Family violence is a public epidemic with far reaching effects. An estimated one in three women will experience violence during her lifetime; intimate partner violence occurs in the U.S. every nine seconds. More than 2500 domestic violence incidents are reported in Hamilton County annually, with five homicides and one suicide in 2005. Domestic violence is an ongoing pattern of physical, sexual and psychological abuse in intimate or familial relationships. It includes spousal abuse, violence between unmarried intimate partners of the same or different sex, dating violence, child abuse, sexual assault and elder abuse. Resulting community crimes include assault, stalking, kidnapping, robbery, hostage taking, property destruction, arson, child and elder abuse, juvenile crime, gang violence, and animal abuse. The cost of “the war at home” nationwide is conservatively estimated to be in excess of $194 billion annually. The resultant emotional scars are impossible to quantify.
The Coalition Against Domestic and Community Violence of Greater Chattanooga established the Chattanooga Family Justice Alliance in August, 2004. The goal is to reduce the incidence of family violence in Hamilton County by making lasting changes and improvements to current systems through a comprehensive coordinated response. Founding partners include the Coalition, Chattanooga Police Department, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, Eleventh Judicial District Attorney General’s Office, Partnership for Families, Children & Adults, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, and Southeast Tennessee Legal Services.
The Alliance has grown rapidly to include over 70 organizations from health care, universities, schools, police, courts and judiciary, social services, business, the faith community and others. A one-stop Response Center has been established for victims of family violence, making access to all services safer, easier and more effective. Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) are being developed and implemented across law enforcement, criminal justice, social service, and health systems and Protocols are being formalized to cement coordinated response.
These developments place Greater Chattanooga in the vanguard of U.S. cities and counties that are taking concerted steps to conquer the scourge of domestic violence. In October, 2005 Casey Gwinn of the Department of Justice National Advisory Council on Domestic Violence and former City Attorney of the City of San Diego, returned to Chattanooga to present a keynote address titled, “Changing the World: A Family Justice Center Vision.” Reinforcing the community’s current path, he presented San Diego’s results in reducing annual domestic violence homicides from 30 to 3 with the goal of zero in 2006. Following on Gwinn’s presentation, over 100 community leaders were joined by survivors of family violence for a November 4, 2005 Family Justice Alliance Summit to increase knowledge, strengthen links, and help identify what the Alliance must accomplish in the next three years to make significant progress in reducing the incidence of family violence in Hamilton County.
I. Complete development of Memoranda of Understanding and implement Protocols across community systems and organizations with roles in responding to family violence. read more
II. Expand the capabilities and use of the one-stop Response Center for victims of family violence. read more
III. Increase knowledge about family violence and the actions that reduce it among service providers, community leaders and the public at large. read more
IV. Determine indicators, measure performance and pursue policy initiatives for effective community-wide response to family violence. read more
V. Build sustained leadership and secure necessary resources for the Alliance role in reducing the incidence of family violence in Hamilton County. read more