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'Nobody falls in love with a monster.'

The Family Justice Center has never been so busy. Domestic violence is an epidemic everywhere including Western New York. Here is what we can all do to stop it.

Whether they are verbal, psychological, physical or a combination of those things, abusive relationships will affect:

One in three girls.

One in four women.

One in seven boys or men.

They can affect anyone and they are happening everywhere.

"These abusive relationships do not stop at any zip code or municipal line at any level of affluence or education at any age, or race or religion or culture. We see them in virtually every segment of society, including some of the most beautiful, expensive neighborhoods. And I can tell you, those stats that I just articulated in some zip codes are even higher."

Seated in one of several rooms called "living rooms" at the Family Justice Center location in downtown Buffalo, CEO Mary Murphy lays out some grim statistics. The rooms are designed to make those seeking to safely escape abuse comfortable as the center's staff, some whom know all too well what it means to be abused, help them on the road to recovery.   

In the last year and a half, there were 16 domestic violence homicides in Erie County alone.

"We have never seen numbers like that before. It's critical that people in the community understand the big red flags. It's preventable," Murphy said.

The Family Justice Center's mission is to provide a sanctuary along with information and free resources with the help of a number of partner agencies to help people safely break the cycle and escape abuse. It is why Most Buffalo's Kate Welshofer chose to support the organization as her charity in the recent Home Show Design Contest.

Murphy says knowing the warning signs and being able to spot them early is vital for everyone particularly because, from the outside, it can all seem like a fairy tale.

"Every one of these relationships starts out right out of the best romance novel ever penned. Nobody falls in love with the monster. These are incredible loving romances right from the start, but they tend to go from zero to 1,000 miles an hour. And that perpetrator is doing everything in his or her power very early on to start isolating that victim. So, friends and family and colleagues are in the perfect position to see that you're seeing that -- that's a big red flag," Murphy said.

Murphy says the dozens of survivors who now work with the Family Justice Center often report not identifying as victims of domestic violence when they were with their abusers. 

Instead, they would call their relationships difficult or rocky, a roller coaster.

Battling shame, embarrassment, confusion and fear, most victims blame themselves for the abuse and will go back an average of seven or eight times before breaking free.

"And it takes a traumatized person who thinks they're at fault seven to eight attempts to realize the monster is the real person. And that angel is the fake and you are never ever, ever going to change that fact."

Murphy says friends and family are vital to breaking the cycle of abuse.

"In every single case," she explains, "it was somebody close to the victim who said, okay, we need to do something here. I'm worried about your safety, we need some help, you need to get some help.

The Family Justice Center website is full of information and even video guides about how to have that very difficult conversation -- what to say and, more importantly, what not to say.

Despite the concerning statistics, there are tools available to all of us so that we can help make "home" a safer and happier place for everyone.

"The key is the people surrounding the victims. If your gut is telling you something is up, trust your gut, something's up and doing nothing is not an option," Murphy said.

The Family Justice Center serves more than 2,500 clients each year throughout their four locations Besides learning more about preventing abuse there are also ways you can help. One of the easiest is just going online.

You can find a  Wish List on the Family Justice Center website.

There is a whole list of items they can use from office supplies and furniture, to cosmetics, and even snacks.

They even have the list on Amazon to make donating even easier.

You can also contact the Family Justice Center at 716-558-7233.

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