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Lawmakers Want More Funding for Domestic-Violence Safe Havens

Some lawmakers want the state to put more money into supervised visitation programs that let domestic violence victims safely share child custody with their abusers.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — It looks like a normal downtown Raleigh house, but the one at 118 Saint Mary's St. is a safe haven for victims of domestic violence.

It's called the Time Together Supervised Visitation and Exchange Center and serves as a safe, neutral spot for those who must regularly bring their children for visits with an abusive partner.

"You don't have to see him," said Tanisha Bagley, a domestic violence victim who uses the center. "I come in. I drop the children off. I go through the front door. There's a police officer greeting me – that's the first person I see, so I feel safe automatically."

The custodial parent, usually the mother, goes in one door on one side of the building. Fifteen minutes later, the other parent, usually the father, goes in a door on the opposite side of the building.

The non-custodial parent visits with the children in a supervised playroom. The custodial parent waits in another room.

For Bagley, whose ex-husband went to prison for assaulting her and was released earlier this month, Time Together brings her peace of mind.

"I never have any interaction with him, and I love that," she said.

According to the Governor's Crime Commission, there are 17 similar visitation centers across the state. If more money isn't allocated to the centers, the commission says, some might have to close.

The Joint Legislative Committee on Domestic Violence believes the centers keep women safe and keep children from witnessing violence. It's pushing for legislation, which failed in the General Assembly last session, to set aside $2 million in funding for these centers.

"We don't want to keep producing abusers," Sen. Julia Boseman, D-New Hanover, said. "We want to prevent the violence, so the centers are very important. And we hope to get more funding for them in the short session."

Each center costs anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000 a year to run. Funding goes to pay for off-duty police officers and trained facilitators, as well as for construction and renovation for separate entrances, separate waiting areas and play areas.

"I'm 100 percent behind it, and I think even more money should be poured into this program," Bagley said.

Besides Wake, there are visitation centers in Alamance, Chatham, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth and Guilford counties and elsewhere across the state.

Wake's program was one of the first in the state and has served as a model for the others. Last year, it served 164 children.


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