BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Take a drive down Delaware Avenue in Downtown Buffalo and there's a good change you'll spot purple ribbons on the lawn of Child and Family Services. A visual representation of a domestic violence shelter, intentionally shielded from the public.
"A victim is a survivor," Melinda Mantino-Koch, a Domestic Violence Advocate for Haven House, said. She continued, "And they've been through things that most people can't even imagine."
Forty ribbons to mark forty years of support Haven House has offered thousands of survivors who have walked through its doors.
"Domestic violence is almost like a hidden or silent epidemic in that it's happening everywhere, but people don't realize it," Sara Grady, Interim Director at Haven House, said.
According to Grady and Haven House, in 2018 a little more than 400 survivors were taken into its shelter. Another 1,300 were helped through non-residential programs and 2,300 calls came through the confidential 24-hour hotline. That call, the brave first step that begins so many survivor's journeys.
"That's the first, most critical step to just sharing your story with someone who understands," Mantino-Koch said. Grady added, "A domestic violence advocate on the line is going to talk to them about what's their experience with domestic violence, what lead them to call this time, what kind of services and support are they looking for."
Those advocates then put in referrals to programs survivors may need.
"Like many things that people struggle with in life, it's a process," Mantino-Koch said. Haven House also offers resources outside of the shelter including support groups, legal assistance and economic empowerment programs. As the only licensed domestic violence shelter in Erie County, it aims to educate the community to see the signs, before it's too late.
"It's very important to remember you're not alone and that there are people and places out there that understand it, are not going to blame you and are there to assist you," Mantino-Koch stressed.
If you are in danger, please call 911 for assistance or the 24-hour hotlines at (716) 884–6000 (Haven House) or 716-862-HELP (4357). More information about Haven House and available resources can be found here.