AMSTERDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Domestic violence survivors were recognized on Thursday, October 20, at 1 p.m. in a ceremony in front of Montgomery County’s Department of Social Services. The ceremony, which included a bench dedication and brief remarks, served to honor survivors while raising awareness for an ever-present issue.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and this year, awareness is as important as ever, according to Sister Betsy Van Deusen, CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany. “Domestic violence continues to affect our neighbors every day – and it’s gotten worse,” Sister Betsy said. “Survivors will live with the effects of that violence for years to come, and at Catholic Charities, we are proud to walk alongside them as they seek safety and recovery. It is my hope that when survivors see this bench, they know we are here to support them on their journey.”

Catholic Charities says it has seen a two-year increase in requests for domestic violence support. In 2019, Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties reportedly helped roughly 1,372 callers through its domestic violence hotline. In 2021, the organization reported fielding 2,000 calls, helping women, children, and men with supportive counseling, safety planning, and shelter in a nine-bed safe house in Montgomery County.

Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties’ domestic violence program has supported survivors since 1992. Today, officials say the program provides counseling, safety planning, legal advocacy, referrals, support groups, and access to safe housing. Services are free, confidential, and available to survivors of domestic violence and other crimes.

“Domestic violence is a growing problem that affects Montgomery County,” said Kelley A Gilligan, Catholic Charities’ Program Director, Montgomery County Domestic Violence & Crime Victim Services. “When I started in this position as Program Director at Catholic Charities over 3 years ago, we employed 5 advocates. We are now staffed with 6 advocates, and we are hiring a 7th, to help with the victims and survivors we serve. It is our hope that this bench is a small reminder of their strength, resilience, and bravery.”

Help is available to anyone in need of domestic violence support. Residents of Fulton and Montgomery Counties can access Catholic Charities’ 24-hour hotline at (518) 842-3384. New Yorkers can also call the state 24-hour hotline at (800) 942-6906, and residents who are deaf or hard of hearing can dial 711 for assistance.