'It happens everywhere'

Mooresville police cars are sporting purple-ribbon magnets this month, and getting people to see them is more important than ever, say local advocates for victims of domestic violence.

The ribbons highlight October as national domestic violence awareness month, and the number of local victims seeking help has risen since 2008, primarily because of the poor economy, said Patti West, executive director of Statesville-based Fifth Street Ministries.

Fifth Street operates My Sister's House, a battered women's shelter in Iredell County whose 34 beds remain full, West said.

"We serve 180 or so women and children a year (at My Sister's House), and the last few years the numbers have been creeping up on us," she said.

"People are stressed, under pressure, drinking more, using drugs more," West told the Observer last week outside the Mooresville Police Department, where she and several other supporters of domestic violence victims distributed the magnets to officers at a ceremony recognizing the month.

They also thanked Police Chief Carl Robbins and his officers, saying they risk their lives each time they respond to a domestic violence call. Robbins thanked the women for what they do to help victims.

At My Sister's House, victims receive counseling and job-skills training, while advocates see them through the court system to seek protection from abusers.

More people of all backgrounds are out of work or working extra hours to hold onto jobs - factors that cause stress and can contribute to domestic violence, West said.

"There is no socioeconomic boundary to domestic violence," West said. "It happens everywhere across the board. It's probably more hidden in homes along tree-lined streets, among people with more resources."

It happened for the first time at age 40 to Lisa Moore of rural North Iredell.

Moore, 47, also attended last week's ceremony. She's volunteered at My Sister's House for two years, since she first learned about the home and its services. By then, she'd gone through the court system alone against her abuser, she said.

"I was the first person to say this would never happen to me," said Moore, internal logistics coordinator at a large Mooresville company.

By helping at the shelter, she said, she hopes to show other victims they aren't alone and turn them into survivors.