By Greg Gelpi
The average age for a child's first minor delinquent act is age 7, but the average age for a child to encounter the juvenile justice system is age 14 ?, Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske said.
Being the victim of abuse, witnessing abuse or having a mental condition leads to delinquent behavior and violent acts, Teske said. There must be intervention at a younger age before behavior becomes engrained to prevent the cycle from continuing.
Teske, who speaks across the country on juvenile issues, asked a group of Gwinnett County educators to identify kindergartners and first-graders on the "pathway" to delinquent and abusive behavior. They started naming names without hesitating, he said.
Teske will be a panelist at the Securus House brunch at 11 a.m. Oct. 30 at Southern Regional Medical Center. Securus House, the shelter of the Association of Battered Women of Clayton County, is hosting the fund-raiser and education forum focused on breaking the cycle of domestic violence.
"As (children) get older, (abuse) begins to manifest itself and they begin to act out," Teske said. "We need to work early on in a person's life."
Collaboration must be used to coordinate the efforts of various agencies to address these issues, he said. The Clayton County Collaborative Child Study Team, or "Quad-C ST Program" was formed by Teske in March. Quad-C ST is an early intervention program designed to bring together representatives from several agencies to help troubled children before they enter the juvenile justice system.
"(Domestic violence) isn't stuff that just happens," Teske said. "I assure you it's not something new in most of these cases. We may be setting up other people to be victims. If you have something that goes unchecked, then it becomes part of the routine."
According to the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 132 women, men and children were killed in Georgia in 2003 as a result of domestic violence, said Tanika Nicholas, the shelter's domestic violence assessor.
Though men are also victims of spousal abuse, 95 percent of the victims nation wide are women, Nicholas said citing United States Department of Justice figures. A woman is beaten somewhere in America every nine seconds, and four women are murdered by a husband or boyfriend within that time frame.
Domestic violence causes employers to lose $3 billion to $5 billion a year and is the top reason for emergency room visits by women. Every five years domestic violence kills the same number of people who died in the Vietnam War, Nicholas said.
And the problem is on the rise in Clayton County, said Selena Lopez, a legal advocate for the shelter, or at least more people are coming forward with their situations.
From January to September this year the shelter helped to acquire temporary protection orders in more than 800 cases, Lopez said.
"To treat the victims and offer shelter is a great thing," Morrow Police Chief and Securus House board member Charlie Sewell said. "But we would like to discuss how to break that cycle so we don't have to be providing as much post-traumatic service."
The theme of the brunch will be "Breaking the Cycle with a Taste of Hope," with a format similar to that of Taste of Clayton. Various restaurants, including Truman's, My Sister's Place, Azteca Grill, Rocky's Caf? and the Buckhead Steakhouse, will be providing food.
The shelter is also looking for donations of clothes, cell phones and the time of skilled laborers.
"The building itself is like any other home, it's always in need of maintenance," Sewell said.
Tickets are $25 each. For tickets or more information on the brunch, call (770) 961-7233.
News Daily reporter Ed Brock contributed to this story.