A new group on the Mississippi Gulf Coast hopes to increase awareness and access to services for domestic violence victims in Hancock County.
There were more than 250 cases of domestic violence in the county last year. Christina Richardson is a member of a new Hancock County advisory board that’s part of the Gulf Coast Women’s Center for Nonviolence. Richardson says domestic violence is often a silent crime that people don't want to talk about.
“It’s easy for people to think, well, maybe the problem is not here. So what we’ve done is we’ve looked at the problems in Hancock County and want to make it personal. We know our neighbors, we know what’s going on, and so we can help our own victims, we can help educate people, and we’re right here.”
Richardson says they hope to have a satellite office in the county, as well as educational programs, training, and a coordinated community response program. Bay St. Louis police chief Mike DeNardo also attended a recent meeting about the new advisory board. He says he’s hopeful the advisory board will lay the groundwork for changes that will help families.
“That’s important to us because that’s a lot of our jobs. Our officers respond to a lot of domestic calls, and sometimes we don’t see the end results that we hope to see.”
A similar advisory board formed in 2011 in Jackson County has had a big impact, says Sandra Morrison, director of the Gulf Coast women’s center for nonviolence. The center serves the lower six counties in Mississippi.
"It gets us connected to the folks in the community who can help, the leaders, the public policy makers, the volunteers, and then again, getting the word out. It has absolutely made a tremendous difference."
The Mississippi State Department of Health says there were more than 2,700 reports of domestic violence in the state during 2013.