by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
“Thank God for the Hubbard House.”
That statement was made by former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold speaking at the Barbara Ann Campbell Memorial Breakfast on Tuesday, Oct. 7. The annual event’s namesake was his sister-in-law and her life was taken during an incident of domestic violence. Godbold was thankful that the Hubbard House helps provide shelter and assistance for victims of domestic violence and their children, so losses like his family suffered in 1995 might be prevented.
“The attitude toward domestic violence has changed in this community,” said Godbold. “And that is because of the Hubbard House. (Campbell) did all the right things, but she didn’t go to the right place. The Hubbard House is that place.”
The Hubbard House serves victims of domestic violence and their children in Duval and Baker Counties. At the shelter, clients have access to outreach services that include 24- hour emergency response, support groups for adult victims, psycho-educational groups for children, case management services, crisis intervention, individual counseling, advocacy, relocation assistance, court advocacy and Helping At Risk Kids (HARK), an intervention and prevention program designed to empower children from abusive homes.
The Hubbard House also has a thrift store that helps provide funding for the agency and supplies victims with free clothing, furniture and household items to help them during their transition period.
The shelter also hosts clinics that bring in attorneys from Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA) to educate victims on their rights and the legal procedure ahead of them to obtain protection orders, custody of children, spousal support and, if necessary, visitation rights with the children.
“We do an outreach program at the Hubbard House once a month,” said Larry Tagarelli, an attorney with JALA. “It’s not always viable for victims to leave the shelter and come to the office.”
During one of these visits is when Tagarelli met (a false identity was used to protect the victim) “Amanda Smith,” the keynote speaker at the breakfast. She is a domestic violence survivor who was subjected to physical, psychological and verbal abuse during a seven-year relationship.
“When I met her she had black eyes and was rail thin, a shell of herself,” said Tagarelli. “Her 18-month old daughter couldn’t stand up by herself because of the abuse.”
Smith’s case may be surprising to the public, but it was a story that Tagarelli has heard many times before.
“She came from a good family, had a good education and a good job,” he said. “Her abuser systematically cut her off from all outside contact with friends and family, so that she was dependent on him. It was a textbook case of domestic violence. It was heart wrenching.”
Once he was able to meet with Smith, Tagarelli began the process to give her the resources and options to break free from her abuser.
The first step was a court order to protect the victim from harm or harassment. The next steps can also help set a foundation for the victim’s transition, which include orders for exclusive use of residence, custody of children, spousal support and visitation, if warranted.
Tagarelli estimated he has spent between 400-500 hours on Smith’s case so far.
Even if the orders are granted, their effectiveness relies on the abuser’s willingness to comply.
“An injunction is not going to stop violence, it’s just a piece of paper,” said Tagarelli. “What that paper does is give them (victims) protection from someone who complies with the court. Those who don’t, that’s what the safety plan is for. You have to be aware of your surroundings.”
Both Tagarelli and Smith fear what might happen if her abuser is left alone with her daughters. She was pregnant with her second daughter when she was admitted to Hubbard House.
“He has a passport for the girls and has said he would leave the country if he had the opportunity,” said Tagarelli. “We are so worried that I have sat out in my car in front of the visitation center to make sure he doesn’t leave with the children.”
Smith is also worried about her oldest daughter reaching the age where she wants a cell phone and has access to the Internet. Smith stated that her abuser created a Web page to look for his “missing” daughter.
The future may seem a little scary right now, but Smith is glad about the direction her life has taken with the help of The Hubbard House and JALA.
“I consider myself very blessed,” said Smith. “The biggest thing is I’m still alive and my daughters are still alive.”
Smith used a false identity and pictures of her were not allowed at the breakfast because she is still in hiding from her abuser.
“She was fortunate that she had the support of her family,” said Tagarelli. “Most times, victim’s families are too emotionally drained to give support. Victims will leave the relationship an average of five times before they finally break away.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.