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Program launched in Kanawha County courts that allows remote outreach for domestic victims

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A pilot project that allows victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to file petitions for protective orders without going to a courthouse has expanded to Kanawha County.

Partners of the project including those with the Kanawha County Family Court, Magistrate Court, West Virginia Supreme Court, YWCA, and Legal Aid of West Virginia gathered inside the Kanawha County Judicial Annex Monday to unveil the program which has already been implemented in Cabell and Ohio counties.

Evan Jenkins, the Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court told MetroNews the project is designed to provide more safety and access to courts for victims of domestic violence and rape.

Chief Justice Evan Jenkins

“There is a new, safe alternative if a person chooses to file for a protective order remotely rather than come here to the courthouse,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we have examples where in the past, a victim of domestic violence or rape has gone to court, their accused follows them to court. Obviously, in judicial proceedings, appears right next to them in court.”

Jenkins said too often those examples result in the accuser not appearing in front of family court because of fear of the accused. He noted that victims may still go to the courthouse to file a petition.

Citizens in Kanawha County can use the Remote Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Outreach Pilot Project at the Charleston YWCA to file protective orders.

The victim will work with the YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program to complete the petition and call the courthouse when completed. This can lead to a remote hearing with a magistrate and family court judge if the order is granted.

Jenkins said the equipment to set up those virtual hearings costs upwards of a few thousand dollars and funding is the key to get the project in all 55 counties. The project is made possible by funding through the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security, Division of Administrative Services, Justice and Community Services, the state administering agency for the STOP Violence Against Women Grant Program.

From January 1 to October 1, Jenkins said there had been more than 10,000 domestic and personal safety protective orders filed in West Virginia.

Speakers at Monday’s event included Family Court Judge Brittany Ranson Stonestreet, Magistrate Traci Carper-Strickland, Julie Haden with YWCA, Christen Justice, attorney, Legal Aid of West Virginia, and attorney Alan Pritt.

Stonestreet shared her experience in the courtroom, witnessing victims tremble in fear and often times never return. She said having this in Kanawha County is a step forward for justice.

The YWCA Resolve 24/7 hotline is 304-340-3549. The remote option is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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