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Officials in southern Illinois now have more resources to fight domestic violence and sexual abuse in the region.
St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly announced on Monday his office, along with several other local partners, are the recipients of a federal grant. That grant, awarded by the Department of Justice, is worth $600,000 and will help fund the new St. Clair County Domestic and Special Victim's Unit.
"It's is a very positive thing to be able to say that we received this grant and it will benefit — not just my office, but many parts of the team that are necessary for us to effectively combat and deal with domestic violence and sexual assault," Kelly said.
Those partners include the St. Clair County's Sheriff's Department, St. Clair County's Probation and Court Services, Violence and Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois, and Call for Help, Inc.
Kelly expected the money would fund two or three more prosecutors, one probation officer, two sheriff's deputies, and six victim advocates between the two partner agencies. The program will get $600,000 annually for three years, then reapply.
"This is not a problem that can just be solved by prosecutors, this is not a problem that can just be solved by police, or by advocates," he said. "It has to include all of us, including all the different facets of the issues that contribute to domestic violence and sexual assault, and contribute to solutions to those problems."
At the Violence and Prevention Center (VPC), therapists work with both adult and children who are victims of domestic violence. Director or Legal Advocacy, Lisa Chilton, spends much of her time in court -- helping client's with legal issues, like filing orders of protection.
"What we want to do is to help them feel like they're empowered to make their own decisions," Chilton said. "Like they can get control back, in a safe way -- as safely as possible."
Ellen Hughes is an art therapist who works primarily with children. They use creativity as a form of expression.
"It just helps them be able to share what they've experienced," she said. "Maybe they don't have words to put on what they've experienced."
Hughes said they remind the victims often, they aren't alone. She said the community should also recognize how domestic violence affects the entire community.
"It affects everyone in the community and we all have a responsibility to follow through on helping people who are affected by it," she said.