but the fear is that many people are not reporting it.
The lack of reporting is a problem they believe is only exacerbated by the pandemic, especially last year with more people at home, resulting in fewer calls, arrests and people applying for injunctions.
“You think about it. Those people who may be victims aren’t coming to work with the bruises, their coworkers aren’t seeing them face to face,” said Sheriff John Mina.
Olivia, a domestic abuse survivor, shared that her abusive husband is now serving a life sentence.
“I had been abused by every man in my life. It was a cycle that I was not aware of,” Olivia said. “I took advantage of every opportunity that harbor house presented to me. I am beautifully broken. And I am moving beyond the bruises.”
With the help of Harbor House, she broke away with her son and is thriving on her own.
Officials hope more victims will see and realize they do have a way out.
“Together we will build a stronger, better, safer community where women, children and families can thrive,” said State Attorney Monique Worrell.
Toward the end of the month, the clerk of courts office is going to host a webinar showing the process of how to file for different types of injunctions.
On Monday, if you’re near Lake Eola, you can expect to see the fountain to be lighted purple to recognize domestic violence awareness month.