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Western part of county suffers special challenges

October 7, 2009

District Court Judge Jill Ganus, serving as a Special Circuit Judge, watches as the women line up in the hallway, some who should be going to the doctor, not to the court. She tries to help them all, finding a way to provide Protection From Abuse orders that will keep the perpetrators away from victims of domestic violence.

In just a few weeks, the financial crisis of Jefferson County is going to make her job and the situation of these domestic violence victims much harder. On Nov. 1, the loss of certain funding from Jefferson County will eliminate the position of domestic Violence liaison that makes such a positive difference today. This liaison, trained as a social worker, helps line up anger management services as an alternative treatment that helps people break the cycle of domestic violence.

“I may have to just put up a sign and tell people to go to the Birmingham District for services,” she said. And yet the incidents of domestic violence are growing everywhere an estimated 30 to 50 percent increase according to Ganus and her counterpoint in the Birmingham District, Special Circuit Judge Locke Donaldson. Birmingham heard its 590 PFA case today, compared to 256 PFA cases so far in the Bessemer District.

Both districts are part of Jefferson County, both serve people in bad circumstances who need relief for themselves, for their children, from the circumstances that leave them vulnerable to domestic violence. But it’s far harder, Ganus says, for victims in Johns or Adger or Oak Grove to find transportation and support to reach a shelter or get into treatment so they can change their circumstances.

To find out more about how you can make a difference in reducing the incidents of domestic violence, go to the Women’s Fund website. And keep an eye on Jefferson County — all of Jefferson County — because factors like the financial crisis and lack of effective transportation make hard conditions even more difficult for victims and their families.

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