Hope for victims of domestic violence in Marshall County

Friday, October 6, 2017
Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett and Marshall County General Sessions Court Judge Lee Bussart sign a resolution marking October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Marshall County. Behind them are Melissa and Amber from Haven of Hope, a non-profit agency serving victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Haven of Hope was awarded a grant this year that enables them to expand their presence here in the county to five days a week.
Tribune photo by Scott Pearson

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

This year, however, Marshall County has an opportunity to do more about the problem than sign resolutions and hang ribbons with the recent expansion of Haven of Hope in the county.

Haven of Hope is a non-profit agency, based in Manchester, serving Marshall County and five other area counties with services for victims of domestic violence.

The agency provides a broad spectrum of free and confidential services to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

They offer services ranging from an emergency shelter and counseling to assistance with the court process, orders of protection, and safety planning.

The agency’s crisis line, 800-735-7739, connected more than 3,200 calls last year to a trained advocate, available 24 hours and day, seven days a week.

Haven of Hope has, in the past, had one person in Marshall County for one day a week to provide their services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

That changed in July, as the agency received a grant that enables them to staff the county five days a week along with a dedicated space of their own.

Melissa and Amber have served full time here as an outreach coordinator and domestic violence advocate, respectively, since then.

They prefer not to give out their last names for the sake of security. Likewise, they prefer not to publish their eventual office location.

That need to balance the safety and confidentiality of their clients with the need to raise awareness of the issue and the support that is available highlights the seriousness of the issue that they face.

“We want to increase victims sense of safety and well-being and for them to feel like they can obtain crucial services,” said Melissa.

Domestic violence is a cycle that is difficult for victims to escape.

Statistics show that victims leave their abuser an average of seven times before finally getting free of the situation. The violence generally increases after each attempt as well, they said.

In the Crime in Tennessee report for 2016, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation compiled more than 77.000 incidents of domestic violence, ranging from almost 52,000 simple assault cases to 90 murders, statewide.

For Marshall County, the various county law enforcement agencies reported 280 domestic incidents of one type or another.

“I’d say we (Marshall County) were on the high end of the spectrum,” said Melissa. “It (domestic violence) is pretty high here.”

Marshall County General Sessions Court Judge Lee Bussart sees many of these cases of domestic violence pass through her courtroom every year and is enthusiastic about what the increased presence of Haven of Hope here means.

“The Haven of Hope offers a valuable resource to our community. In addition to connecting victims with free resources, such as counseling and safety plan development, the advocate attends court proceedings and navigates the sometimes intimidating court system,” Bussart said. “We are very fortunate to have this program serving our citizens.”

The numbers show that Marshall County needs the additional support that Haven of Hope is now able to offer.

There are no easy answers to the problem of domestic violence and no easy way out, but Melissa and Amber want to offer some light at the end of the tunnel.

“You don’t have to stay in violent circumstances,” she added. “There is hope and help out there.”