Emily Drew/Recorder staff Local officials and representatives gathered in the Montgomery County Supreme Court Monday for the Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation ceremony.

Recorder News Staff

FONDA — As attention to domestic violence issues grow, local officials recall how fights between family members used to be considered normal.

Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa recalled Monday responding to domestic violence calls as a police officer was mainly to break up an argument.

“It was kind of just a family thing,” Villa said. “There was no police action taken.”

Villa was just one of several local officials and representatives who spoke at the Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation ceremony Monday at the Montgomery County Supreme Court.

Villa said there have been great strides made in how domestic violence is treated, not only in bringing awareness to the issue, but in law enforcement. However, despite the progress, he said the stigma of domestic violence and fear of what classmates or other family members may think of victims still stands strong.

“To see the effect of domestic violence personally, in a home and there’s children and all the violence going on around them, it really impacts not only yourself, but you can only imagine what that child has to deal with and the victim that, in so many ways, even today is still afraid to address the issues,” he said.

Villa commended the Domestic Violence and Crime Victim Services of Catholic Charities for continuing to bring awareness to domestic violence.

Likewise, John Nasso, executive director for Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, said he remembers that yelling heard from a house next door was seen as a “family matter.”

“I remember as a kid, there was yelling next door and you knew there was some kind of abuse. It was like a family matter. That’s how they deal with their problems,” Nasso said.

He said while awareness has gotten better, issues of drug abuse and mental health can complicate some cases. He said community agencies, such as the Catholic Charities program and law enforcement, have to work together to deal with these situations.

The Domestic Violence and Crime Victim Services program, first started in 1992, provides a range of free and confidential services to victims, such as victim’s rights assistance, crisis intervention, legal advocacy in court, and personal advocacy for other services like the Department of Social Services or hospitals.

Montgomery County also operates a 24-hour domestic violence hotline, which can be reached by calling 842-3384.

During Monday’s ceremony, several local officials and representatives presented proclamations to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the country.

Kelly Quist-Demars, representative for U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said it would be nice if the ceremony did not have to be held.

“It would be nice if one October came and we didn’t have to come up here to bring awareness to domestic violence. If we somehow fix domestic violence, but unfortunately, all of you in the audience know all too well this is an ongoing problem,” Quist-Demars said.

She said domestic violence affects 4 million women and 3 million men across the country and thanked the Domestic Violence and Crime Victim Services staff for providing people with “education of healthy relationships and by changing attitudes that support violence.”

“The domestic violence program with Catholic Charities provides services to victims of domestic violence to counseling, core advocacy, shelters and support groups that seek to preserve and enhance personal integrity and quality of life,” Clerk of the Montgomery County Legislature Cheryl Reese said.

Reese, who presented a proclamation on behalf of the county, said the month provides an opportunity to learn more about domestic violence and support the programs that provide advocacy.

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Kelli McCoski said she does not believe domestic violence can be completely prevented, but bringing awareness to Montgomery County shows local residents that it happens everywhere.

She said the Domestic Violence and Crime Victim Services staff gets the word out that domestic violence is not limited to celebrities in Hollywood.

“Domestic violence doesn’t care about gender,” McCoski said, “doesn’t care about sexual orientation or race. It doesn’t understand socioeconomic status. It’s here. It’s engulfing our families and our communities.”

She said the community needs to promote peace and feels that awareness needs to be happening every day.

“Every single day we should be aware of it, that it’s occurring. … While I don’t think we can totally stop it, we can make people aware of it and the services that are available,” she said.