The "invisible" victims of domestic violence

By Matt Porter

October 21, 2013 Updated Oct 21, 2013 at 10:38 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) When the women, and sometimes men, walk into the two-story white house with the purple door across from Union-Endicott High School, they're looking for hope.

SOS Shelter Executive Director Rebecca Allerton said many are victims of domestic violence who are asking for help from the shelter for the first time.

"We may see someone who is in their 70s and perhaps the husband has always been abusive," Allerton said, "To someone in their 20s where this is a fairly new relationship."

October is domestic violence awareness month. Many wear purple to show solidarity with the more than one million victims of abuse in the United States each year.

Nearly nine out of ten victims are women.

"I would love to be put out of business," Allerton said, "Because this issue has affected so many women, so many children."

Allerton said some victims endure years of abuse before reaching out for help.

"It's the piece that you think is your marriage, your relationship, you're trying to hang on to," she said.

She said many women are coerced by their husbands to stay either because they hold the only job, they threaten to take the children, or even threaten their lives.

Allerton said no woman deserves to live in abuse, and coming for help isn't the end.

"For a lot of people, it's the first next step to their beginning," she said. "To have a life without abuse, without violence, without fear."

Most incidents of domestic violence go unreported to police or anyone.

Crime Victims Assistance Center Executive Director Raini Baudendistel said victims feel trapped.

"By the time they realize what's going on, maybe they're in so deep, it's not a quick and easy decision to leave," Baudendistel said.

At the center, she said women of all education and economic levels report abuse.

"No one asks to be abused, no one signs up for that," Baudendistel said.

But you can ask for help.

The 24-hour hotline for the Crime Victims Assistance Center is 607-722-4256.

The SOS Center also offers a 24-hour hotline at 607-754-4340.