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Break the Cycle Part Two

By: Liz Tedone
By: Liz Tedone

Knoxville (WVLT) - We continue our series about domestic violence, "Break the Cycle." In 2006, five people died in Knox County because of domestic violence.

Knoxville is home to the family justice center. It's a one stop resource for families in crisis and one of only 15 centers in the country.

WVLT Volunteer TV's Liz Tedone takes us there.

Monday night, we introduced you to Sherri Morgan, a domestic violence survivor. She remembers the night she almost died at the hands of her ex-husband.

"I had ran down street in front of my house, and I thought I had made it pretty far, but I didn't because he was still after me, and he beat in the street. I was unconscious and he left," Morgan said.

That night Sherri was left for dead on the street in front of her home. Now, she's sharing her story and these photographs of her injuries, hoping to inspire victims to end their abusive situations. She's been to court 17 times, and she had an army of help behind her.

Sherri was able to leave her abusive ex-husband by coming here to the Knoxville Family Justice Center. It houses several agencies that work together to help victims. On the corner of Harriet Tubman and MLK Jr. Avenue, you could say this place is fittingly a crossroads for many families in crisis.

Knoxville police officer Cynthia Demarcus has recommended the center to a number of victims.

"If they want the help, they're going to get it. Otherwise they could end up severely injured or dead," Demarcus said.

Legal aide of East Tennessee has an office in the family justice center. The group received a $250,000 victims' assistance grant so it can hire two more attorneys to service 24 outlying counties. Many victims of domestic violence don't have the financial means to leave their situation. That was the case for survivor Tonya Jones who literally walked out.

"That was the end. That was the final day. That was the final day. I left with a bag of diapers and that's it. That's all I took," Jones said.

But the resources at the Family Justice Center can help a victim create a step by step plan to becoming free and independent of their attacker.

Pat Boorse is a victims' advocate with the YWCA and has an office inside the family justice center.

"Everything is confidential when they walk through the front door. It's a place where they can be open and safe here and make their needs known," Boorse said. "Even if she's not going to prosecute. Because not every situation has to involve the court system. We can help her here."

And if a victim must pursue the courts, Knoxville's Fourth Circuit Court has developed a speedy process to obtain an order of protection.

Wednesday night, we'll walk you through what can be a frightening process, and you'll meet the Honorable Bill Swann, who many victims call their hero. Also, you'll hear from the people who help victims break away... And gain their independence.


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