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Focus on the Law: Help for victims of domestic violence

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Domestic violence occurs across all segments of our society, regardless of race, education, income or sexual orientation.  Whether you are aware of it or not, you likely have neighbors who are or have been victims of domestic violence.  My hope is that you will take something from this column and be able to share it with these neighbors.  No one should have to live in fear of an abuser.

If a victim of domestic violence does not feel safe in his or her home, he or she should leave and stay with a trusted friend, relative or in a shelter.  A victim should also develop a safety plan which is a listing of actions to take if he or she is at risk of further abuse.  A victim may receive assistance developing a safety plan from a local shelter, from a Legal Aid Office or from the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.  Serenity Shelter serves Knox County and may be reached by phone at (865)673-6551.  The Family Crisis Center serves Knox County at (865)637-8000.  The Salvation Army also offers shelter in Knox County at (865)525-9401.  Safe Haven offers shelter for victims of sexual assault in Upper East Tennessee at (865)522-7273.  The YWCA offers personalized assistance for victims of domestic violence and I highly recommend contacting them at (865)215-6383 for services in English and (865)257-6785 for services in Spanish.  There is also a local 24-hour crisis line at (865)521-6336.

In Knox County, we are very fortunate to have multiple options for obtaining Orders of Protection.  An Order of Protection is a civil legal document that helps protect you from domestic violence.  It can last for one year.  There are three kinds of Orders of Protection:  No Contact, No Contact with Communication and Social Contact. There first two types do not permit any physical contact between victim and abuser.  The last type merely prohibits the abuser from hurting, attempting to hurt or threaten harm to the victim.   A victim can request an order of protection by filing a Petition for Order of Protection.  This form is available at both the Family Justice Center (400 Harriet Tubman Street, Knoxville, TN 37915 ph. 521-6336) and the Fourth Circuit Court Clerk (City-County Bldg. , Main Floor, 400 Main Ave., Knoxville, TN 37902 ph. 215-2404).  The Chancery Court also has jurisdiction to issue Orders of Protection.

Every Thursday morning, Judge Bill Swann of Fourth Circuit Court dedicates time and attention to domestic violence and, specifically, to hearings on Orders of Protection.   Attorneys with Legal Aid of East Tennessee, volunteer attorneys and advocates from the YWCA help victims of domestic violence file the necessary paperwork and complete the court hearings needed to obtain an order of protection.  They can also help with pursuing punishment of the abuser if the order of protection is violated.  Of course, anyone in immediate danger should call 911 whether they have an order of protection or not.

There are support groups available to help victims of domestic violence.  Our local YWCA offers free support groups for adult female victims and survivors of emotional, mental, and/or physical abuse.  The groups are conducted in both English and Spanish.  Contact Judith Wyatt with the YWCA at 215-6848.  Child and Family Services of Tennessee offers support for victims in “Promise Group.” Contact the Family Crisis Center at 637-8000.   Finding Hope and Healing Group is a support group in West Knoxville.  Contact Rachael Searcy at 215-6863.   And victims of sexual assault, male and female, may receive free assistance through Safe Haven, contact number is 558-9040.  Victims of domestic violence may also choose individual counseling at multiple facilities in our area.  The cost may be covered by insurance or sliding fees may be available.  Clearly, help is available so let’s make sure that our neighbors get the help that they need to be free from domestic violence.

 

Sharon Frankenberg is an experienced attorney licensed in Tennessee since 1988.  She is a sole practitioner who handles foreclosures, landlord-tenant, probate, collections and general civil matters.  She represents Social Security disability claimants and represents creditors in bankruptcy proceedings. Her office number in Knoxville is (865)539-2100.

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