Politics & Government

Amanda's Center for Fayette County domestic violence victims opens

Victims of domestic violence in Fayette County now have a central location where they can file emergency petitions, speak to authorities and get connected with community resources.

Fayette County Sheriff Kathy Witt, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler and others announced the opening of Amanda's Center, a 24-hour point of contact for domestic violence victims, at a news conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday.

Amanda's Center is on the first floor of the Fayette County District Courthouse in downtown Lexington.

The office was named after Amanda Ross, who was gunned down by her fiancée, Steve Nunn, in 2009. Nunn, a former state lawmaker and son of former Gov. Louie B. Nunn, pleaded guilty to Ross's murder last year.

Navigating Fayette County's numerous law enforcement agencies and victim's assistance groups has been confusing and intimidating in the past, officials said Monday.

Following Ross's murder, a brain trust of people involved in domestic violence relief realized the county needed a "centralized point of contact," where victims could be guided through the steps needed to report and escape domestic violence, Witt said.

"We chose our courthouse, our halls of justice, for that centralized point," she said.

The office occupies two rooms in the Fayette District Court clerk's office that previously were used by the sheriff's office and the Lexington Division of Police. An archway was added to adjoin the rooms.

Amanda's Center will be staffed by employees from the Fayette County sheriff's office. Services include safety planning, evidence collection and victim's assistance. Victims will be able to fill out petitions for emergency protective orders there, and EPOs and domestic violence orders will be served by sheriff's deputies who work on domestic violence cases full-time.

Intake specialists can refer victims who come to Amanda's Center to numerous shelters and counseling services such as the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program, the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center and Legal Aid of the Bluegrass.

"If they need somewhere to stay, we can try and get that for them. If they need childcare, we can get that for them, also," said Crystal Happy, a sheriff's office employee who will staff the center after-hours.

Ross's mother, Diana Ross, was among those who spoke during Monday's ceremony. She thanked Witt for helping fight domestic violence, and Chandler for helping secure grants to fund initiatives like Amanda's Center.

Amanda Ross's death has prompted changes to domestic violence laws in Kentucky already. Amanda's Law, which passed in 2010, allows domestic violence victims to be alerted by a GPS tracking system when their aggressors get too close.

"I know Amanda would be honored to become the name and the face for every victim of domestic violence," Diana Ross said.