Each October, We Highlight the Year-Round Battle for Peaceful Homes
While it is in our marrow to be alert to domestic violence every day, the Office of Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller is honored to join other government agencies around America each October participating in Domestic Violence Awareness Month – 31 precious days devoted to promoting awareness of, and education about, this scourge that shreds the fabric of so many homes and families, threatening our communities.
Our banners are out in our east and west Pasco locations. We’re flashing our purple attire. And our antennae are up. Rightly so.
In Florida, nearly 105,000 cases of domestic violence were reported in 2018 – a depressing number that, nonetheless, represents an encouraging dip of 1.9% from 2017, suggesting, maybe, awareness campaigns work. Sadly, for reasons that range from fear to shame, countless others go unreported.
By contrast, in Pasco, nearly 2,600 domestic violence injunctions were filed in the 12 months ending in August, an average of 211 per month – up from 206.4 per month the previous year. That slight surge is not explained entirely by the county’s population growth; according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, reports of domestic violence rose an alarming 6.3% in 2018, to 880.8 incidents per 100,000 Pasco residents.
These are worrisome figures, but they conform to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence findings that one in three women and one in four men (adults 18 and older) have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
For many in Pasco, the Clerk & Comptroller’s Office is the first stop on the journey to a better, safer day. Our website has a page devoted to helping guide domestic violence victims to the relief they so desperately need: http://www.pascoclerk.com/public-courts-protective-injunctions.asp
“We face, every day, women, and some men, who are in dire need and don't know what options are available to them,” says Clerk & Comptroller Nikki Alvarez-Sowles, Esq. “We're eager to help them find a safe place. Even if you don't have money, even if you don't have resources, there are people here who can help you.”
Our Office works actively with the Pasco Sheriff’s Office and local nonprofit organizations to help survivors and those threatened with harm achieve justice and safety for themselves and their families. It is our duty to serve as their advocate and support system, which means approaching each situation with the seriousness and urgency domestic violence survivors deserve, and the compassion they need.
For the survivor’s protection, we use complete confidentiality and discretion throughout the process, from filing reports to ensuring victims are connected with advocate programs.
In addition to trained, thoughtful professionals ready to help individuals seeking to file a domestic violence injunction, our Office provides secure space for personnel from Sunrise of Pasco and the Salvation Army to meet privately with those needing counsel and/or more assistance.
“Nikki supports us in our tasks and in our mission,” says Kelly Sinn, executive director of Sunrise of Pasco. “We are always met with open arms by the Clerk’s Office, and that means a lot.”
A key element of that support is the Clerk & Comptroller’s Juror Donation Program, which allows jurors to direct their compensation to any of three charities, two of which, mentioned above, work directly with victims of domestic violence.
Since its inception in May 2014, generous jurors have donated $26,145 to the Salvation Army’s domestic violence awareness program and $18,510 to Sunrise of Pasco.
Jurors also have donated $32,055 to the Guardian Ad Litem Foundation, whose work on behalf of minors is, in many ways, influenced by the effects of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month lasts 31 days. Combatting its impact is our year-round job.
For more information on domestic violence in Florida, visit www.FCADV.org.