Domestic violence task force formed
by Wes Mayer
To kickstart a domestic violence task force in Coweta County, the county solicitor’s office brought public safety departments and community support groups together for a luncheon Friday.
Melissa Sizemore and Natalie Ashman with the solicitor’s office were hosts for the event, and guest speaker Jennifer Thomas from the Georgia Commission on Family Violence gave a presentation. Thomas, who has worked with domestic violence task forces for six years, spoke on the necessity of a domestic violence task force in Coweta County, and she brought statistics to prove it.
Georgia is ranked 12th in the nation for its rate of men killing women, Thomas said. From 2003-2012, more than 1,200 Georgia citizens lost their lives as a result of domestic violence — 128 people lost their lives in 2012. In a study conducted by Georgia’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project, 18 percent of domestic violence cases involved children witnessing deaths.
According to statistics, sometime during the five years prior to domestic violence-related deaths in Georgia, 77 percent of the victims interacted with law enforcement agencies, 30 percent sought support from their religious community and 22 percent sought support through hospital care. Victims also connected with child protective services, probation offices, school systems, substance abuse programs and mental health providers.
Only 16 percent of victims, however, interacted with a domestic violence program or safe house.
“This community needs to work together to hold offenders accountable,” Thomas said. “You can see why it’s important for us to be talking to each other.”
Thomas gave a list of key elements of a successful domestic violence task force, and said the most important two are creating defined goals and actively working toward those goals.
“You need to make your goals achievable,” she said, “and you need to make them in a short time frame.”
Thomas also handed out a list of what other domestic violence task forces are doing, and Ashman and Sizemore fostered discussion among the attendees to determine which goals Coweta County’s task force should focus on the most. Attendees openly discussed their goals, and afterward, they could vote for which ones they found the most important.
Out of the most important objectives, two committees were created: Interagency Collaboration Training, and Resources and Public Awareness. The attendees of the luncheon could then sign up to be a part of the committees and kickstart Coweta County’s domestic violence task force.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Coweta County is planning on holding a candlelight vigil for victims of abuse, Ashman said. A meeting to plan the vigil will be held on Oct. 11, and the first meeting for the committees will be held on Oct. 25.
If you or someone you know is being abused, please call 1-800-33-HAVEN.