About 100 representatives from local schools, law enforcement, and other agencies that deal with family violence met to discuss how to reach out to victims before it's too late.
Police say the murder of a three year old Dos Palos girl is the latest fatal case of child abuse in Merced County. The toddler died hours after detectives say her father threw her against a shower wall. Another apparent case of domestic violence turned deadly in December when Merced Police say a man shot and killed his ex-girlfriend just weeks after he was arrested for threatening her life.
Det. Hector Ortiz: "They're getting more serious, broken bones, lacerations, stabbings, our last couple of homicides we had last year were domestic violence related."
The Sheriff's Department says it responded to 164 felony domestic violence cases and 21 felony child abuse cases in 2007.
Experts believe many more cases go unreported.
State Sen. Jeff Denham: "Many fear for their lives, many fear for the safety of their children."
That's why state and local leaders joined dozens of advocates and educators for a family violence conference Wednesday afternoon.
Susan Bubenchik, A Woman's Place: "It brings more awareness into our community and helps people realize number one, that there is abuse and domestic violence happening and number two, how to be aware, how they can see it and try to help."
Activist Victor Rivas Rivers spoke at the conference about the impact outreach efforts can have. He says he endured violent abuse as a child but later became a successful actor thanks to support from teachers and other families.
Victor Rivas Rivers: "I was able to go from a gang member my sophomore year to president of my school my senior year, so that's what community can do."
Authorities say they do believe more victims are coming forward because they now know they have places to turn for help.
They say there is more work to be done, including reaching out to women who are in the country illegally and still afraid to report their abuse.