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Domestic violence survivors raise awareness at 5K

October 1 marks the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

PHOENIX — The statistics are shocking. An estimated 10 million people in the United States are affected by domestic violence each year.According to a recent report, this figure is as high as one in four women and one in nine men National Library of Medicine.

October 1 marks the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Domestic violence survivors and community leaders gathered in Apache Junction Saturday morning for Pinal County’s second Domestic Violence Awareness Walk and Family Day.

Emotions ran high as survivors like Vanessa Martinez shared their heartbreaking stories.

“Two years ago, on September 11, 2021, I was shot in the head by my ex-husband,” she said. “The last thing he said to me was, if I can’t have you, no one can… Before the gunshot rang out, I was shot in the head with a 9mm bullet just below my right temporal lobe.”

Martinez described the painful situation.

“I was paralyzed in the ambulance,” she said.

Martinez said her ex-husband was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

For Sarah Pitcher, she was nearly killed by her ex-husband, who is now serving a life sentence.

“They thought they should probably take me out in a body bag,” Pitcher said.

She was in a condition that left her blind in her right eye.

“Yeah, so on September 15, 2018, I fought for 3 1/2 hours,” the pitcher said. “Detectives and officers said they really didn’t know how I survived.”

Pitcher now hosts the “Stop the Violence – End the Silence” walk to benefit the New Leaf Community Alliance Against Domestic Abuse. Her story was recently featured in Investigation Discovery’s documentary television series “Evil Lives Here.”

These two warriors represent a community that often feels voiceless.

Pinal County Prosecutor Kent Volkmer shared heartbreaking statistics.

“Last year, nearly 2,700 individual victims required the services of our office in Pinal County alone,” Volkmer said. “101 deaths occurred in Arizona due to intimate partner violence.”

The reality is that there are likely many other cases that go uninvestigated because they go unreported. In some cases, it’s fear, fear of further harm, loss of a child, or uncertainty about the future.

Volkmer has a message for people who are suffering right now and need help.

“You’re a survivor, and there are resources in our community that can help,” he said. “We have law enforcement, we have providers … the resources are here.”

“Stand up and ask for help and you will be embraced,” Volkmer said.

Survivors who spoke today want the community to know what signs to look for if anyone suspects a loved one may be harmed.

“Control what you do, who you talk to, what you spend, and your finances,” Pitcher said.

They are working to turn pain into strength.

“I know my story can and will change the lives of many people,” Martinez said.

“Don’t stay silent,” Pitcher said.

They offer words of hope, guidance, healing and support to those who have survived domestic violence, lost a loved one to domestic violence, or are still trying to escape a dangerous situation.

“I do feel like God saved me for a reason,” Pitcher said. “…I think any bad thing that happens in our lives, if we don’t use it to do good, what good is it.”

“I survived to help others survive,” Martinez said.

Please note that if you are struggling or suspect a loved one is struggling, resources are available now.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. For anonymous, confidential assistance, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE), which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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