Advocacy Groups Come Together to Stop Family Violence in Niagara Falls

May 10, 2011 Updated May 10, 2011 at 12:55 PM EDT

By Jaclyn Asztalos

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May 10, 2011 Updated May 10, 2011 at 12:55 PM EDT

Niagara County Child Protective Services investigated more than 3,000 cases of child abuse last year. Now, groups are coming together to not only fight child abuse but also overall family violence.

Stephanie Turk was gunned down at her mother's home in Niagara Falls in 2009. She was shot numerous times by her estranged boyfriend. Luckily, she survived but many victims of family violence don't live to tell about it. Cases like these are all too common in Niagara County and across Western New York.

"I want people to know that there is always someone out there to help. No one has to do it alone," Vice President of Programs for the YWCA of Niagara Mary Brennan-Taylor said.

That is the message that advocacy groups are trying to send to people suffering with domestic abuse. Those groups, along with members of law enforcement, came together for this year's Family Violence Intervention Conference, Tuesday.

"These things are completely preventable so our goal is to educate the community to keep women safe and keep children safe," Executive Director of the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara Laura Kelemen said.

Many advocates said it's not as easy as just getting the information out there. It may take time for families to build the strength to leave.

"Making those changes I may have to change my children's school district, change my location, lose my family, friends, connection to the community. Leaving is a process," Kelemen said.

These groups are working together to give people the opportunity to start that process.

"My advice is just to make that first call," Brennan-Taylor said.

Niagara Falls Police Chief John Chella said that advice is working. The number of domestic violence calls went up six percent in the city last year and he said that is a good thing.

"What it shows from my perspective is that victims are more willing to come forward and report the violence. Where in years past they might suffer for years and years without seeking help from authorities," Chella said.

There are many resources out there and these advocates say make that call before it's too late.