Domestic violence reports rose significantly in Amarillo over the last few years. The pandemic and lockdowns of 2020 brought about a unique set of complicating factors in how domestic violence cases are processed.

In an effort to provide relief to a court system besieged by a staggering backlog of pending cases, Randall County has created a special court specifically for handling domestic violence proceedings.

We reached out to Michelle Shields, Directory of Advocacy at Family Support Services, and asked her a few questions on the importance of a domestic violence court.

Why is it important for Randall to have a court like this available, or is it a court of necessity?

"It is extremely important to survivors to have this court, especially to their safety. Often a survivor is needing a court to place restrictions that are enforceable on an abusive person, so that they can do day-to-day things, like take their children to school, work, and live in their home. This is the best way our community can show a survivor that their needs are important, giving them quick access to legal remedies. Another reason this is important is victims often feel that no one cares that this is happening to them, because convictions are slow to come about, and additional victimizations occur, where they then don’t report. This empowers an abuser to feel that they can continue this violent behavior."

What is the likelihood of a domestic violence victim returning to their abuser after a case is pushed through the court systems?

"It does happen that a survivor may return to an abuser, but does decrees with court environment, and restrictions placed on the abuser. This then allows a survivor the space they need to work on their healing and children’s needs without needing to cater to the controlling and dangerous behavior of their partner.

I have seen other cities implement a DV court with tremendous success. This will also allow FSS greater access to victims that might be present during court and not know about the help we provide."

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