NORTH CAROLINA -- Domestic violence remains a big problem in North Carolina and in the Triad.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by a partner.
There were 108 domestic violence-related homicides in 2013 in North Carolina.
That means that around two people died per week from domestic violence in 2013.
Many times, experts say the attacks do not get reported to authorities.
In some counties, victims have to visit four or five different places and meet with officials from all different offices and agencies.
Cindy Brady with the Alamance Co. Family Justice Center said victims would be exhausted after visiting the courthouse, the police station, lawyers’ offices, etc.
“Almost 1/3 of the victims left our door here and never went to the courthouse or never went to one of the steps simply because it was too difficult and too chaotic," said Brady.
Now, thanks to a program started in Alamance County, more than half of the state’s population will have a safer and easier opportunity to report acts of domestic violence against them.
Developed in 2013, the eCourts Civil Domestic Violence System (ECCDV) makes the Alamance County Family Justice Center is now a one-stop-shop for victims of domestic abuse.
Instead of having to go from place to place, victims get a private room to fill out their forms.
They even have the opportunity to have a hearing before a judge on Skype instead of having to wait in line at the courthouse.
The victim has total access to the district court community, including law enforcement, without the need to leave the safety of a secure remote location or compromise their privacy and confidentiality.
The system has done a lot for people in Alamance County.
Brady says referrals are up 139 percent per year since 2013!
“It is so much calmer for the victim to be able to come here to the family Justice Center versus going to four or five different places. We know it takes much less time and they are also able to safety plan based on these status of their emergency order,” said Brady. “There are also able to stay here and get the services they need. We have counselors in the building, an attorney, law enforcement, anybody they may need to speak with to help them address the domestic violence in their life.”
Currently, the system is available in Alamance, Guilford, and Wake counties.
The system was just awarded a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Justice Department for expansion!
Over the next 3 years, the e-filing program will expand to 13 counties including Davidson and Forsyth County.
Officials identified a list of target counties for expansion based on factors including high filing rates for domestic violence protective orders, crime rates, underserved populations, and geographical challenges that provide additional barriers when attempting to access justice.
Counties planned for implementation:
• Year 1 - Davidson (October 31), Durham
• Year 2 - Cumberland, Forsyth, Gaston, Mecklenburg, Robeson
• Year 3 - Buncombe, Haywood, New Hanover, Onslow, Pitt
“It's going to make a difference and be a game changer for other counties just like it was here,” said Brady. “It truly was a game changer. When you think about domestic violence victims throughout the state being able to get that, it's going to have a broad-based impact.”
In total, once implemented, the system will serve half of the N.C. population, half of domestic violence protective order filings statewide, and more than 56% of domestic violence homicides statewide.
“It is going to change the way domestic violence orders are done in North Carolina,” said Brady. “We will be able to collaborate and communicate with other counties. It is safer for the victim. It is safer for law-enforcement because they can pull that order up and see exactly what the conditions and circumstances are about that case before they go to that home."
The grant money will also allow the system to be integrated with North Carolina's warrant repository system, NCAWARE.
That means police statewide will be able to share and review information and documents with other each other in real time.
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