Local News

Domestic Violence Commission Created

Posted February 25, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST

— A state task force studying domestic violence has issued recommendations to improve the protection victims receive from police, doctors, judges, and lawyers. The 27 member task force started looking at the problem in October of 1998. Thursday, Governor Hunt made the group's findings a priority.

Hunt signed an executive order creating a permanent State Commission to prevent violence and help victims.

Hunt describes the commission's goals. "You can find somebody to turn to, you can get away, you can regain your life and have a chance not to be abused," Hunt says.

Shirrell Thomas was part of the task force that applauded Hunt's order.

Fifteen years ago, Thomas was a victim of domestic violence. At the time, there were few places to turn for help.

Today, Thomas is the director of a program called Sarah's Refuge which helps victims in Duplin County. "I didn't want to see anyone suffer the way I suffered," Thomas says.

Nevertheless, domestic violence continues to be the leading cause of injury to women in America.

One of the biggest obstacles is resources. Seventy-four counties in North Carolina have shelters and programs to help victims, but 26 counties have no help. Those who work with victims say everyone needs to be part of the solution.

"This is not a women's issue. This is a family issue. This is a citizens issue. This is a public safety issue. This is a moral issue," says Amy Holloway, Support Program Director.

Thomas is optimistic that the Governor's plan will offer the kind of help that's needed.

"Too many people are in pain, too many people are suffering from domestic violence. We have to be optimistic that there will be change," Thomas says.

Last year, 36,000 women used shelters in North Carolina.

Several lawmakers have already proposed legislation aimed at funding resources for victims, and at making police more proactive.