JOHNSON CITY, Tenn (WJHL)- Johnson City Family Justice Center Officials say they see a spike in the number of domestic violence cases whenever children are out of school which includes during the holiday season.
Alarming statistics reveal that Tennessee ranks fifth in the nation in domestic related deaths according to data from the FBI.
The Family Justice Center has two safe house, one in Johnson City and another in Kingsport.
The director for both safe houses, Tina Johnson, says their numbers change day to day with both houses being extremely busy with young women and children.
While some may be thinking of feasts and gifts ahead of the holiday season, others are thinking of a safe place to stay.
“Typically moms will wait until kids, their school schedule wont be disrupted to leave if they can,” said Johnson, “During the holidays it’s especially hard because they have to leave everything. They come with just the clothes on their back and you know every mom wants their kid to have Christmas.”
This is why the Family Justice Center is asking for men, women, and children’s clothing, hygiene items, sheets, towels, and blankets.
They also want people to know that not all cases of domestic violence are alike.
“Men are victims of domestic violence just like women and typically it’s harder for man to come forward and seek help,” said Johnson.
She says she sees around 300 victims of domestic violence and sexual assault a year in Johnson City and around 80 a year in Kingsport.
With both safe houses, they have 28 beds combined.
Kerrie Hall is a case manager and works directly with clients to help find them work, housing, and even help them obtain important documents.
“A lot of times abusers will keep their important documents like their drivers licenses and birth certificates and things like that as means of control,” said Hall.
The Family Justice Center also give victims legal aid.
Deborah Yoemans-Barton is a Managing Attorney of Legal Aid For East Tennessee.
“Domestic violence representation is really hard because of the cycle of violence,” she says, “After Christmas, when the bills are due, and things get tense, then we have a lot.”
Yoemans-Barton not only represents domestic violence and sexual assault victims in court but educates others on the topic.
“If you’re having a conversation about domestic violence what’s the first thing somebody says to you, and they’ll say ‘why doesn’t she leave,’ and I say, ‘and why do we say that? Why don’t we say, why does he abuse? Victims of domestic violence, they cared about their abuser, and so its hard to just up and leave regardless of what’s happening to you,” she said.
Tina Johnson said she’s seen a spike in numbers of domestic violence cases in the past few years.
“The level of violence in the area seems to be higher then it has in my memory, and I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” explains Johnson, “You would like to think that your home is the safest place you have to be but for our clients it’s the most dangerous place for them.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault there are several numbers you can call.
The national domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-2733.
The 24 hour domestic violence hotline for Johnson City is 423- 926- 7233.
The 24 hour domestic violence hotline for Kingsport is 844-578- 7233.
The sexual assault hotline is 423- 306-5169.