GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Representatives of the Quigley House and Clay County Sheriff’s Office joined others as they wore purple last week to acknowledge October as Domestic Violence Awareness …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Representatives of the Quigley House and Clay County Sheriff’s Office joined others as they wore purple last week to acknowledge October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
When the calendar turns, however, some of the ribbons will be put away.
And the abuse will continue.
Domestic violence is an epidemic, not only in Clay County, but across the country, experts said, and the numbers are shocking.
“One in three women will experience domestic violence. One in four men will experience domestic violence,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, the Director of Sexual Assault Services at Quigley House. “In a one-minute period of time, 20 people experience domestic violence.”
Quigley House is the county’s only registered facility for persons who’ve been victim of domestic and sexual violence. All of the beds are filled victims of teen dating violence, LGBTQ violence, elder abuse, financial abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, stalking, sexual assault and, of course, domestic violence. But the calls keep coming.
“These are some of the most dangerous calls for service our deputies respond to,” Cook said last week during a joint press conference. “This year alone, we’ve responded to over 1,100 calls for service involving domestic violence. Unfortunately, it’s something that happens quite a bit around here. On these calls, deputies are trained to safely assess the situation, de-escalate it when possible and work with the family to hopefully get them to the resources they need so they can be a happy, healthy and functioning family. Domestic violence happens at every level of society, every ethnicity, every culture.
As a personal note, it happens in every family. Unfortunately, Brandi Brooker, who was killed last week in a domestic violence situation in a neighboring county [St. Johns] was a distant relative of mine. This has affected by family personally, and our thoughts and prayers are still with Brandi’s close family.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the challenges for those committed to protecting victims. Traditional fundraising festivities have been postponed or reduced to virtual events. The victim hotline is manned around the clock and the phone doesn’t stop ringing.
“Through July, our hotlines received over 1,200 phone calls,” Rodriguez said. “Those phone calls weren’t all domestic violence or sexual assault survivors, but because our staff was well-trained, we were able to manage the demand that the county has. I ask the [residents] of Clay County, who I know are so caring, kind and compassionate, to continue to offer support to us by making donations to our thrift store [at 1017 Blanding Blvd. in Orange Park] or sharing our Facebook page to help build awareness and prevention efforts and to going to our website and making a donation. During COVID, we’ve had a very difficult time. We had to abandon our fundraising events that make it possible for us to provide things like transportation, pet food for animals that are in a shelter and other grants can’t pay for.”
In the past month, there were 29 domestic and eight sexual violence arrests made by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. According to Talking Parents, 53% of domestic violence cases go unreported. The reasons are varied: embarrassment, fear of retaliation, economic dependency and an unhealthy imbalance of power in the household. Of the 29 Clay County cases, five included attempted strangulation, one was with a deadly weapon and five included a violation of protection against the accused.
Brooker received a similar protection order, but the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said she was stabbed by her estranged husband on the day it was supposed to be delivered. Derrek Wayne Perkins, 41, of Green Cove Springs, was charged with her murder.
“We at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office are committed to fighting domestic violence,” Cook said. “In fact, we’ve added a number of detectives in our agency who focus solely on this crime. Part of what they do is to curb the behavior of repeat offenders. We’ve also expanded our platforms for reporting so we can receive information in a multitude of ways of domestic violence – victims or people who have information regarding domestic violence occurring at a location. Our domestic violence detectives, our victim’s advocates, our special victims unit sergeant work in partnership with the Quigley House on an ongoing basis, making sure every victim is aware of the help that’s available to them in Clay County through Quigley House, churches and various other charities and organizations in our community.
“During this pandemic, we recognize there’s an opportunity for these cases to rise and go unreported. That is why it is so important for our community to speak up – speak up on behalf of the kids; speak up on behalf of the neighbors, on behalf of the victims. You can call our non-emergency number at (904) 529-5900. Of course, you can dial 911 if there’s an emergency.
“We end this by bringing awareness, bringing training and holding offenders accountable.”
Rodriguez said the first step is providing an outlet for someone who’s been abused.
“When someone comes to you and you suspect they’re involved in domestic violence or sexually assaulted, please refer them to our helpline,” she said. “Tell them that you believe them. You don’t have to counsel them; you don’t have to understand what’s happening. Offering them that first initial line of support, saying ‘I believe you,’ can make all the difference in them continuing to move forward in their process. Our helpline is (904) 284-0061. We have advocates available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Rodriguez closed by asking the community to remember all of the victims.
“Let’s take a moment to remember the survivors who made it out … and those who did not.”