CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Throughout the pandemic, domestic violence numbers have increased in Charlotte. There were 37,618 domestic violence related calls in 2019. In 2020 that number increased to 39,720, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and a Charlotte woman is sharing her story of survival to try and help others.
Ana Maria Ibanez Santamaria says six years ago, she was trapped in an abusive relationship. She says her ex-boyfriend nearly killed her during their relationship.
“He put the hands here, had me super tight, I cannot even breathe or speak,” Ibanez Sanatamaria said. “I was thinking he just strangled me. I’m going to die today.”
Ibanez Santamria says after more and more violent outbursts, she escaped her abuser.
“He pulled me by the hair and began to hit me on the floor. Something in me said no more. It’s already five years of abuse, one day he’s for real going to kill me. No more,” she said.
As of August 31, 2021, CMPD answered 26,295 domestic violence related calls. The department answered 26,669 calls during the same period of time in 2020.
Ibanez Santamaria now works as an advocate for other victims and is also working to help shape the new Family Justice Center in Charlotte. There will be several resources for victims in one place, including medical assistance, counseling and legal aid.
Ibanez Santamaria says this is a drastic change from what she experienced when she was trying to escape her abuser.
“Always was running and running. Imagine if you are working, if you have kids, when do you stop to do this because it’s not easy to get out,” she said.
She is hopeful the new building will help other victims escape and provide hope to those who feel trapped.
“You can begin again with anything. I began again with my two kids and two suitcases that the police helped me to put in the car,” she said.
Safe Alliance, a domestic violence advocacy center in Charlotte, is also reporting a spike in calls. Director of Corporate and Community Engagement Tenille Banner says the center saw a 20% increase in calls during the pandemic.
She says her team is now seeing a change in the types of calls they’re receiving as we approach 18 months in this pandemic.
"What we're seeing now is, more so than an increase in calls, is a longer call time. So, things that might have been a little quicker to solve and just giving some referrals. Things like that in the past are taking a lot longer now because people's situations are more complex,” Banner said.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911. The Safe Alliance Hotlline is 980-771-4673.