Local

Domestic violence board gives update

By Jane Wester

jwester@charlotteobserver.com

In its annual report to the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, the county’s Domestic Violence Advisory Board said it had some good news.

“For the first time in the six years that I’ve presented to this body, we have a largely positive report,” former advisory board Chairwoman Elizabeth Thornton Trosch said.

But the advisory board also pointed out persistent problems, many of which commissioners had heard about before.

There were four domestic violence homicides in 2014. That’s the same number as in 2013.

The advisory board’s report said the Clyde and Ethyl Dixon Shelter for Domestic Violence is overcapacity, with 150 women and children housed nightly. Their stays are often lengthened because of a lack of transitional housing.

In 2014, 48 women and children were turned away from shelter because of a lack of space.

“These facts suggest the underlying Domestic Violence Public Health problem continues,” the report said.

The advisory board called for a magistrate to serve the northern part of Mecklenburg County, saying the journey to Charlotte represents a barrier for those seeking orders of protection or trying to answer a criminal summons.

“We have been talking about this for a while,” Chairman Trevor Fuller said. “And I’m not sure what the obstacles are. Maybe it is just cost, maybe there are some other reasons, some structural things that may prevent us from doing it.”

Fuller asked the advisory board to find out how much the additional magistrate would cost. In its written report, the advisory board recommended teleconferencing as an option for magistrate access in northern Mecklenburg.

Trosch, a district court judge, presented the 2014 report and praised an increase in services for young people affected by domestic violence and prevention initiatives for teens.

In December, the Mecklenburg County Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Center opened off Randolph Road. The facility allows parents to safely transfer their children between households without interacting with one another and helps children visit safely with non-custodial parents.

While staffing and funding for youth initiatives has expanded in several areas in the past year, Trosch said the advisory board still sees a need for more awareness in the community about how witnessing domestic violence affects children.

Language services for victims who speak neither English nor Spanish are also needed, Trosch said, and services for Spanish speakers are still incomplete.

Researchers at UNC Charlotte found that domestic violence costs Mecklenburg County over $30 million annually, Trosch said. Mental and physical health services accounted for nearly 60 percent of the cost statewide.

Wester: 704-358-5169

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