Grant Aims to Create Family Justice Center for Chatham County

Almost 3700 calls to police. Almost 1300 assaults. Worst of all 13 homicides from domestic violence in Savannah and Chatham County in 2015 alone.

Those numbers make you cringe, and seemingly grow bigger every year.

But what if there was a way for victims to get the help they need quicker and easier than ever?

That’s the proposal the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office is making to help stop the violence.

The office in conjunction with Savannah Area Family Emergency (SAFE) Shelter, Rape Crisis Center of the Coastal Empire, and Coastal Children’s Advocacy Center are requesting $400,000 in federal money for a new Family Justice Center.

Funding would be for three years, focusing on hiring a director and providing money for start-up costs.

The Center would respond in a more comprehensive and timely manner to victims of sexual assault, domestic and dating violence and stalking.

“That’s where the guilt came in at if i could have been there to hear daddy he wont leave me alone,” said Victor Campbell, Johnee Williams’ Father.

williams photo 3 johnee williams 7 johnee williams 6

Those were the words of Victor Campbell back in December after he lost his daughter Johnee Williams, killed by her boyfriend Malique Francis. A victim of domestic violence .

“If only i could turn back the hands of time i would lay down my life so she could have life,” said Campbell.

Williams was the 13th domestic homicide victim of 2015. A number that was more than triple 2014, and a sign something needs to be done.

“Since ive been here three years our numbers have increased consecutively by 30% each year,” said Kesha Gibson-Carter, Executive Director of the Rape Crisis Center. “We want to take away any barriers to access for victims.”

Barriers like extra phone calls, going to the wrong agency or not coming at all because of the “red tape”.

“We encounter victims who were bounced from this place to this place,” explains Gibson-Carter. “Or had to make 3-4 phone calls before they got the help they are needed.”

That’s where the Family Justice Center would come in. All services including police and prosecution under one roof, serving every victim.

“To have a scenario where a victim is referred to our organization and to know that the person would need to talk to is just a door over,” said Gibson-Carter. “If we can do anything in this initial stage to make things a little bit easier for them we definitely want to do that.”

While the Federal government decides on their grant money, the City of Savannah may be ready to chip in.

The DA’s office wants 10,000 square feet for the Family Justice Center, and Mayor Eddie Deloach is looking at locations the city can donate to help.

Remember if you do need help for domestic violence you can call Safe Shelter at (912) 629-8888 or the Rape Crisis Center at 912-233-7273.

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