Domestic Violence help near
When someone in Escambia County is a victim of domestic violence, their case is often handled by the office of the Escambia County Domestic Violence Task Force.
Funded through ADECA and administered by the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, the Domestic Violence Task Force includes two full-time investigators and handles 400 to 500 domestic violence cases throughout the county each year.
When a victim comes to the office, located on Sowell Street, to report domestic violence, the first person they work with is victim's advocate Renee Cain.
Cain, employed by the district attorney's office, will assess the situation, decide who the victim needs to see and whether charges should be filed.
If the victim can not go home, Cain refers them to Penelope House, a safe house in Mobile that lodges women and their children who are in danger of domestic violence.
If charges are filed, Cain will also go to court with the victim and explain the court process to them.
"I'm the one who will let the judge know what the victim says because I'm the advocate," Cain said.
Cain refers victims to other agencies for counselling or financial assistance, and after a case has been settled, she will stay in contact with the victim.
"If I feel like they may be in danger or if a perpetrator may cause problems later on, I will contact them," Cain said.
Domestic violence investigators Lee Hall and Monte McGuggin assist victims and handle the investigation of domestic violence crimes, but their work doesn't end there.
The investigators speak to civic organizations and schools about domestic violence, hoping to let the community know what the task force does and that it is there to help.
"We are targeting adults and teens, to give them something to think about. We want to get the message out at an earlier age," said former domestic violence investigator Jeff Beasley. "Domestic violence comes from the poor man on up – it follows no particular socio-economic path."
The task force also conducts training in how to handle domestic violence cases for other law enforcement in the county.
City police departments in the county send reports of domestic violence cases to the task force, and the investigators report the county's domestic violence statistics to the state, which helps the task force acquire state funding.
Investigators Hall and McGuggin also maintain a database to track repeat domestic violence offenders.
"We don't have to rely on memory or the court system. A lot of times (repeat offenses) will make a difference in sentencing," Beasley said. "We want to make sure we treat the offender accordingly."
The task force works closely with District Judge David Jordan and Assistant District Attorney Steve Billy to prosecute domestic violence cases.
"The court system under the guidance of David Jordan has become strong. He's a real advocate for the Domestic Violence Task Force," Beasley said.