The Northwest Arkansas Women's Shelter saw a record number of people seek help in 2012. Shelter officials said the reason for the spike is financial stress and crime.
“What we are seeing recently are victims coming from situations that seem to be more and more dangerous,"said Melanie Palmer, Executive Director. "We have a lot of victims coming to us whose abusers are involved with drugs or use drugs. So an increase in drug crime will lead to violence in those families and we'll see those victims come to our shelter seeking help."
The shelter took in 526 men, women and children in 2012, an increase of 49 people over the 477 sheltered in 2011.
Palmer says it’s the most the shelter has ever provided for in one year.
“We have seen an increase every year for the past decade so those numbers continue to climb for us so we anticipated that we would break 500 this year but we really didn`t expect to break it by that much," said Palmer.
Three days after Christmas the shelter had a record number of people staying at the shelter at once. November and December 2012, 95 women took shelter, that`s double from the same time in 2011.
“A lot of families want to get out of their violent situation during the holidays. A lot of the families that we shelter November and December were here because they wanted a better start for their families in the New Year they didn't want their children to endure violence of the holidays,” said Palmer.
Bentonville Police saw a decrease in domestic violence cases from 169 in 2011 to 152 cases in 2012.
Palmer said some of the victims who come to the shelter don't report it to police.
“Abusers will often tell victims that law enforcement will arrest them if they call about the abuse so, a lot of times see just a fear of law enforcement as a reason for not reporting.”
For 2012, the Donald W Reynolds Crisis Intervention Center served 15,540 individuals through a myriad of critical social service programs. This number represents an increase of 2,401 clients, or 24 percent, for Sebastian county and an increase of 1,842 clients, or 34 oercent, for Crawford county.
For services you can call the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter 24-hour hotline at (479) 246-9999 or 1-800-775-9011, or visit http://www.nwaws.org