On Oct. 6, I had the pleasure of being present when the Manatee County Board of Commissioners formally declared October to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Speaking in support of the proclamation were State Attorney Ed Brodsky, Assistant State Attorneys Lisa Chittaro and Heather Doyle, along with Detective Cari Perry of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, Laurel Lynch of Hope Family Services and retired Circuit Court Judge Durand Adams.
It was with great pride as I heard each of these individuals talk about why the issue of domestic violence is important to them both personally and professionally.
As a representative of the judiciary of the 12th Judicial Circuit (which includes Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties) I think I can speak on behalf of all of my fellow judges in saying that we take the issues and problems associated with domestic violence very seriously. We recognize our duty to the public to protect all of its citizens from this growing national and often silent tragedy.
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We recognize that our court system feels the impact domestic violence has on it directly and indirectly. As judges we see the consequences when the issues associated with domestic violence are not addressed correctly.
All victims of domestic violence, including victims of sexual or repeat violence, have the right without a lawyer to file a petition to ask the court to issue an injunction for protection. The process is easy and user-friendly.
The Manatee County Clerk of Court -- and indeed all Clerk's Offices across the state -- have information on this procedure. Also, if you visit the 12th Judicial Circuit website at www.jud12.flcourts.org, you will find information on the procedure and also services available to assist a victim of domestic violence through this most difficult and dangerous time.
The local judiciary is available throughout the day to review applications seeking immediate temporary protection from domestic violence, and each week we review these petitions to see if the injunctions should be made permanent. It is a process intended to be fair to all parties.
As judges we collectively make thousands of decisions a day, some big, some small, however we recognize no decisions that we make are more important than the decisions we make regarding domestic violence.
We hope this community continues to support individuals, groups, organizations and other entities dedicated to ending domestic violence and protecting our fellow citizens from the consequences, intended and unintended, that result from it.
In recognition of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Manatee Educational Television, the Sarasota Film Festival and Hope Family Services, all non-profit organizations dedicated to the principles of change through action and education, will be presenting a film event that will hopefully enlighten the community on the issues of domestic violence and its consequences.
The film "A Way Out" takes us inside the world of law enforcement, the judicial system and social agencies as they deal with domestic violence and its aftermath. This local production will feature many of the people in our community who deal with this issue every day, including a survivor of domestic violence.
The film will have its world premiere at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24 at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. We are hopeful this community event will start a dialogue on how we can all work better to end domestic violence, especially here in the community we call home.
Charles E. Williams
12th Judicial Circuit