Break the Cycle Part 3

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Knoxville (WVLT) - The way our criminal justice system deals with domestic violence has evolved in the last 50 years.

Domestic violence calls were once considered nuisance calls by local police departments. Victims used to be shunned by their communities. Today, the police, social workers and the courts take every complaint seriously.

WVLT Volunteer TV's Liz Tedone continues part three of our series, Break the Cycle.

Before this night is over, the Knox County 911 center will receive calls from victims of abuse nearly every 30 minutes. Tomorrow morning, Brandi Ellison will be following up on those police reports. She helps detectives with the Knoxville Police Department's Domestic Violence Unit build a case to hand over to the district attorney. She starts her case work by calling the victim, but getting a victim to press charges and seek an order of protection is not always easy.

"When we're first working with somebody, and they are like, he won't do it again, or nothing else is going to happen because he didn't mean to do it. It gets frustrating," Ellison said. "They believe they love them, and they'll never do it again."

In order to help a victim of domestic violence, you have to understand what effect the verbal, emotional and physical abuse has on their self esteem. Nobody knows better than Tonya Jones, a victims' advocate and survivor.

"I think the worst thing that he did was spit on me, being spit on like I was nothing," survivor Tonya Jones said.

And for a long time Tonya and many women who are in domestic abuse situations believe what they are told. That they are unworthy. On average it takes a victim seven times to leave her abuser for good.

For Sherri Morgan, she and her ex-husband had already parted ways. She got the restraining order against him, filed for divorce and separated their personal items, but the final exit would be volatile.

"I really didn't feel threatened, I was outside. We discussed that day the divorce, and I thought I could do this," Morgan said.

That night, Sherri's ex-husband would explode and leave her for dead in street in front of her house. She remembers going to court after the attack.

"I tried not to look at him. I tried to look through him. I was very scared, nervous and not very confident," Morgan said.

Going to court can be a frightening experience for a victim that's already endured trauma.

This is the Fourth Circuit Court. Every Thursday here is order of protection day.

"I started this years back because the law is very confusing, and you'll come away from here with a good education," Hon. Bill Swann said.

Every Thursday before court begins, Judge Swann gives victims a mini law school lesson on orders of protection.

"They know the three different orders and three different stages. It helps them make good decisions and ask for better things from the judges," Swann said.

Judge Swann heard Sherri Morgan's case. When Sherri couldn't go to court because of her injuries, Judge Swann corresponded with her advocate.

"She informed him of the condition I was in. Judge Swann asked if she could, I love Judge Swann, if she could email him photographs of my injuries. Those kept Brian from making bond," Morgan said.

Sherri has asked Judge Swann and the news media to use her pictures and her story to inspire other victims to leave their abusive situations.

"Don't give up. It may take two years, but eventually you will see justice served," Morgan said.

Sherri's ex-husband Brian Ladue is serving six years in a west Tennessee state penitentiary for aggravate assault. Sherri Morgan is rebuilding her life and is scheduled for more plastic surgery on her face in the coming year.

This month Judge Swann handed down a landmark ruling. An abuser was sentenced to nearly four years in jail for simply violating an order of protection.

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