By Allie Hinds

BLOUNTVILLE, TN (WJHL)- Starting this week, for the first time in Sullivan County, domestic violence victims can get free legal help. A paralegal with Legal Aid is now on staff at the new Family Justice Center in Sullivan County.

This is the first of what will be many resources available at the FJC, it is set to fully open in 2018 with the goal of bringing all the resources a victim would need in to one place.

“Many folks are on their own trying to do it, they don’t know the law, they are not educated on the law, and the whole system being a victim of domestic violence is so difficult that you’re just adding one more obstacle, one more hurdle for them to have to deal with,” Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus said.

“Sullivan County had 68 victims of sex crimes last year in 2016 which puts us, if you look at our population, higher than anywhere else in eastern Tennessee and higher than the average anywhere else in all of Tennessee,” Family Justice Center Site Coordinator Karen Boyd said.

Right now volunteers and staff are trying to renovate a building that was donated to be the Sullivan County Family Justice Center.

Things have been going faster than expected, and in 2018 the site coordinator said she hopes to have victims advocacy groups, members of the district attorney’s office, law enforcement, and counselors there just to name a few of the resources.

A new state grant of $195,000 will allow a coordinator for a sexual assault response team.

“This grant will fund a coordinator who is going to look at what’s available for sexual assault victims in Sullivan  county and coordinate the services that are here and then point out the things that were missing,” Boyd said. “This person will be responsible for the designing a program- how does Sullivan County react when we get a sex crime here.”

The sexual assault coordinator will also work with medical professionals and local hospitals to try and get designated nurses for sexual assault victims.

Ahead of the Family Justice Center’s opening in 2018, if victims need help now they can contact Abuse Alternatives in Bristol or Safe House in Kingsport.

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