June 5, 2015
Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Joe Hicks handles lots of domestic violence cases, and he wants to be able to tell victims exactly what to expect if they must seek emergency shelter in order to stay safe.
That’s why he and about 20 of his colleagues recently visited the Family Violence Center, one of the YWCA’s confidentially-located shelters for women and their children. “It’s nice to see this place and know there are so many folks doing such a good job to make it as comfortable and homey as possible,” he said.
The shelter tour followed a recent visit to the YWCA, where about 30 assistant district attorneys were able to meet the YW staff, learn more about all of the services offered to domestic violence victims and to see some of the programs firsthand.
“Unless you have been over here, you don’t really understand what services the YW provides,” said Deputy District Attorney Laura Poston, a YWCA Board member. “Now when our assistant district attorneys talk with victims, they can say, ‘I’ve seen the shelter, I’ve seen the child development program; if you need supervised visitation, don’t be scared.’”
Annetta Nunn, community outreach coordinator for the YW, said the fear of the unknown is one reason victims are hesitant to leave their abusive situation. “They have the idea that the shelter looks like Boutwell Auditorium when it’s cold and everybody is all together in one big crowded room,” she said. Instead, the Family Violence Center and Our Place, the YW’s domestic violence shelter in St. Clair County, offer private rooms and bathrooms, as well as a kitchen where families can cook and eat together.
The group learned more about the YW’s 24-hour crisis hotline (205-322-4878); Court Advocates, who accompany victims to court and help them navigate the complicated legal system; and the YWCA Family Law Center, which boasts staff attorneys who represent victims and provide advocacy on issues such as divorce, child custody, housing, immigration and public benefits.
They also learned about support groups for victims and their children, counseling services, transitional housing and the YW’s child development programs. All of the services are offered to male victims, as well.
“We do training every month on some area of the law,” Poston said. “Today, we took a field trip and they were excited about coming. One of the comments I heard is that they had no idea the YWCA was so big and had so many services. I think this will make a difference.”