Domestic violence victims find help at Knox Co. Family Justice Center

Domestic violence victims find help at Knox Co. Family Justice Center

July 13, 2007

By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Knox County has a Family Justice Center aimed at changing the way victims of domestic violence get help.

Experts say domestic violence tends to go up in the spring and summer months. Longer daylight hours during the summer contribute to more activity. So summer is often when victims choose to move out.

And trends show Mother's Day is one of the most violent times when it comes to family outbursts. 

The Family Justice Center opened in May 2006. In 14 months time, victim's advocates had helped nearly 1,400 people.

It's a one stop shop for victims of abuse. They can get housing, counseling and even spiritual help, all under one roof.  

On Friday, 6 News met with an abuse victim at the Family Justice Center. We're not revealing her identity for her protection. "He has threatened to burn our house down because I was in it," she says.

This victim says her ex-husband's threats and controlling behavior forced her to seek help. "When it starts, you try to overlook it," she explains. "You tend to minimize it just because you think there's no way this could be something I would have to go through."

That's where the victim's advocates at the Family Justice Center can help. First, the victim enters a safe, home-like environment. It's a place where even the kids can relax. 

Then whether the victim needs a social worker, police officer or even a chaplain, the help comes to them.

Knox County sheriff's deputies, Knoxville police officers and the District Attorney General are all under one roof. And there are dozens of other partnering agencies just a phone call away.

Sixty-four agencies in all are available to help victims.

"This is an escalating situation. It can end up in death," says Family Justice Center Director Amy Dilworth.  

"We had a teen most recently who was beaten unconscious and we were able to assist her," says Knox County Detective Lt. Jeanette Harris.

After a violent beating, the last thing a victim wants to do is travel all over town looking for protection.

The victim who met with 6 News Friday says, "To come from a situation of not having any idea where to start, I truly dialed a phone number off of a card and they took care of everything else."

"After walking through the doors, she got a safety plan so she could keep herself and her children safe," explains Dr. David Kitts, Knoxville Police Department training specialist and director of the Domestic Violence Unit.

"She may have left with an order of protection. She'll be given maybe some housing needs, possibly some financial help so that way she can take this first step in changing her life," Kitts adds.  

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, call the Family Justice Center for help or to get advice. It's (865)-521-6336.

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