Focus on the Law: Prosecuting Domestic Violence

By Sharon Frankenberg,
Attorney at Law

When DA Charme Allen took office in September 2014, she made several changes to the District Attorney’s Office to combat various problems in our community.  One of those problems was the huge volume of domestic violence occurring in Knox County.  “According to statistics from the Family Justice Center, local law enforcement receives a call about domestic violence every thirty minutes,” said General Allen.  “This translates to thousands of cases of domestic assault coming through the court system.”

In order to fight this problem, General Allen revamped the Domestic Violence Unit by adding more prosecutors and support staff to help victims and hold their abusers accountable.  The Domestic Violence Unit expanded to three full-time prosecutors and two support staff members dedicated solely to cases of domestic violence.  These prosecutors bring with them years of experience and specialized training handling very difficult domestic cases.  According to General Allen, “Members of the Domestic Violence Unit must be part prosecutor and part victim advocate as they help victims cope with the emotional and traumatic events of their past while guiding them forward through the legal process to a safe and peaceful future.”

The initiatives of General Allen and the hard work of the prosecutors and staff of the Domestic Violence Unit have already proven itself in the courtroom.  Within this first year of the revitalized unit, more domestic violence cases are being prosecuted, more victims are being helped, and ultimately, more offenders are being convicted of the crimes they have committed.

In case you are not familiar with the concept, family justice centers provide victims of domestic violence with a single location to access safety, advocacy, justice, and other services necessary to end the cycle of violence in the home.” http://www.tn.gov/news/13267 .  Founded in 2006, our Knoxville Family Justice Center was the first such center in Tennessee.   More than 60 government, non-profit, and medical agencies collaborate to provide a coordinated response for victims of domestic violence.  This means victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse no longer have to visit multiple locations to receive the assistance that they need with their situations.

Domestic violence is a complicated issue with no easy answers, but resources are available in our community to help.  You may contact the local 24/7 Family Violence Hotline at (865)521-6336.  The Knoxville Family Justice Center is located at 400 Harriet Tubman Street, Knoxville, Tennessee 37915, phone number (865)215-6800.  The Family Justice System is normally open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Please contact Jackie Myers with the District Attorney’s Office for more information from that office.  Her phone number is (865)215-2515.  Of course if you have an urgent need for help, call 911.

Special thanks to Sean F. McDermott, Assistant District Attorney General for his generous contribution to this column.  Contact an attorney if you need legal advice and assistance with your unique situation.  Sharon Frankenberg is an experienced attorney licensed in Tennessee since 1988.  She is a sole practitioner who handles foreclosures, evictions, probate, collections and general civil matters.  She also represents creditors in bankruptcy proceedings. Her office is in Knoxville and she may be reached at (865)539-2100.

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