On September 8, 2014 the world watched in utter shock as they witnessed Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice strike, his then fiancé’, in an elevator knocking her unconscious. A previously released video from outside of the elevator only presented the aftermath as he attempted to drag her out into the hallway. The NFL® initially gave him a two-game suspension. His penalty was upgraded to an indefinite suspension, once TMZ® released the coverage from inside the elevator.

Clearly, this incident made the news because it involved celebrity. However, a closer look at family violence in general revels some alarming facts. 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes each year because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults annually. Domestic Violence (DV), also known as intimate partner violence, can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income and other factors.

In Georgia, DV statistics are even more alarming. According to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, in 2013, the number of crisis calls to Georgia certified domestic violence agencies reached, 58,955.  They go on to point out that law enforcement officers responded to 72,870 calls related to domestic violence in 2012. Similarly, there were 22,206 protective and stalking orders issued in Georgia in that same year.  According to the Violence Policy Center (2013), Georgia was recently ranked 12th in the nation for its rate of men killing women.

Family violence not only impacts women, but the number of children exposed to domestic violence is equally disturbing. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2013) estimate as many as 10 million children and adolescents witness violence between their caregivers each year. Children exposed to this type of environment can develop serious emotional and behavior problems. These problems are not easily detected among caregivers but are manifested in their outlook to include symptoms such as anxiety or fear, depression, loss of interest in school, friends or things they enjoyed in the past, sleep problems such as bed wetting, poor anger management and fighting at school.

What is Family Violence (also known as Intimate Partner Violence)?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, domestic violence is defined as “a pattern of abuse behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner”. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated, (19-13-34) Family Violence is defined as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts: Any felony, or the commission of offenses of battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, and stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass. Family violence is applied when the act occurs between past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parent and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same house hold.

Georgia’s Response to Family Violence
In 1992, the Georgia General Assembly established the Georgia Commission on Family Violence and gave it the mission to develop a comprehensive state plan for ending family violence in Georgia. A coordinated community response represented the best approach to address these problems. This involved every segment of the community-including judges, advocates, law enforcement, medical professionals, educators, and concerned citizens. Throughout the state, quarterly TASK Force meetings are held to discuss plans, obtain updates and to implement local programs and initiatives. The Commission also established standards for organizations and individuals who work with offenders. Family Violence Intervention Programs seek to rehabilitate the offender and counter their use of power and control. The Task Force is also charged with reprioritizing victim safety and participant accountability, according to GCFV.

Families Firsts’ Response to Family Violence
Family Violence Intervention Program Services –
Families First® has remained a leading agency and active advocates for change in the effort to reduce family violence and violence against women and children. Families First currently conducts Family Violence Intervention Programs (FVIP) in each of our office locations throughout metro-Atlanta.  FVIP is a 24-week class that helps participants to understand the impact of their violence on their lives and families, and to accept responsibility for their behavior and learn healthier copies strategies.  There are more than 10 groups conducted each week; six (6) groups for men and four (4) groups for women. These sessions are provided by highly trained and skilled facilitators who use the Duluth Model, which focuses on issues of power and control while holding offenders accountable for their behavior and actions.

Anger Management Services – Families First also recognizes that many individuals present with difficulty managing their anger and emotions. While anger is often displayed in FVIP cases, many individuals find themselves in non-partner related conflicts which often result in similar charges. In these cases, Families First provides Anger Management Services. Over the course of 8 – 12 weeks, the Anger Management program helps participants to identify their personal triggers and learn to control their emotions before their behavior becomes inappropriate or violent. Participation may be voluntary or court-ordered.

Resources to Consider – If you are you know someone in a violent relationship, here are a few resources provided by the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence to consider:

List of Domestic Violence Programs in Georgia
Statewide Resources

Resources for Underserved Populations and Community Based Programs

If you or someone you know could benefit from Family Violence or Anger Management classes or counseling, please reach out to Families First at 404-853-2844. If you’d like more information about the additional services Families First offers, please visit

Written by: Gerry L. White, Ph.D.
Families First Coordinator, Family Violence Intervention
Program & Anger Management Services

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