New 'One Stop' Domestic Violence Center to open in Hillsborough County by Mitch E. Perry

02/14/06

Hillsborough County has the 2nd highest rate of domestic violence in Florida. But advocates who support Domestic Violence victims, as well as officials from local law enforcement agencies, say they have real hope that a new facility in the County has a chance of dramatically helping those victimized by such violence – and to see that their punishers are prosecuted.

(roll tape#1 o.q.�by the abuser�)Natalie Baird is a former victim of domestic violence and currently an attorney who fights for victims rights (roll tape#2 o.q.�of domestic violence�)

Baird share her story on this chilly morning at Joe Chillura Courthouse Park in downtown Tampa, to bring attention to the soon to be opened Family Justice Center of Hillsborough County.

The facility is one of just 15 such comprehensive service and support centers for victims of domestic violence in the country, and only the 2nd in the entire Southeast.

In the fall of 2003, The Bush Administration announced a 3 year pilot program that would provide $20 million dollars nationally to establish such facilities. The President was inspired after learning about the “Family Justice Center� in San Diego, which opened in 2002, and is considered the most complete type of center of its type in the country, bringing together the entire domestic violence units of the police department and the prosecutors office. And it provides victims of abuse with easy access to 20 on-site community services, including a temporary restraining order clinic and a forensic medical unit.

Chuck Hamby is with Verizon Wireless. The communications giant is a key player in establishing such a Center in Hillsborough County, as the organization’s $300,000 pledge was the only operation money the center had until late last year …..He said that nationally, businesses lose about $2 billion dollars annually in the U.S. because of domestic violence. He says he hopes other companies will step up (roll tape#2 o.q.� to stop this program�)

The request for the federal grant was actually written by directors from The Spring, the well respected domestic violence shelter – and is being administered by illsborough County.

County Administrator Pat Bean said personally the idea of supporting the Family Justice Center sounded like a positive thing when the proposal landed on her desk. But she said that working with ANY private organization with taxpayer money is not something she takes lightly (roll tape#3 o.q.�a successful project�)

Tampa Police Major Sophie Teague explained that because law enforcement officials will be accessible at the facility, abusers will be on a quicker track to be punished.

She said that when law enforcement responds to a domestic violence call, they write it up…The case then goes to a Detective, who does his investigation…Then it goes to the Courts (roll tape#4 o.q.’ going to provide it�)

The Family Justice Center of Hillsborough County will be located at the corner of Florida and Busch Boulevard …The executive director will be Nikki Daniels (roll tape#5 o.q.� will be there�)

Linda Oberhaus is Executive Director of the Spring of Tampa Bay…She says the new center will improve services for victims in the area… She said statistics show that children who experience domestic violence in the home, have a 74% rate of repeating such violence in their adult lives…and she says with the new numbers indicating that Hillsborough leads the state in adolescent domestic violence, the timing for opening such a center has never been more apt (roll tape#6 o.q. violence in this community�)

The Family Justice Center is scheduled to open in late May or early June.

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