Richmond County task force to cut down domestic violence

It’s been at least a decade since Richmond County had a domestic violence task force.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 9:31 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2023 at 9:36 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - It’s been at least a decade since Richmond County had a domestic violence task force.

It’s a state requirement for each judicial circuit for cities to have one. The tragic death of a community leader highlighted the need for one in the community, but tonight we’re learning the renewed efforts for this task force has been in the works for a while.

We got details on the program that aims to help both people in the relationship.

The entire purpose of the task force is all about keep the victim safe. And to do so, people on this task force say multiple resources are needed, from all agencies in Richmond County from law enforcement to Safe Homes to advocates working together.

Hannah Meagher, says when she started working at Safe Homes in 2020 there was not a task force for domestic violence, so she worked to put one together.

Their first meeting with law enforcement, the DA’s office, child enrichment, and more was set to be in August of 2021 but was pushed back due to a spike in Covid.

A representative with Safe Homes says this allowed for more time to develop a better-set plan for what this task force could do, and how they could help both sides of the problem to make sure everyone stays safe.

Meagher says, “The goal is to eliminate any barriers for a victim who has experienced domestic violence and to eliminate any barriers for a survivor going forward in their healing process and their journey of survivorship. And also to put laws in place to prevent abuse, and also to hold those that abuse accountable for their actions.”

But first, we start with details about a brand new task force in Richmond County hoping to cut down on domestic violence in our community.

Earlier this week the DA’s office and Safe Homes of Augusta held a summit to organize a plan of action.

It’s the first time officials and community leaders have come together for a coalition like this in a decade.

Domestic violence survivors say filing the abuse report is only half of the battle, following through with the justice system is the next. Leaders say it’s going to take a community effort to do so.

“With both of his hands wrapped around my throat, and looked me straight in my face and told me that tonight was the night he was going to kill me. I thought, like, you know, this, this is probably it,” one survivor, Becky, says.

Laying in her blood, shards of glass shattered, where her abuser had thrown her into a table, Becky says she was hopeless

“My thought was, none of it was big enough or sharp enough to stab him and kill him before he killed me,” she says.

After five years of not following through with the legal sides of things --she was determined she would be a survivor of domestic violence

“Following through with the legal process is hard, you kind of don’t know a lot about what’s going on because often there’s not a lot of updates to give because you’re kind of it’s like hurry up and wait,” Becky says.

Documents, pictures, court appearances, phone calls and more made a difference in Becky’s case.

“I was kind of the nail on the coffin for my case because I was keeping all of this evidence for year after year,” she says.

It’s a goal to help bring other victims to the side of survivorship, Becky is joining Safe Homes, law enforcement, and other agencies in the creation of a domestic violence task force.

Meagher says, “The goal, the task force is to also look at the fatalities that have happened to see, were there instances where we could have helped and change things? Or, you know, was it something she didn’t have a resource for? So to go over those, you know, incidences and see where we can improve upon?”

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office says they are taking it a step further to help both sides.

Patrick Clayton, says, “The focus deterrence program, it isn’t just a program where it’s just, we want to lock up the offender. They go through the anger management, in the marital counseling together, then maybe you could, you could dismiss the cases, but you then the focus has to be on protecting, you know, the victim of the abuse.”

And it doesn’t stop here.

“I think it takes everybody you know, they say it takes a village to raise a child I think it takes a village to help a domestic violence survivor or someone who’s suffering in silence with domestic violence,” Becky says.

Safe Homes and the sheriff’s office say it’s so important for victims to follow through with reports and the legal process. The task force is there to guide you and help you through each step.

The next task force meeting is on May 16th. Their goal is to get people signed up for the committees so that they can start seeing change throughout Richmond County.