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Domestic violence shelter demand rises in recent years
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How to get help: Gateway Domestic Violence Center: 770-536-5860

Domestic violence

• On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.

• About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

• Nearly 1 in 10 women has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime, and an estimated 16.9 percent of women and 8 percent of men have experienced sexual violence other than rape by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

• Among adult victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, 22.4 percent of women and 15 percent of men first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years old.

Source: National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, Centers for Disease Control

Leaving an abusive relationship is risky.

“The time when somebody is thinking about ending an abusive relationship can be the most dangerous time for that person,” Gateway Domestic Violence Center Executive Director Jessica Butler said.

But there are only so many ways out of that relationship.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigators on Tuesday concluded that Troy Phillips, 45, shot his wife, Heather Phillips, 42, July 28 at their Third Street home in Chicopee Village.

Shane Martin, Heather Phillips’ brother, said neighbors and co-workers told him of domestic issues following the death investigation.

“After something happens, then people start coming out and telling you,” he said.

According to the Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project, 139 people died statewide in 2015 from domestic violence. Hall County accounted for one death that year.

The Gainesville domestic violence center, which has 16 beds for those in need of shelter, has been over capacity the first six months of 2016, a trend that’s been growing in recent years.

“The demand for emergency shelter beds in our community is huge,” Butler said.

The center often operates above capacity, placing people in hotel rooms or at centers in neighboring counties.

“It’s a few thousand dollars a year just for hotel rooms … in addition to running a full shelter,”

Butler said of the cost of being over capacity, though the executive director did not have a distinct reason for the increase.

“A lot of times people come to Gateway while they’re thinking about what to do about the abusive relationship,” Butler said.

The center offers free and confidential services. Leaving the abusive partner is not required to receive help.

For deputies responding to domestic violence calls, Hall County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Bob Watterson said deputies will go through a 40-hour class teaching them how to approach a house and gather evidence.

“A domestic-violence call, next to the traffic stop, is one of your highest danger type of calls that we answer,” Watterson.

After one partner isolates the other, Watterson said the “circle of violence” will start.

“It starts off with an explosion,” he said. “Most of the time it’s over money or ex-boyfriends or Facebook, where the (partner) is initially verbally assaulted and belittled and things like that.”

After the fallout comes the honeymoon phase, Watterson said, before another tension-building phase that can vary from a week to a year.

Butler and Watterson encourages those outside of the relationship who are concerned to privately address it with the potential victim.

“If that person discloses abuse, let them know that they are believed,” Butler said. “A lot of times people are embarrassed to admit what is happening and afraid no one will believe them.”

Major risks, Butler said, are when a partner has made threats of violence against others or himself/herself, has access to weapons or has made mention of ending the relationship.

Watterson, who served as the department’s domestic violence liaison from 2009-2014, praised the work of Gateway and the Hall County Solicitor’s Office.

After officers take a report on suspected domestic violence, employees with the Solicitor’s Office will follow up and refer them to available services.

Family and friends of the Phillips couple remembered the two for their civic mindedness and giving nature.

Troy Phillips in May sought to serve on the Hall County Board of Commissioners but lost the race to Jeff Stowe. After the election, Martin noted a social media meltdown that raised concerns.

“Unfortunately, the thing is now that you don’t really know until it’s almost too late,” Heather Phillips’ brother said.

Gateway Domestic Violence Center offers a 24-hour hotline that can be reached at 770-536-5860.

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