Advocates against domestic violence start new hotline for victims

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - There are new protections coming for victims of domestic violence in central Florida.

Orange County’s Domestic Violence Commission announced Friday that it is taking steps to make sure offenders are prosecuted.

Officials said 55 percent of domestic violence cases are dropped at the state sttorney’s office in Orange County because the victims won’t testify.

They said often the pressure starts right away, when the alleged abusers call from jail, but now advocates are supporting victims before those calls are made.

A domestic violence victim told police she didn’t remember what happened in an elevator after she told her alleged attacker, Willie Hills, that their relationship was over.

Police said Hills called her from jail and pressured her not to prosecute, so she backed out.

The Harbor House is about to get more resources from Orange County to keep something like that from happening again.

Four advocates will now be on call to respond to domestic violence scenes right after law enforcement arrives.

Through a 24-hour hotline number they can support victims immediately, before the accused abusers have a chance to pressure them.

“Sometimes those calls are threats and sometimes those calls are, ‘I love you I'm so sorry’ but either way they are coercive and designed to get the person to drop charges,” said Carol Wick with the Harbor House. “Sometimes they even get the survivor to believe that they caused the accident or they started it and get them to perjure themselves.”

State Sen. David Simmons and state Rep. Karen Castor Dentel are working on bills to outlaw those jail calls and keep the survivors' addresses private as cases are being prosecuted.

A "justice drop-in center" is also being established to help families impacted by domestic violence cope physically and emotionally.

Officials made the announcement on Valentine’s Day on purpose, to send a message that love shouldn't hurt.