Photo by Elaine Rackley
Henry County Solicitor General Charles A. Spahos is the Georgia Commission on Family Violence's Legislative Chairman. He has 20 years of law enforcement experience, and describes himself as a victim's advocate.
When House Bill 503 was passed, and signed into law, one of the people given credit in the push for the measure was Henry County Solicitor General Charles A. Spahos.
"I'm definitely an advocate for victim's rights," said Spahos. "Twenty years ago, if a victim, regardless of the extent of injuries, did not want the case prosecuted, an arrest was not made.
"Law enforcement has progressed to understand domestic violence is a crime against the victim, and against the state," said Spahos, who is the Georgia Commission On Family Violence's legislative chairman.
Spahos, along with a host of others, worked as a lobbyist for passage of HB 503. It passed during the final hours of the annual session of the Georgia General Assembly. The measure, among other things, provides a reliable funding source for sexual assault examinations in Georgia, said Greg Loughlin, an official with the Georgia Commission on Family Violence (GCFV).
"He [Spahos] was a very important force in the passage of HB 503 ... I think it could make a significant difference in many people's lives," Loughlin said. "The stable funding of the Crime Victim's Compensation Fund, will eliminate one barrier that sexual victims have faced in the past," he continued. "Every victim of sexual assault has the right to a medical examination, whether or not they decide to pursue criminal charges against the perpetrator," said Loughlin.
Loughlin said a crime victim's health is of paramount importance, and a sexual assault examination can be "one source of support and empowerment for victims of crime. If they do decide to pursue a criminal case in the days or months to come, their sexual assault examinations can provide a reliable source of evidence for the prosecution," he added.
Spahos, along with members of the GFVC, like Loughlin, Maggie Reeves, and Majorie Lacy, executive director of the Haven House, were stalwarts in support of HB 503.
Spahos, and backers of the HB 503 were uncertain about the measure's success until the final hours of the state legislature. When the bill was proposed in January, some lawmakers threatened to eliminate the use of the state funds it advocated, and use federal funds from TANF ( Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). However, Spahos worked to see that state funding was maintained.
"The federal money was limited to needy women with children, and could not be used for the operation of [women's shelters]," he said. "The problem is that, we do not qualify victims that show up at a family crisis center, or a sexual assault center. It was a legitimate attempt to help balance the state budget, but it would have crippled the centers," Spahos said.
"I do commend the legislature for recognizing the limitations that [the federal proposal] would have imposed on the centers," he added.
Spahos announced passage of the bill during a recent Henry County Crime Week Victim's Memorial Service, at Shiloh Baptist Church, in McDonough. The bill also gives financial aid to the families of murder victims.
Marjorie Lacy, executive director of Haven House, a shelter for battered women and children, called Spahos "unrelenting" in support of HB 503, and in securing the funding for state shelters. "It is important that our community and government support the work of ending domestic violence," added Lacy. "When you say something is important, you put money towards it."
Spahos is familiar with the effects of family violence. He worked domestic violence calls as a police officer, and as a deputy in Henry County. He said his law enforcement experiences fueled his fervor for the passage of HB 503.