There was a purple light on the side of old Erie County Hall Tuesday night, a sign to Shine the Light on Domestic Violence during the month of October.
Domestic violence is such a serious problem in Erie County that District Attorney John Flynn has four prosecutors and five staff members handling cases in the bureau.
He told the crowd in front of County Hall that is significant growth since the late Frank Clark started the Domestic Violence Bureau when he came into office 20 years ago and put Assistant DA Lisa Bloch Rodwin in charge. She is now a Family Court judge. Flynn said his office offers help to victims as well as prosecuting perpetrators.
"When you have the light, literally and figuratively, shone on this issue, I think that it gives people the courage to come forward - and that's what we are hoping for," Flynn said. "There are a lot of individuals out there who are afraid to come forward. They feel like sometimes they are actually at fault when they're not."
"They live in fear, isolation and uncertainty. It is crucial for survivors to learn about their options and make a plan with the help of the victim advocate," said Tina Pilkey, Director of Domestic Violence Survivor Services for Flynn. "The Be Safe Domestic Violence Program within the DA's office is one of many domestic violence programs in Erie County. Be Safe provides confidential victim advocacy services such as court accompaniment, supportive counseling, education."
In the first six months of 2017, there were nearly 2,400 more victims reported by law enforcement in Erie County than the 5,200 cases last year. They were among the thousands nationally involved in what Buffalo Chief of Detectives Dennis Richards called a scourge of society.
"More than 10,000,000 Americans are victims of physical violence annually, 20 people are victims of physical violence every minute in the United States," Richards said. "One in three women and one in four men are victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime."
In a statement, Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard said his department has a zero tolerance policy and mandatory arrests for misdemeanor charges or higher.