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Gusmann, Dempsey lead fight against domestic violence in county

Despite the fact that Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act 20 years ago, the fight against domestic violence continues. In the United States, one woman in four, and one man in seven will be the victim of domestic violence in their lifetime.

There were 155 victims of domestic violence in King George County in 2012, and that sad statistic has led King George Commonwealth’s Attorney Keri Gusmann and King George Sheriff Steve Dempsey to put the effort to reduce domestic violence at the top of their agendas.

“Everyone has a right to be safe in their homes,” Gusmann said. Gusmann said there are, unfortunately, many people locally and nationally who continue to live in fear in their own homes.

“If that is you, you are not alone, there is help available,” Gusmann said. “The Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).”

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Gusmann and her staff, as well as Dempsey and his officers, are urging citizens to remember the toll that domestic violence takes on our society.

“Pinwheels have been placed on the King George Courthouse lawn to represent the 155 people who were affected by Domestic Violence in King George County in 2012. That number only accounts for cases in which the defendant was arrested and charges were brought to court,” Gusmann said.

“These 155 pinwheels represent each person in King George that either was physically assaulted or personally witnessed the attack. This does not count the many, many calls the King George Sheriff’s Office responded to that did not result in an arrest,” Gusmann said.

“Most of all, this number does not count the many victims of domestic violence that are out there and have not been able to come forward. Quite candidly, we could have placed 25,000 pinwheels, one for each resident of King George, because domestic violence does affect us all, even if we do not recognize it,” Gusmann said.

“From the taxpayer dollars that pay the Sheriff’s Office to investigate and arrest, to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office to prosecute those cases, and the salaries of the judges and the clerks, when the case is brought to court,” Gusmann said.

Gusmann would not discuss specific cases because of her concern for putting a domestic violence victim in further jeopardy, but she said her office has a “no drop” policy when dealing with domestic violence.

“Which means, once the defendant is charged with domestic violence, my office does not ‘drop’ or dismiss the charge. This is done to protect victims of domestic violence,” Gusmann said.

“Most, if not all times, the defendant will try to pressure the victim to drop the charge. My office takes that burden off of the victim. In a criminal case, it is the Commonwealth of Virginia vs. John T. Smith. It is not the victim vs. the defendant.”

“We prosecute domestic violence cases on the first, second and third Mondays of the month. We have a Victim Witness Coordinator that is available to help the victim through the court experience,” Gusmann said.
“In addition, Empowerhouse (formerly known as Rappahannock Council on Domestic Violence) sends a Victim Advocate to court on those days to explain the services they have available for victims of domestic violence.”

Gusmann, Dempsey and the other valiant local and state law enforcement authorities involved in the domestic violence fight, are determined to continuing working to make every home in King George County and in Virginia a home safe from domestic violence.

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