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According to World Health Organization (WHO) studies on "Violence against Women" (2016), there have been more instances of domestic violence, with 35% of reported cases of women experiencing abuse in the majority of the world's countries and some severity levels being confirmed on this socially taboo subject. The statistics that are currently accessible show that women are the most impacted group because they are more likely than men to be physically beaten and overpowered in a domestic dispute. Domestic violence has led to some worse cases of the victims being tortured and beaten to the point of death and in some cases led to the death of the involved victims. Socially, the vice has been given lesser focus as most of the people in the community tend to disassociate themselves with issues of the other families ("Violence against women", 2016). In silence, the victims of domestic violence suffer since they are dependent on their partners and in some cases, they have no capacity to fend for themselves. However, there are possible solutions to addressing domestic violence so as to provide a way out and create awareness of the vice; and it all starts with raising voices and saying NO to domestic violence.
Family Justice Center
The Family Justice Center (FJC) is an institution that mainly works with victims of domestic violence, whether, male or female, of any age group and income group, additionally providing services and support needed for those victims. Veronica is a social worker in the institution who is tasked to help with emotional health issues facing those that visit their establishment in dealing with anxiety, depression, or stress. There is also a case manager at Family Justice Center who assists victims of domestic abuse with the mandatory basic needs a human being requires in the event that they are victims of domestic violence. It had been noted that most of the victims that visited the Center were running from their abusive partners and as a result, they lacked the basic needs such as clothing and food for themselves and in some cases for their kids for those that carried them along. Family Justice Center provides for these requirements and other necessary services so as to ensure the victims are able to live favorably. Golin et al. (2017) claim that most of the victims of domestic violence get the temptation to return to their abusive relationships due to poor living conditions are given to them and the need to provide for their children being their main concern.
In June of 2007, disturbed by the high incidence of criminal domestic violence occurring in our county and state, five local citizens formed the 501(c)-(3) non-profit organization that was to become the Family Justice Center. After three years of building community support, and through the generosity of Dr. Jerry Crosby, the Family Justice Center secured a facility in the City of Georgetown, South Carolina. With this acquisition, the long-held vision was finally realized with donations of time, labor and materials pouring in. Finally, in January 2011, very quietly and with no fanfare, the doors were opened and people started showing up for help and services; they haven't stopped yet.
Functions and Roles of FJC
Family Justice Center has its shelters currently located in Georgetown where they started the movement against domestic violence. The program in Myrtle Beach is new and just moved to the area in June this Year. They are also trying to branch out into the neighborhood to let people know that they are there to provide services and hopefully a shelter will come in time. If someone currently needs a safe house they are sent to Georgetown and depending on their period of stay, they are either accommodated at a hotel or a shared apartment. The Center also works with other agencies to help with the funding for the hotel or car fair or a bus ticket depending on what their needs are. If the client needs a long-term place to stay, then they would have to remain in the shelter in Georgetown while they are helped with their problem.
The Family Justice Center also has a court advocate she helps clients to get an order of protection if needed since the average person wouldn't know how the court process works and it is helpful to have someone that can help guide a victim through the court procedure. Victims are assisted in getting help and justice from the courts system by being able to have the necessary persons accompany them and assist them in filing cases and constraints. Mrs. Jeanine Edwards is the representative advocate for Family Justice Center and she is quite familiar with the court process and the essential procedures that most victims don’t know about. A client may not get the complaint report from the police in time but with the help of Mrs. Edwards they are able to get the report and she alerts the client on what is going on during the entire process. It is sometimes very scary for the client going to court and not knowing what to do or what to expect and often leads to the victims backing out (Khan, 2014).
The Family Justice Center does have a 24-hour crisis line that is linked to the shelter in Georgetown. If the victim has a vehicle and can drive themselves to Georgetown and that would be the first safety plan. If that is not possible then would get a hotel for the night until they are able to reach a staff member, family, or friend that can get them to Georgetown. The safety plan involves a variety of things depending on the person's situation. No one knows the situation that faces them better than the victims themselves. They have the information as to when their abusers will be away and the particular times that they are not available, which provides ample time to reach out to the Family Justice Center who can plan very fast to meet them at a certain location. The victim may be just in need support services and FJC provides such help. Then depending on their situation, FJC will decide whether it is necessary to have courts advocacy, the order of protection, child custody, and divorce to get them away from the domestic violence. Sometimes the victim has a place to stay and may require help trying to find a job, so FJC lets them know the jobs that are available and keeps them informed of possible employment opportunities that may arise. There are also situations whereby the victim is stuck in their situation, and FJC steps in and they are advised on how to prepare to leave such relationships.
There is a safety plan that also is provided to clients to prepare to leave when their husband is at work and the family justice works to help get them out of the home at that time. The victims normally stuck in such situation are educated on how to get a bank account of their own and provided with jobs to help them be financially stable. Another part of the safety plan is to make copies of birth certificates, and driver’s license social security cards and store them for the victims in a safe place. They are also advised to keep these crucial documents at a family or friends’ house. The victim knows their situation better than anybody, so when they know that the abuser is at work or going to be gone at a particular time and family justice can plan where they can meet them at a location.
Another part of the safety plan is for the victim to have a change of clothes and anything necessary that they would need in a bag in case they should flee right away. Even in the event of parking, the victim is told to have their vehicles backed in so that in the event they need to leave in an emergency situation they can drive out quickly rather than get blocked by the victims. At the Centers, the victims are educated on how to survive and depend on themselves, starting with how to get a bank account in their own name and given job options so as to fend for themselves. The main contingency plan is to always to call 911 if they feel endangered at any point so that they can receive instant help from the police.
Based on the situation, the victims are advised to: Save money and get a cell phone under their name. There is an Obama phone that is very helpful for victims in this case in the event that the abuser breaks their phones or takes the phone, and then the victim has the option of another phone they can get to call for help. This can be something else the victim needs to have and not the abuser the aware of it.
When conducting an assessment, there is a form that is used it show the victims' information such as the demographic name, age, if they have children their name and age as well as their marital status. Other critical information includes: How long they have been in the relationship if they have a support system to help them through the process and if they are working, which is beneficial for them should they decide to start over their lives. The concern is that those without jobs are reclined to change their minds due to the dependence on their abusers. The assessment is finding out more about the victim's story and what led them to call and how they did get the phone number of FJC. Usually what leads the victim to call is a physically incident, verbal, or something happened and it could be that the police were called and the police referred them to the FJC. It doesn't always happen that they get the referral from the police sometimes it happens after they have seen the lawyer or maybe when they were in court they saw Jeanne the family court advocate helping someone else. All the organizations involved in the eradication of domestic violence try and work together from the soup kitchens to helping hands, new directions, give referrals for the Family Justice Center to the victims. Family Justice Center is still new and they are still trying to get the word out about what they do so as to have domestic abuse victims helped.
South Carolina Victim Assistant SCVAN Network helps with gas. They help a victim of violent crime, food and hotel voucher all together and they are covered for 3 days. Family Justice Center goes with the client to get groceries or pick up what they need for the victim to assist them during the difficult time. If a victim is in current need of clothes the Myrtle Beach Family Justice Center is not equipped at the moment, the office is small and right now have a huge need for food. So, they must rely on the Georgetown site of brings clothes for them, or one of their volunteers will go and get the clothes for them and bring it back if need be.
Concerns of Domestic Violence
Victoria has been an employee of FJC since April 2016; armed with a masters in mental health counseling, a masters in higher education administration, a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has a license as a professional counselor. What surprises Victoria the most about her job is the audacity of most of the abusers to think that they can get away with the violence on their victims. Although some of the abusers get away with their acts of violence, in recent times the law has been stricter on the cases of domestic violence in the society. Morgan and Chadwick (2017) point out that stringent action needed to be taken since most of the domestic violence became rampant and severe, with cases of victims being locked up without food and water or even access the lavatories. Other victims perished due to the nature of abuse that they received and some still bear the wounds of their abusers to date, thus the concern of the weight of the issue at hand became apparent. The law also faced challenges due to the minimal cases of violence being reported as most of the victims became scared and would be threatened to maintaining their silence.
Veronica shared that one of the most memorable moments she experienced as a counselor is one of her clients and her adult son was shot by the abuser. They both survived the ordeal and later told that she tried to end the relationship because her partner had anger issues and controlling behaviors. Her husband shot her and her son for trying to put a stop to the relationship. Another client suggested to her husband that they go see a doctor because things were not working out and in anger; she was stabbed, slashed, and cut all over to the point of almost losing her life. These victims have turned their lives around with the help of Family Justice Center and are able to move on with their lives despite the wounds of their past relationships. The police are also a part of the problem as they record less domestic abuse despite the numerous reports due to the tactics that they employ in questioning both the victims and the abusers. Having both the victim and the abusers in the same room while conducting an interrogation often results in the victims being scared to divulge information (Golin et al., 2017).
The Family Justice center has a good working relationship with the police departments. Since they are new to Myrtle Beach they are working to get to know both Myrtle Beach and Horry county police departments. The presence of a Family Justice Center is here in Myrtle Beach will provide shelter to victims and provide legal help for them in the form of an advocate working with both police departments so as to refer clients to Myrtle Beach FJC offices and seeking of legal assistance to punish the abusers. Problems arise whereby some victims intend to use the Center for financial assistance and then return to their families where they are abused over and over again. Veronica feels the need to have counseling as some of the victims defend their abusers with reasons such as: they have a child together and they don’t want her child's dad in jail.
Factors Influencing Domestic violence
Most of the victims do not feel that the police are of assistance and suffer in silence. The earlier cases of police letting the abusers loose after a brief session at the station often leads to instilling fear in the victims since they are confronted by the abusers again. It blocks the channel of turning to the police for help in such instances and often results in the victims suffering in silence. Other members of the society are also to blame for the increase in domestic violence as they do not offer assistance to the victims by calling the police in their times of distress, by choosing not to be involved the affairs of other families and also minding their own business. Morgan and Chadwick (2017) reasons that members of the community just lay back and watch as the events of abuse unfold without taking the proper cause of action as they are victims themselves and regard being abused as part of their lives and their relationships.
Another factor that leads to the augmentation of domestic abuse is the lack of awareness in the society on matters of abuse in relationships and marriages. Most of the victims have no clue on the proper procedures to follow in the event that they experience abuse since they are not exposed to information on how to deal with such occurrences (Morgan & Chadwick, 2017). The victims go through torture both physically and mentally since they believe if they leave they will lose extensively since they have families and their needs to cater for. Most aggressors hold their victims at an advantage and use this power to influence their rule by abusing the victims and harming them. Therefore, it is paramount to have information on how to deal with domestic violence readily available for all in the society. Additional sensitization is also key in ensuring that the cases of abuse are reported and the victims seek justice for the ordeals that happen to them.
The absence of institutions like the Family Justice Center has also influenced the problem of domestic violence as the victims of abuse usually have nowhere to turn to in the event that they are victimized. The collaborations between the police and the institutions such as the Family Justice Center is critical in establishing a partnership that would come to the aid of the victims of domestic violence. These victims suffer in silence in multiple occasions with the recorded victims of abuse being minimal despite the growing abuse being experienced in the society.
Cases of abuse are on the rise and only it is only last year that FJC had 120 clients for the whole year. From Thanksgiving until after the new year things are generally quiet for them since during the holiday's everyone wants to be happy and on their best behavior. There is a façade that you are a nice happy family and it is only after the new year begins, that they start receiving calls. Veronica has about 15 clients weekly. Some of these victims may come only once, some victims might go for counseling 5 or so times, but there are others that need counseling for six months to a year.
Dealing with the court proceedings is the first step taken then FJC comes in to offer assistance. Often, the victims would resolve to return to their abusers since they spend a lot of time thinking about their abusers due to the relationship that they have developed over time. Some victims even express how much they are missing their abusive partners. Some are infuriated and having a hard time dealing with their anger while other victims sometimes think that everything is going to be okay and leave the shelter since the abuser is either not home or they are no longer together. However, that emotional part still needs to be healed. The victims that have a good support system at FJC and are very supportive of each other since they share something common amongst themselves. This is because the victims that don’t have anyone to talk to, have nothing and they are in need of as much support as they can possibly get.
Veronica’s typical day is made up of checking her calling and checking on victims to see if they may require anything, appointments, or there may be a crisis phone call. At that point she walks the victim through what to do and what is most important for the victim at that time. Sometimes the victim may need shelter, or food. She also let the victims always know the other services that are offered in case they are needed. They don’t get people just walking in reason being that they are so new and they are hard to find because they are in a housing complexes. In my opinion there needs to be something done to make it easier for victims to be found from the places where they reside, as well as making sure that information is available to the victims of domestic violence that need services.
What surprised me about their work was the issues with the Horry County Police and the funding from VOCA.The Horry County police are not efficient at doing their job and only add to the grief of the victims of abuse. The police are late responders to the distress calls of the victims in Horry County and often want proof of abuse before they can act and in some instances they have referred to the victims as liars. These are some of the reasons that the victims of domestic violence do not seek help as those tasked with assisting their plights in the society, only ridicule them and do not offer the necessary assistance. Some of the abusers are arrested and then released shortly afterwards and they return to continue their vices on their victims since they feel untouchable and above the law (Khan, 2014).
The Family Justice Center is grant funded. Veronica is a beneficiary of the funding that is from VOCA and according to her understanding since she is new, is that this funding comes from federal law breakers. The funds received are used in running the operations of FJC and ensuring that all the establishments are fully operational at all time. They also receive support other non-profits as well, and agencies that are providing services that assist the efforts of FJC. Without VOCA funding the Family Justice Center in Myrtle beach would not exist. As the Family Justice Center is growing they only have two fulltime employees and they are fortunate enough to five to six volunteers who are trained at handling domestic violence issues and tasked with answering the phone and helping in other areas that are required.
Lastly it is important to note that: The meeting was held on February 20th 2017 at 1:30 pm at the Family Justice Center premises in the City of Georgetown, South Carolina.
Domestic violence is an illegal practice in the eyes of the law and should be dealt with since it threatens the life of the persons experiencing the abuse and their dependants (Khan, 2014). Children are being affected by the constant scenes of violence at home and affect their mental state, often creating uncouth behaviors in the kids and leaning towards violent activities such as crime. Domestic violence affects the whole community since not only are the victims affected but also their dependants; thus, it is important for the community to come together to end the vice.
Golin, C. E., Amola, O., Dardick, A., Montgomery, B., Bishop, L., Parker, S., & Owens, L. E. (2017). Poverty, Personal Experiences of Violence, and Mental Health: Understanding Their Complex Intersections Among Low-Income Women. In Poverty in the United States (pp. 63-91). Springer International Publishing.
Khan, A. R. (2014). Community perceptions and activisms regarding domestic violence against women: perspectives from rural bangladesh. Journal of Community Positive Practices, 14(3), 79.
Morgan, A., & Chadwick, H. (2017). Key issues in domestic violence. Aic.gov.au. Retrieved 20 March 2017, from http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/rip/1-10/07.html
Violence against women. (2016). World Health Organization. Retrieved 20 March 2017, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/
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