In the past year, more than 944 community members trying to escape domestic violence turned to the Center for Women and Children in Crisis.

Although 323 individuals were able to stay at the shelter for a time, shelter employees had to turn away 318 women and children throughout the year because the facility was full.

“Domestic violence lives in secret,” said center director Laurie Loader. “I would encourage you to be that save person for someone to reach out and be able to talk to about what’s going on in their life.”

She and Brigham Young University head coach Kalani Sitake spoke to dozens of community members on Friday evening to call attention to the problem of domestic violence in Utah County.

“We should raise awareness and have eyes everywhere to see the signs,” Sitake said. “It’s going to take all of us to do this.”

One in three Utah women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime, according to statistics from the organization. Another one in three women in the state will experience some form of sexual abuse.

Sitake encouraged community members to speak up about topics that are uncomfortable to confront. People call the fire department when a house catches fire, he said, and those facing domestic violence should reach out to the crisis center in times of distress.

“I want people to know there are people who care about them and pray for them daily,” he said.

Board member Valerie Reese said the center is planning on building another facility in Utah County with the space to house 75 to 80 people. Women and children seeking help usually stay at the shelter for 30 to 45 days.

She advised event attendees to be more compassionate and to educate themselves on the challenges and warning signs of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Be the voice. Be the hands. Be the workers that help everybody in our community feel safe and happy,” Reese said.

Ashley Stilson covers crime, courts and breaking news for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2556 or astilson@heraldextra.com.

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