Lynchburg courts offer advocate for domestic violence victims

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) A new service is available in Lynchburg to help people escape domestic violence.

The Lynchburg court system now offers two advocates who specialize in protective orders.

The positions are grant funded through the Lynchburg Commonwealth's Attorney's office and the YWCA of Central Virginia.

Debbie Drake and Pam Cooke are available to help domestic violence victims fill out paperwork and get away from dangerous situations.

"We have women and men who come in every day of the week, sometimes six or seven individuals a day, who come in and apply for a protective order," said Drake.

Taking out a protective order is a step that requires a lot of paperwork, which Drake and Cooke are able to help with. They also provide counseling and advice to help victims escape dangerous situations.

"Our goal is to ensure their safety, regardless of whether or not they go forward with the criminal justice process or the civil justice process," said Cooke.

"When victims know there are viable alternatives, they are much more likely to leave their abuser and do things to protect their children," said Bethany Harrison, a deputy commonwealth's attorney for the city of Lynchburg.

Acts of domestic violence are common in the Lynchburg court system.

"At any given time our domestic violence prosecutors have between 80 and 90 cases in their case load," Harrison said.

Drake and Cooke can provide victims with immediate service to help them through what can sometimes be a long and difficult process.

"What we want to do is ensure, when they come in, that it is a better process," said Drake. "It is a safer process."

The new advocate positions are grant funded through the Lynchburg Commonwealth's Attorneys office and the YWCA of Central Virginia.

Drake and Cooke can only help with protective orders in Lynchburg, but if victims from another locality call needing help they say they'll try to connect those people with services in their area.