AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Augusta Judicial Circuit Family Violence Task Force had its first meeting since the start of the pandemic on Tuesday.

This comes at a time where multiple domestic violence crimes have happened in our community in the past week.

The goals of this task force are to improve communication among different local agencies when it comes to domestic violence cases, to improve prevention and treatment of domestic abuse, to help educate the community on the topic, and to make abusers more accountable.

Domestic violence survivor Rebecca Halioua shared her story as a testament to how anyone can be affected by this, and how we need systemic and societal change.

“Awareness has to be spread, resources have to be spread, the punishments have to be more strict,” Halioua said.

Halioua saw her abuser get sentenced to 20 years in prison, but she said many victims don’t get that.

“I realized that I’m lucky,” she said. “Like so much really bad stuff happened to me, but I am lucky because Im here. I get to stand up here and talk about this bad stuff, and so many women don’t get to do that.”

Representatives from Richmond and Columbia County law enforcement and government agencies were at the meeting.

“When we have domestic related homicides, we usually find that the police have been to that residence seven to eleven times on average across the U.S.,” said Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. “So one of the things that we’re trying to do, because violent crimes are not usually predictable, we think that these are more predictable so they’re more preventable.”

The perpetrators in the recent cases in the county had previous domestic violence charges.

“Even with family violence cases, they are entitled to a bond, and a lot of people say ‘hey ,they were arrested for this, how did they get out?’ Well, they had a bond,” said Omeeka Loggins, the Solicitor’s General for Richmond County. “By law, they are entitled to have one. But, I will say it is not set by the jail, they have to come up before a judge to get that bond set.”

But, government leaders want you to know that they’re there to help.

“I know sometimes it’s really easy to feel like the system is against you, everything’s against you, but really we cannot help unless you’re gonna be a partner with us,” said Jared Williams, the District Attorney for the Augusta Judicial Circuit. “Because we’re not after just an arrest, we want a conviction. We want to make sure the people who are putting our women and children in harm’s way are getting what they deserve.”

Augusta Judicial Circuit Family Violence Task Force Meetings will be held every other month on Tuesdays at the Richmond County Court House. The next meeting is on May 16th at 11 a.m.