BUFFALO, N.Y. — Every Sunday from 11 to noon, you will find a group of women learning to defend themselves for free at WNY MMA & Fitness.
"We feel that it's extremely important that every woman have the ability to defend herself and have the opportunity to learn how to do that even if she doesn't have a lot of time or the budget to take classes on a regular basis," said Kate Allen, a gym manager at WNY MMA & Fitness.
Allen says women can take the class once or as many times as they want year-round.
"These classes can be really helpful not just for stranger danger situations, but also for domestic violence situations as well," Allen said.
While the gym tries to teach women the importance of being prepared, organizations like Buffalo's Child and Family Services help women and men escape violent relationships.
Domestic violence can include emotional, physical, sexual, and even financial abuse.
"So far this year, our hotline has received 1,600 phone calls reaching out for support and safety. Certainly, those numbers are low because that doesn't capture people who don't reach out for services. It doesn't capture those cases that go unreported," said Tara Petty with Child and Family Services.
Petty says one in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
That includes people in same-sex relationships.
Their Haven House provides temporary housing to more than 30 people needing to leave a relationship safely.
Petty says they're almost always full.
Some signs can include a loved one or friend isolating themselves or their partner starting to control their every move.
One of the most dangerous times for victims is when they're leaving the relationship.
"There's not one simple answer (to fixing this). I think just bringing awareness, in general, is really important. Chances are you know someone who's experiencing domestic violence. So helping folks be aware of supports and services that are available," Petty said.
Petty says in New York State, domestic violence victims can file orders of protection, they can receive financial compensation for crimes committed against them and there are also laws in place to help them break a lease when they need to leave an abusive partner.
This is also a list of organizations that will help people leave an abusive relationship safely and help them start over:
If you or anyone you know is trying to leave an abusive relationship, you can call Erie County's Domestic Violence Hotline at 716-884-6000.