Fayette Sheriff’s Office stresses domestic violence resources as abuse continues in Lexington

Mark Mahan

As domestic violence continues to surge throughout Lexington, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office is stressing the importance of resources they offer to survivors.

It is widely known that the sheriff’s office is actively involved in serving warrants, summons, emergency protection orders, and other court documents pertaining to domestic violence. However, the sheriff’s office takes pride in their efforts to help survivors, and advocate for victims before and after they file an emergency protection order against a batterer.

“We have a dedicated division among our sworn staff that focuses solely on the domestic violence court process,” Scooter Stein, director of public affairs with the sheriff’s office, said in an email. “These deputies are able to come into the community and help someone file for protection if it is not possible to come to the courthouse, and they have the ability to serve EPOs 24/7.”

According to the department’s website, the Victim Services Division can assess the crisis and give access to resources for managing the trauma of domestic violence. Survivors may speak with a deputy to help them form a safety plan, or speak with advocates to obtain a safe ride to court hearings or develop a strategy for long-term recovery.

One example is partnering with Lyft ride-share to schedule rides for individuals to get to critical appointments, including to the courthouse to file for an emergency protection order and to appear for court hearings.

Even if the petitioner is unable to use the ride share program, a deputy advocate is able to go out with the survivor and call the courthouse to help file the petition on their behalf. A deputy can then pick up the documents, and bring them back to the petitioner.

Sheriff Kathy Witt said it’s also crucial that people have help getting away from their residence after an emergency order is filed, so her office has worked on transportation resources.

“When we vacate the respondent from the petitioner, the vehicle is not addressed in the granting of an emergency protection order, so a petitioner could likely not have access,” Witt explained. “While going through that phase of rebuilding, they could have critical doctor’s appointments, job interviews, and a job to get to.”

The sheriff’s office also helps with security enhancements which they can provide through grant funding.

“We offer the ability to change locks at a residence and to provide doorbell and window alarm systems that directly provide a stronger security system,” Stein shared.

The office also collects donated cell phones and chargers in order to redistribute them at no charge to victimized individuals.

According to their website, the cell phones that are collected may not be “in service;” however, the 911 emergency dialing functions remain operable.

“This important service is a lifeline for seniors, victims, and disabled citizens who cannot afford a regular mobile phone plan on their own. With one of these 911 Mobile Phones in their possession, these citizens are able to dial 911 in an emergency situation at any time,” according to the website.

Critical education

Education is a big component of the office’s efforts to curb domestic violence.

Witt stated domestic violence education in high schools was a tool her office was able to provide prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. She stated her office is working to get the program re-implemented because early awareness of domestic violence is critical.

“It is critically important to get out to young people,” she said. “When you are off to high school, and start a dating relationship, it is important for our young people and adults, to know the warning signs.”

In addition, her office optimizes visibility through mass communication by including informational pamphlets in nearly 119,000 property tax billing statements including details about the Amanda Center, and violence prevention.

All of these resources are offered through the office’s partnership with the Amanda Center, which opened in October 2012. It was named for Amanda C. L. Ross who was killed by her former boyfriend. In her spirit, Amanda’s family and friends partnered with the Sheriff’s Office to create both a safe place and a guide to those dealing with domestic trauma.

The Amanda Center also employs advocates who are available at the courthouse to help survivors of domestic violence file petitions for emergency protection orders. They can help guide them through the process, and offer support during that time.

For more information regarding resources for domestic violence, visit the sheriff’s website. Contact the sheriff’s office at (859) 252-1771.

If you or someone you know are struggling with domestic violence, contact the 24-hour crisis hotline at 800-544-2022.