Domestic violence topic of conference

Published 7:08 pm Monday, August 14, 2017

Domestic violence and sex trafficking will be the main topics of a domestic violence conference beginning Friday at 8:30 a.m. at the Vicksburg Auditorium, 901 Monroe St.

The event is free and open to the public.

Vicksburg Municipal Judge Toni Terrett said the Vicksburg Domestic Violence Conference is the result of a meeting of the city’s domestic violence empowerment team, which helps move domestic violence case through the court.

“One of the (team’s) concerns was talking to (police) officers about being more sensitive toward domestic violence cases, and it built from there,” she said. “Then we said, ‘Well, if we talk to the officers, we need to talk to the social service agencies about protective orders and about giving the victims more pointers.”

By the time team members addressed all the groups and individuals it wanted to reach, she said, “It was like, ‘Maybe we need to do a conference and open it to the public. We can shed more light on domestic violence and get everybody aware of what type of things they need to be taking as far as prevention and awareness.’”

Although domestic violence issues are becoming more prominent, Terrett said, there are still some people hesitant to report problems, “Because it’s such a taboo thing, that if they’re a victim, they may be ashamed or because they think that’s the way things are, or they’re afraid to address it.

“And then from a law enforcement or advocacy point of view, sometimes they get caught up in the same thing all the time and they may not be aware of some things that are going on with the victim. We just wanted to put everybody in the same room and communicate and learn some pointers about domestic violence.”

Sex trafficking she said, is a growing concern.

“A lot of our cases, especially those with our young people, it doesn’t always come out, but reading between the lines, there are some indications that some of these young ladies are caught up in the sex trafficking industry.

“It spills over and becomes a domestic violence issue. I think we need to get the word out there.”

Terrett said the four-hour program on sex trafficking by the Sex Trafficking Institute is presented by Leach Rogers, a sex trafficking survivor, advocate, speaker and author, and Christi Decoufle, an officer with the Phoenix, Ariz., Police Department and a detective in the department’s Vice Enforcement Unit and member of the FBI’s Human Trafficking Task Force.

“A couple of our team members went to a conference in Dallas and had a chance to hear these ladies present (their program) and they were very impressed with them.”

The first part of the conference runs from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Friday, with the sex trafficking presentation running from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A youth rally planned for Thursday was cancelled because of a conflict with a Red Carpet Bowl event.

The conference will be broadcast on TV23, the city’s local access channel.

“If there’s anything new that needs to be learned and passed on to the young people, we hope we can get that out, too,” Terrett said.

Besides the sex trafficking program, other items on the agenda include an opening address by Wendy Mahoney from the Mississippi Coalition against Domestic Violence and a representative from the Attorney general’s office will give update on that office.

A self-defense workshop will be presented by Timothy Woods from Good Soldier Mixed Martial Arts.

Vicksburg police Lt. Penny Jones will give a presentation called “Stop it Before it Starts,” and there will be panel discussion on different issues involving domestic violence.

All programs will take place in the auditorium.

Because this is the conference’s first year, Terrett said, there is no preregistration, but the event has received a good response on its Facebook page.

“City employees and other people have said they are going to attend,” she said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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