No one immune to domestic violence, Clay County sheriff warns

Sheriff says woman killed in domestic violence incident in St. Johns County was distant relation

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Domestic violence can affect anyone.

National statistics show 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.

“In a one-minute period of time, 20 people experience domestic violence,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, director of sexual assault services for Quigley House in Clay County.

During the pandemic, domestic violence calls have actually dropped in Clay County, but the Sheriff’s Office said that doesn’t mean these incidents aren’t happening -- just that they are likely going unreported.

Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said no one is immune to domestic violence -- even her own family.

“Domestic violence happens at every level of society, in every ethnicity and culture,” Cook said. “And just a personal note, it happens in every family. Unfortunately, Ms. Brandi Brooker who was killed last week in a domestic violence situation in a neighboring county was a distant relative of mine, so, this has affected my family personally.”

Brooker, a 35-year-old mom of two, was stabbed to death in St. Johns County on Oct. 13. Her husband was quickly arrested and indicted on murder and other charges.

Brooker isn’t alone. At the beginning of October, according to News4Jax records, there have been at least 12 domestic-related killings in Jacksonville in 2020.

Clay County took time Friday during Domestic Violence Awareness month to remind everyone that these aren’t just numbers, they’re family members and friends.

Sheriff Michelle Cook is holding a joint news conference with the Quigley House about domestic violence awareness. Even though #DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth is coming to a close, we don’t want the awareness to stop. #CCSOFL

Posted by Clay County Sheriff's Office, Florida on Friday, October 23, 2020

The Sheriff’s Office has partnered with Quigley House to expand its resources to better serve the community and help reduce these kinds of crimes.

Quigley House is the only domestic and sexual assault center in Clay County. Rodriguez said that during the pandemic, the shelter has been packed with survivors.

“Domestic calls are one of the most dangerous calls for police service that our deputies respond to,” Cook said. “This year alone we’ve responded to over 1,100 calls for service involving domestic violence.”

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office and Quigley House reminded those who may be facing this kind of situation to seek all available resources. The first step to safety starts with a call, they said.

“Leaving is a process. It’s not an event,” Rodriguez explained. “Many times, family and friends, they believe you can simply say, ‘Why are you there? Why can’t you just leave?’ The best thing they can do is call for help.”

Domestic violence advocates say awareness, training and holding offenders accountable will continue to help reduce these kinds of crimes.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office’s free services are available at 904-529-4081, and the 24/7 Quigley House hotline is at 904-284-0061.

If you or someone you know is or has been a victim of domestic violence or abuse, there are also other resources available:

  • The Florida Domestic Violence Hotline, which will direct you to the nearest shelter, is 1-800-500-1119
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline is open 24 hours a day. The number is 1-800-799-SAFE
  • The Micah’s Place (Nassau County) Domestic Violence Help Hotline is 904-225-9979
  • The Hubbard House in Jacksonville can be reached by dialing 904-354-3114
  • The Betty Griffin Center in St. Johns County can be reached at 904-824-1555

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