County proclaims Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 5, 2016


The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors signed a proclamation on Monday, making October Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Twenty-four percent of women and 14 percent of men have been physically assaulted by a partner, according to statistics from the proclamation.

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In signing the document, supervisors “reaffirm our commitment to ending domestic violence within our community,” states the proclamation.

The Gulf Coast Women’s Center for Nonviolence provides assistance to people who have been victims of domestic violence, and other crimes, in Pearl River County.

Although the organization doesn’t have a shelter in Pearl River County, it will arrange transport to shelters in Biloxi or Jackson, Alfonzo said.

“Everything we offer is available to those six southern counties,” she said.

Their counselors and outreach members travel to Pearl River County to provide counseling and legal services, at no cost to the victims, Alfonzo said.

Through its various programs, the organization served a total of 27 county residents last year and provided 838 indirect services to individuals, according to data from the center.

The center served eight women and children who were victims of domestic violence, provided 218 nights of service, 369 meals, 11 individual counseling sessions and 14 group counseling sessions, according to data from the center.

It also received a total of 113 calls to the crisis hotline and had three educational programs with 725 attendees.

Sometimes, victims of domestic violence can be arrested because the primary aggressor shows signs of defensive wounds, Heather Alfonzo, a community outreach advocate with the center, said.

The organization helps provide training to law enforcement to look for signs of domestic violence in an effort to prevent the arrest of the victim.

“Through education and training we are trying to reduce the number of dual arrests because it doesn’t support the victim…it doesn’t help them feel like they can be safe or that the system is going to help them get out of the situation,” Alfonzo said. “They are less likely to report it next time.”

The seminars offered to law enforcement talk about the dynamics of domestic violence and the abusive cycle it creates, Alfonzo said.

The programs are more intensive than what is offered at police academies, giving officers an opportunity to enact a scenario through role-play.

Alfonzo said they also work with law enforcement during court proceedings to help make the best case possible for the victims, instead of playing a “he-said, she-said game.”

The organization was awarded grant money to hire a children’s outreach counselor for children aged 6 and older, Alfonzo said.

They also hope to establish regular court advocates in Pearl River County to maintain a regular presence for both criminal and civil protection by the end of the year, she said.

The center’s 24-hour crisis line can be reached at 1-800-800-1396 or visit for more information.

About Julia Arenstam

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