Orange Co. leaders discuss ways to better protect domestic violence victims

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County leaders gathered to discuss ways to fight domestic violence Friday.

The county's Domestic Violence Commission met Friday morning for the first time since 2005.

The commission is made up of citizens, law enforcement, elected officials and members of the legal community.

Their goal is to find a way to stem the increase in violence in Orange County homes and find a way to keep victims safe, officials said.

"As a community, we have seen entirely too many senseless killings, and it's time that we say enough is enough," said Circuit Court Judge Alice Blackwell.

State Attorney Jeff Ashton said he wants to figure out how to prosecute more than just eight percent of the cases that come into his office and to focus on preventative efforts to reduce the overall number of cases.

There have been twelve domestic homicides in Orange County in the last five months, officials said.

 The commission members call it "unacceptable," and they are focused on doing something about it.

 WFTV talked to domestic violence prosecutor Michelle Latham who said one of the major challenges in prosecuting cases is to convince the victims to testify.

“They're contacted by the defendant and the defendant's family. They show up in court, ‘I'd like to have contact,’ and then there's nothing we can do and they're released from jail and allowed to have contact. There are pressures, financial pressure and pressure from the defendant,” Latham said.

Also, there is fear sometimes because the victims are threatened if they report the violence.

Carol Wick who runs Harbor House said training in the community has increased the response of bystanders to domestic violence to intervene and help the victim seek help.