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. We set aside these 31 precious days to promote awareness of, and education about, this scourge that shreds the fabric of so many homes and families, threatening our communities.
Our banners will be out all October in our six east and west Pasco locations. Whether in the office or working remotely, we’ll be flashing our purple attire. As always, our antennae will be up. Rightly so.
More than 105,000 cases of domestic violence were reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 2019 (the latest year statistics are available), representing a slight downtick – 4.96 per 1,000 residents vs. 5.03 in 2018, suggesting, maybe, awareness campaigns work. Sadly, however, for reasons ranging from fear to shame and beyond, countless others go unreported.
Pasco continues to trend higher than the state, logging 8.6 cases per 1,000 residents (4,563 overall), only slightly down from 2018’s 8.8 incidents per 1,000. Are we doing better? Maybe not: Through Sept. 14, 1,818 domestic violence injunctions were filed in Pasco in 2021, putting the county on a pace to hit 2,606 filings, the second-highest total in the past five years.
These are worrisome figures, but they conform to 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 – slapping, shoving, pushing.
For many in Pasco, the Clerk & Comptroller’s Office is the first stop on the journey to a better, safer, more secure existence. Our website has a page devoted to helping guide domestic violence victims to the relief they so desperately need: https://www.pascoclerk.com/237/Protective-Injunctions.
“So many women and men suffer abuse in silence,” says Clerk & Comptroller Nikki Alvarez-Sowles, Esq. “I want them to know that we are here to help them get to a better day.
“We offer more than assistance in filing for an injunction [restraining order]. We provide private rooms with a domestic violence counselor to find services to help them get back on their feet.”
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. We approach 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 connect 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 $31,965 to the Salvation Army’s domestic violence awareness program and $24,420 to Sunrise of Pasco.
Jurors also have donated $41,655 to the Guardian Ad Litem Foundation, whose work on behalf of minors is, in many ways, influenced by the shattering effects of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month lasts 31 days. Combatting its impact is our year-round mission.
For more information on domestic violence in Florida, visit the Florida Department of Children and Families.