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DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ANNOUNCES OVER $6 MILLION IN GRANT FUNDING TO ASSIST VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN MISSISSIPPI

Southern District of Mississippi Launches “Operation Pheonecia” to Combat Domestic Violence

Jackson, Miss. – U.S. Attorneys Mike Hurst of the Southern District of Mississippi and William C. “Chad” Lamar of the Northern District of Mississippi announced today that Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) will direct over $6 million in grant funding to Mississippi to bolster efforts throughout the state to curb domestic violence.

With domestic violence continuing to proliferate throughout Mississippi, affecting not only victims but also their families and friends, U.S. Attorney Hurst is also announcing a new initiative entitled “Operation Pheonecia,” in honor of a local victim of domestic violence, Pheonecia Ratliff of Canton, Mississippi, to combat this growing threat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetimes. About 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 6 men experience some form of sexual violence during their lifetimes. Intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking are high, with intimate partner violence occurring in over 10 million people each year.

 “These grants will help victims escape abuse, seek justice, and rebuild their lives,” said OVW Principal Deputy Director Laura Rogers.  OVW’s current and forthcoming investments in Mississippi foster coordinated responses to violence against women, making resources available to local and tribal communities for investigation and prosecution, transitional housing, and culturally specific victim services, and training for professionals who respond to these crimes.

“Today, we are recommitting to do even more to combat the scourge that is domestic violence. These grants and Operation Pheonecia will go a long way in making our homes, our families and our communities safer,” said U.S. Attorney Hurst. “By bringing together law enforcement, victim advocates, our courts, attorneys, and the general public, we can effectively fight domestic violence and get victims the help they so desperately need.”

“There are far too many Mississippians and Americans who fall victim to domestic violence at the hands of an intimate partner, family member or parent. For many of these victims, home is a place for fear and pain rather than a refuge or safe place.  Our office is committed to working alongside state and local partners to combat this problem and these grants will significantly aid in ongoing efforts to combat domestic violence across our state and nation,” remarked U.S. Attorney Lamar.

1.      Grant Awards

Among the more than $6 million in awards that will be issued to organizations and government agencies in Mississippi are:

·        The Mississippi State Department of Health will receive $2,271,297 in formula funds to support law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services providers, and courts in working collaboratively to respond to domestic and sexual violence.

·        The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is receiving four awards, totaling $2,149,722, to: fund a cross-deputized tribal prosecutor to pursue cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault, and other serious crimes in tribal court, federal court, or both; bolster coordinated community responses to violence against women; strengthen the tribal criminal justice system in preparation for exercising special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction under the Violence Against Women Act; and provide services specifically for sexual assault victims.

·        The Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault is receiving $152,345, and the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence is receiving $91,274, to coordinate victim services and training, and collaborate with federal, state, and local entities across the state.

·        The Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault is also being awarded an additional $500,000 to provide training and technical assistance to colleges and universities throughout the nation to address violence against women on campus.

·        Care Lodge Domestic Violence Shelter, Inc., in Meridian, is receiving a grant of $550,000 to provide transitional housing for domestic violence victims.

·        Our House, Inc., in Greenville, is receiving $288,300 to provide services tailored to the needs of Black survivors of sexual assault in rural areas.

Mississippi’s grant recipients will also have access to training and technical assistance to help them implement effective strategies for keeping victims safe and holding offenders accountable. One example is OVW’s Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center, a project of the Washington, DC-based Aequitas: The Prosecutor’s Resource on Violence Against Women, which is receiving $1.5 million this year to continue providing training and other resources to law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim services providers to combat stalking. Stalking is a crime that often occurs alongside domestic violence and is associated with a higher risk of domestic violence-related homicide, so equipping justice and victim services professionals with tools for responding to stalking can help them reach victims before it is too late.

1.      “Operation Pheonecia”

Named in honor of Pheonecia Ratliff of Canton, Mississippi, who lost her life on May 14, 2020, due to domestic violence, “Operation Pheonecia” is a new initiative by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi to directly combat domestic violence with the intent to prevent harm and loss of life before they occur.  The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%, and with intimate partner violence accounting for 15% of all violent crime and with almost 20% of domestic violence incidents involving a weapon, the U.S. Attorney’s Office knew it had to act. 

Under this initiative, and by working with federal, state and local law enforcement and nonprofit entities, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is making the investigation and prosecution of federal domestic violence crimes a priority.  In addition, “Operation Pheonecia” will involve a campaign to put domestic abusers on notice of their prohibition to possessing firearms, train law enforcement on how to investigate federal domestic violence crimes, provide education for local judges as to the impact of their orders on potential federal criminal prosecutions, and bring awareness to local bar associations and the public on how to report domestic violence crimes to and work with federal authorities, with the overarching goal to reduce domestic violence, save lives and assist victims.

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The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice and assist victims. OJP has six bureaus and offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking. More information about OJP and its components can be found at: www.ojp.gov.

The Office on Violence Against Women provides federal leadership in developing the national capacity to reduce violence against women and administer justice for and strengthen services to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

 Anyone affected by abuse and wishes to seek support should please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text LOVEIS to 22522.

MageeNews.com is an online news source serving Simpson and surrounding counties as well as the State of Mississippi.

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