The Clarksville Legal Aid Society office in Clarksville helped
929 victims of domestic violence in 2004.
And with many of those cases involving military families,
managing attorney Pat Mock said she is optimistic about a new
multi-jurisdictional partnership formed to help lower the number of
local domestic violence incidences.
The Military/Civilian Coordinated Community Response
Demonstration Project is a partnership of about 30 agencies,
including law enforcement, justice systems and victim advocates at
Montgomery County and Christian County, Ky., that will work with
Fort Campbell officials to combat incidences of domestic violence.
The project is a pilot program set forth by the National Center
on Domestic and Sexual Violence. If it is successful, it could be
used as a model for the rest of the country.
The program is expected to be up and running by February.
"I think it's a huge opportunity for the surrounding community to
make improvements and provide collaboration and coordination between
civilian and military (agencies)," Mock said.
While Legal Aid has worked with the military before, this project
can apply for federal grants to help cover costs of classes,
programs and staff. The first task of the project will be to map out
the current process and see how the system can be more efficient
while helping families.
"None of this is going to be easy," Mock said. "We'll need to
look at all the pieces to ensure they fit together nicely."
Fort Campbell, for fiscal year 2002, reported 4.6 number of
domestic violence cases for every 1,000 soldiers. The 2002 numbers
were the most recent available from Fort Campbell officials.
A soldier convicted of domestic violence could be discharged from
the Army under laws that would no longer allow them to carry a
weapon after the conviction.
Mock said the goal of the new partnership is not to incarcerate
people. Instead, officials want to look at several aspects,
including causes, treatment and enforcement.
"We need the chain of command to be supportive," Mock said,
adding that putting someone in jail and breaking up a family isn't
always the answer. "We're looking at preserving the family."
Assistant District Attorney Charles Johnson, who specializes in
domestic violence issues, said Clarksville has made improvements in
enforcing and arresting offenders. He said there hasn't been a
domestic violence-related death in Montgomery County in two years.
Johnson credits that with special domestic violence units set up
in the Clarksville Police Department and Sheriff's Office over the
last few years.
The biggest deterrent, Johnson said, is making an arrest because
the trauma of that experience usually prevents a second 911 call.
"We attempt to do two things. To provide the victim with
information on how to be safe and to prevent the offender from
hurting the victim again," he said.
But one issue is clear for Johnson.
"We must do what we can to better the lives of women who are
victims of domestic violence."
Chantal Escotocovers military affairs and can be
reached at 245-0216 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published January 31, 2005