Recent incidents heighten domestic violence awareness

When video surfaced of then-Baltimore Raven player Ray Rice striking his then-fiance in the face, the nation took notice.

"This was real. I hadn't seen someone get punched out like that," said Darlene Santana.

Rice was eventually suspended from the league and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came under fire for the way he initially handled the case.

"I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter, and I'm sorry for that," Goodell said.

While the video sparked change in the NFL, people around the country began talking about domestic violence, generating more calls for help. In New Orleans, the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children experienced a significant increase in call volume.

"In the last few months, the calls for domestic violence, as well as sexual assault, doubled. For example, in May we had 54 domestic violence calls. This past month, we had 120," said Rebecca Rainey.

"We've been working seven days a week. We are booked through October for events and presentations," said Santana.

Rainey and Santana say domestic violence is ugly and can easily lead to murder.

"We see the aftermath of the women that come here with multi-colored faces from bruises or their teeth knocked out. We see it, and until you see that, I don't think a lot of people realize the severity of domestic violence and what can happen," Santana said.

"A lot of calls might not be from survivors themselves, but from family members, neighbors, teachers and people who are just becoming more aware of the warning signs," Rainey said.

Rainey said raising awareness is key. October is domestic violence month and several events are planned. The fundraiser Raise a Glass for a Cause will take place at Southport Hall on Oct. 29.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of domestic violence, help is always available. The Metropolitan Center for Women and Children has a 24-hour crisis hotline at (504) 837-5400. All services are free and confidential.

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