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Family violence victims' office will be aided by grant

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The Family Violence Unit of the Calhoun County District Attorney’s office of the 7th Judicial Court recently received a $30,000 grant from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s office. 

Laura Phillips, first assistant district attorney and head of the Family Violence Unit, applied for the grant to meet two needs. 

First is a need for money with which the court can pay overtime compensation to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and, second, for software that will help local officials obtain federal funding.

“During COVID, people are at home more, and there are more financial strains on families,” Phillips said. “We have seen a rise in domestic violence cases through the police department, but, unfortunately, we have seen, through our statistics, a smaller number of women coming in and getting help.”

The number of warrants women are seeking have fallen, along with the number of “protection from abuse orders.”

During the first peak of the pandemic, the courthouse closed, but the district attorney’s office stayed available to those seeking warrants or orders. Phillips and her staff posted signs on their doors for women who came by their offices and included the staff members’ cell phone numbers.

“Also, we posted ways they could communicate with us through Facetime, which keeps the women and the employees safe from the virus,” Phillips said.

The Violence against Women Act, which is primarily for domestic violence cases, offers federal money to any family-violence units that have the proper statistics regarding those seeking assistance.

“Our current computer system is not able to pull out domestic violence cases,” Phillips said, “or whether there is a misdemeanor offense or a felony, which involves a weapon. We have found a software company that will help us extract these statistics.”

During Ivey’s statement announcing the grant awards, she thanked the law enforcement officers who “work tireless to provide safe communities for us to live and work.”

Phillips echoed the sentiments when describing how those in the Family Violence Unit had been on call day and night for victims of domestic violence.

“Family violence doesn’t just happen during the day,” she said.