Center for Prevention of Abuse raises awareness for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Carol Merna, CEO of the Center for Prevention of Abuse (CFPA) in Peoria, said they are using this month to rally their staff and celebrate the survivors of domestic abuse.

Merna said the culture around the topic has changed, and that domestic violence was often viewed as a “private” issue.

“Domestic violence wasn’t always thought to be something that was a crime. People would have been sent home from the hospital and told to work it out with their partner or their spouse because it wasn’t an issue that was brought to the forefront like it is today,” she said.

An emergency center for CFPA was built in 1982, but it was only the second one in the country.

According to the Center for Prevention of Abuse, one in three women and one in four men are victims of domestic violence in their lifetime.

“If you’re standing in a coffee shop, and you look around and there are 10 people in the room, you can think about [that:] there are people in that room that are going to experience that type of violence.”

Merna said 10 million people go through domestic violence every year.

There was an immediate surge of calls to their crisis hotline when the lockdowns from COVID-19 began, she said. And notably, the calls were during odd times in the day, when someone could get to a phone. She said there was a lot of safety planning.

“Abusers use power to their advantage and isolation to their advantage. So, being quarantined at home was basically an escalation of the tools an abuser uses,” Merna said.

The CFPA saw a 30 percent increase in hotline use and provided 10,000 shelter nights. Merna said these numbers are the highest they’ve ever had in their 46 years of operation.

Going forward, Merna said more people are reaching out to learn more about domestic violence.

“Recognizing the flags, the red flags of abuse is not always something that comes as second nature to people. So we do have more people reaching out for our training on domestic violence. Whether it’s in cosmetology, human trafficking, or on the college campus, people are reaching out to learn more. And we are very thankful for that,” she said.

More information about the training can be found here.

The CFPA is celebrating its second emergency center in Pekin with a carry-out fish fry. It will run Oct. 8 from 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. It is $10 for adults and $5 for children. All proceeds go to emergency services.

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