Victim advocacy program reflects over last year

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — After reflecting over a year spent diffusing tense domestic situations, the Gallipolis City Solicitor’s Office intends to apply once more for a grant that has helped get Gallia domestic abuse victims back on the path of healing and independence.

“The whole point of the program is to separate victims from offenders,” said City Solicitor Adam Salisbury. “The way that we’re doing it is by providing them with services that we have not had in the past, that no other program in this county has and are generally not available without going to Southeastern Ohio Legal Services.”

Salisbury noted that legal aide nonprofits can often be backlogged from requests for services.

Susan Grady is the victim’s advocate with the city solicitor’s office.

“Susan and I applied for the grant for the first time last year,” Salisbury said. “It’s a federal and state grant called Victims of Crime Advocacy (VOCA) fund. It’s an 80/20 program where the federal and state together put up 80 percent of the funding with a local 20 percent match.”

According to Salisbury, both the county and city governments split the remaining 20 percent funding cost for the program. Part of the grant covers resources for Grady to assist victims of domestic situations.

“(Grady) makes sure that they come to court when they are supposed to and makes sure they know what is happening at court,” Salisbury said. “She makes sure they understand their rights and responsibilities as a victim of crime. She also helps victims connect with other services that may be available for them. Everything from children’s services to things like (a women’s shelter). She coordinates with all of the other people that run those programs to make sure our victims get what they need from those programs.”

Salisbury said part of the funding toward the program also provides for an attorney to assist domestic situation victims with attorney access provided by the victim advocate’s office attorney Brynn Saunders.

Salisbury said the program was halfway through its first year of operation at the end of April as they originally applied for the grant last June and were awarded the grant and started the program in October.

“I can safely say that through the first six months of (the program), (Susan) has instituted more than 100 civil cases,” Salisbury said. “Our overall goal is to separate victims from their offenders. Examples include when they have children in common, they don’t or can’t separate because they don’t have a visitation schedule. If they go to court for child custody, the court can give them orders as to how they are to behave and a schedule to abide by. If they have property together and they need to divorce, (Saunders) represents the victim in the divorce and then they can separate their stuff, which makes it easier for them to not be around each other anymore. The goal is to lessen the repeat offenders.”

“We do follow-up with victims to see how they are,” Grady said. “I can tell you so far, halfway through the grant, all of the civil cases we have done we’ve not had repeat situations. It’s been a positive thing we’ve seen.”

Grady confirmed that victims had also not reappeared as the victims of criminal actions either with assistance from the program.

“Our hope is that by reducing the amount of repeat offenders that we have, we’ll lessen their burden on the resources of the entire system,” Salisbury said. “You’ll have fewer deputies going out on (domestic violence) calls. You’ll have fewer criminal defendants clogging up the docket. You’ll have fewer people being found guilty of domestic violence, which takes up jail space and costs money. Our whole goal is to reduce that burden on everybody.”

Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 4446-2342, Ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright