Florida Court Clerks brings message of domestic violence awareness to Tampa

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As part of the continued observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, representatives of Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers visited Tampa today in an effort to boost awareness of the serious problem that affects as many as one-quarter of Florida women.

With its close relationship with the state court system, court clerks statewide are renewing its public commitment to provide aid to victims of domestic violence year-round. The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers association represents clerks from all 67 Florida counties.

“Florida’s Court Clerks are urging domestic violence victims to become domestic violence survivors by speaking out and utilizing your local Clerk’s office as a resource,” said St. Lucie County Clerk Joe Smith, president of the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers.  “By visiting MyFloridaClerks.com, you can learn how your local Clerk’s office can provide assistance in the aftermath of a domestic violence situation.”

Known as the primary provider of checks and balances in county government, Florida’s Court Clerks and Comptrollers are both the key record-keepers and internal auditor of county funds.

County clerks are devoted to helping domestic violence victims with necessary services, from guiding them through the report-filing process to connecting victims of domestic violence with advocacy programs.

Court Clerks also work hand-in-hand with local sheriff’s offices, providing both confidentiality and discretion, to safeguard victim safety and justice for families and all those affected by domestic violence.

“According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement … in the Tampa Bay area, there were a collective total of 27,228 domestic violence offenses in 2013 in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota Counties,” Smith said.

“Each of us knows someone who has been affected by domestic violence,” said Hillsborough County Clerk Pat Frank.  “It is a blight on society and needs to be eradicated.”

According to Polk County Clerk Stacy Butterfield, more than 3,300 cases filed in Polk County in 2013 were classified as domestic, dating or sexual violence. There were also more than 900 stalking cases.

Calling it an “issue of major concern,” Butterfield also noted the county’s relationship with Peace River Center’s Domestic Violence Center and the Domestic Violence Task Force.

“It is a tremendous asset to our community and shows the level of respect everyone has for the issue,” Butterfield added.

“With more than 10,000 domestic violence police reports filed in our community each year, the need for domestic violence services is overwhelming,” said Erica Wiedemann, director of The Haven of RCS. “As one of the 42 certified domestic violence centers in the State of Florida, The Haven of RCS … provides a 36 bed emergency Safe House for up to 45 days to women and their children and supports an 11 unit, two-year Permanent Living Program.”

For more information on the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers and its Domestic Violence Awareness Initiative, please visit MyFloridaClerks.com.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.