Domestic violence clients increase

Published 11:40 am Saturday, May 18, 2019

After serving 107 domestic violence clients in 2017, the Youth Advocate Program (YAP) Adult Services program more than doubled their clients to 306 this year.

The YAP provides intensive support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking and human trafficking in Covington and Butler counties.

They work with law enforcement, the courts, shelter care programs, faith-based organizations, community-based programs and other human service agencies to provide a coordinated community response for survivors and families. The YAP’s goal is for survivors and their children to live safely in the community, both short-term and long-term.

YAP director Amanda Cook said that the increase in domestic clients shows that there is a huge problem in Covington and surrounding counties.

“That number is way more than you could possibly imagine,” Cook said. “It is a huge problem. We also deal with a lot of elderly abuse cases. That wasn’t something that we really expected, but we have had to deal with that as well. We get referrals from the hospitals, from the Department of Human Resources and law enforcement about these elderly cases.”

The YAP began in 2017, because a group saw a dire need for services in Covington and Butler Counties, Cook said.

“We don’t have a shelter here in Covington County or in Butler County,” Cook said. “Our closest one from Covington County is in Dothan and the closest one from Butler County is in Montgomery. These clients a lot of times would try to go in and try to do paper work and then get discouraged because they didn’t know how to do it, so they would just walk away. They would go and file a warrant and then the offender would call and harass, threatened and everything else until the client thinks that it isn’t worth it and would drop the warrant. Now that we provide the services, our clients say that they have somebody that is going to hold their hand.”

Yesterday the YAP group held a luncheon for all of the law enforcement officers in the county to show their appreciation for the work that they do for them.

“Our relationship with law enforcement is very important,” Cook said. “We do a thing just like this for Thanksgiving as well to show our appreciation. We respond a lot of times with the officers on scene, so it is very important to keep our relationship strong so we know that they we have got their back as much as they have got ours.”

Cook said that a lot of the time, the law enforcement officers call the YAP program to assist them in many cases.

“Sometimes they are not to sure how to handle a situation so they will call us,” Cook said. “Especially if the victim has nowhere to go, we will come in and provide a place for them to stay and help them.”

Law enforcement relationships with the victims are very good, Cook said.

“We do a lot of training with the law enforcement officers to make sure they understand domestic violence,” Cook said. “A lot of the misconception with domestic violence is people always say, ‘Well if she is so unhappy why doesn’t she just leave him, or why doesn’t he leave her,’ when it is so much more complex than that. It’s just not that easy and that is what we want to make sure every one understands.”