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Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence provides safe place for those experiencing domestic violence

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 8:35 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - When domestic violence leads someone to leave their home, the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence shelter often becomes their temporary safe place.

“Getting out is not easy,” said Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence CEO Stacy Riley.

Riley said this year, the center has helped more than 1,500 individuals within the six southernmost counties. For the past 40 years, the center has helped remove barriers for those looking to escape relationships with an aspect of domestic violence.

“Housing abilities, financial assistance, anything that someone encounters with their attempts to recover from what they’ve been through, we help them to maneuver those barriers,” Riley said.

According to Riley, in 2020, Gulfport Police responded to 986 domestic calls and Biloxi Police responded to 1,842. Biloxi Police confirmed that of that number, 293 led to an arrest.

When the police get a call related to domestic violence and arrive on the scene, they first determine if the situation in fact is domestic. Capt. Bryan Dykes with Biloxi Police said by state law, if an officer is able to determine who the primary aggressor is, the officer is required to make an arrest and take that person into custody.

“Several calls that we receive concerning domestic violence, that come in as domestics, turn out to be something different, but if they do fit in the confines of the statute, then we handle it as directed by law,” Dykes said.

This could include pressing charges and following through with an arrest, regardless of if the victims want to or not. Dykes said in some cases, both parties can be arrested.

“If there’s signs of violence and I can’t determine because they’re equal on both sides, then I’m required to arrest both and they’ll have their day in court to explain to the judge exactly what happened,” he said.

Dykes said as of this year, approximately 789 calls have been domestic calls and 118 led to arrests.

“Some of the calls come into us as a concerned neighbor that will call and say there is a domestic fight going on so that call is put in as a domestic disturbance,” Dykes said. “Well when we arrive on scene and see it’s a loud party where the parties aren’t domestically related and it’s just a disturbance, it goes into our numbers as a domestic disturbance and we’re required at the end of the year to go through and weed those numbers out, making sure only the numbers were reported domestic violence are in fact domestic violence cases.”

The nonviolence center has a 24/7 crisis line at 800-800-1396 if a victim does not want to call the police.

Whether the call is to a shelter or police, Riley said either could save a life.

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