It’s a room designed to provide a safe and private space for emergency filings. We’re referring to filings involving domestic or sexual violence, substance abuse and mental health cases. These situations are among the most sensitive in nature.
In September, the Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller’s Office held a ribbon cutting for the room, which is located on the second floor of the Robert Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City.
Clerk Nikki Alvarez-Sowles explains why there is an increasing need for a room like this. “We have victims of domestic violence who are visibly battered. They are looking over their shoulders. They are looking around because they are in fear,” said Alvarez-Sowles. “I wanted to create a space for our customers where they can feel safe, they can be calm and most importantly, empowered. “
Over the past several years we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of emergency filings. In 2021, our Office processed 3251 protective injunctions and mental health filings. To date in 2023, those cases increased by 12% to 3694.
For the victim in one of these cases, or a family member trying to save the life of a loved one fighting substance abuse or mental illness, just walking into the courthouse can be a challenge. Mustering up the courage to make a change, to empower themselves.
The definition of empowerment is written on the wall in this room: The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.
The Clerk’s Office partnered with Sunrise of Pasco, Domestic & Sexual Violence Center (Sunrise). A representative with Sunrise will be available in the Empowerment Room to aid victims with preparing paperwork. Sunrise also provides safe shelter, food, legal advocacy, and other resources for victims
Plans are already in the works for a similar safe space at our office in New Port Richey.