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Domestic violence task force busy during pandemic

Tim Croft
tcroft@starfl.com

Pam Martin is no fan of the restrictions the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on her work.

Of course, as director of the Gulf County/Mexico Beach Domestic Violence Task Force, Martin is even less a fan of those who abuse or endanger family members.

“Everything is up at this time, domestic violence, child endangerment, all of it” Martin said. “I can’t give you exact figures, but everything I have to deal with is up.

“We offer help, we offer services. This is what I do. It’s what I do, what I was called to do.”

A calling, a passion evidenced by the 24 years Martin has put in as an advocate for the abused and endangered.

And that passion is also highlighted by a recent request from the Salvation Army for Martin to assist with the domestic violence task force in Marianna.

So, on a recent Monday, Martin drove from her Gulf County home to Blountstown to provide a relocation check to a victim, traveled to Marianna for meetings and returned to her Port St. Joe office to continue the workday.

“I want to help people, that is my mission,” Martin said. “I just want people to know I care and to carry on.”

Speaking of her Port St. Joe office, Martin and the task force are now located in the same Long Ave. building as the Supervisor of Elections, offices which formerly housed the sheriff’s investigative unit.

The location offers more space, including a conference room which will be used for a task force meeting this Saturday, complete with masks and social distancing.

The pandemic has, of course, provided a host of constraints.

The major one for Martin is the elimination of face-to-face consultations with victims which are now anathema during COVID-19.

A face mask, Martin added, is not her favorite fashion accessory.

“I know how to talk to people,” Martin said. “I talk to people wherever I go, which is hard with a mask on.”

She also must improvise a bit on the services during a pandemic.

For example, last week a Gulf County woman who left her abusive household for a motel in Bay County contacted Martin, frantic.

She and her children were about to be evicted from the motel she had fled to, she had spent all her money keeping that roof over their head and her new apartment was not yet ready.

Martin contacted the motel and worked out a deal for the woman to remain four more nights and ensured a smooth transition to her new home.

“That’s what we do,” Martin said. “I want to work on this task force. This task force is a calling.”

A calling that emerged from her upbringing with a mother who was abusive to her father and children.

“Everything I learned brought me to where I am,” Martin said. “Everything I went through prepared me for this.”

Note that, using Martin as an example, domestic violence crosses gender and age boundaries; it is equal opportunity.

Martin characterized domestic violence as a “family curse” too often passed down through generations.

Though nothing is established yet for the coming school year, the school district has welcomed Martin and the task force to the local high schools.

“(Domestic violence) is a family curse that goes from family to family,” Martin said. “You can’t break it until you get to the younger ones coming along.

“We try to crush that cycle. It is too hard to get out of.”

To contact the Gulf County/Mexico Beach Domestic Violence Task Force call 229-2901 or 229-2902 or contact the hotline at 850-763-0706.