On Tuesday, Leslie Abernathy-Maddox got a call from Stephanie Woodard, chair of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence (GCFV). Less than two months since Abernathy-Maddox was appointed to the state commission by Gov. Nathan Deal, Woodard already had a training conference for the local State Court judge to attend. Woodard charged her to bring back ideas from the conference to share with the commission. Abernathy-Maddox can’t wait.
Indeed, Abernathy-Maddox has jumped into her role as one of 10 state judges on the 38-member state commission. Deal signed an executive order for Abernathy-Maddox’s appointment on June 21. She’ll be sworn in Wednesday, Aug. 15, but she’s already attended a couple GCFV meetings.
“I wanted to get started immediately,” Abernathy-Maddox said. “I’m really excited.”
The GCFV was created in 1992 to develop and oversee a comprehensive state plan to end family violence in Georgia. There were 149 domestic violence-related deaths in Georgia last year, according to the 2017 Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Annual Report, including six in Forsyth County.
Abernathy-Maddox has been in Forsyth County since 1997 when she became the first female trial court judge in the county as Solicitor General. She served in that role until 2013, when Deal appointed Abernathy-Maddox to her current position of State Court Judge.
Some of Abernathy-Maddox’s most innovative work has been in the domestic violence field. She started the Forsyth County Domestic Violence Task Force and is chair of the Forsyth County Domestic Violence Forum.
Indeed, she helped the county’s task force become an innovator in holding people under temporary or permanent protective orders who are required to go to Family Violence Intervention Programs accountable for their attendance. The county previously had no process to ensure people attended.
So Abernathy-Maddox formed a subcommittee to research the situation, and the subcommittee’s plan helped the district attorney start to pursue action against offenders who weren’t attending FVIPs as required in their civil cases.
“As far as I know, we’re still the only jurisdiction that is doing it that way,” Abernathy-Maddox said.
Now, Abernathy-Maddox gets to take her experience to the state level. She’ll help the GCFV in its work to support local task forces, conduct research, provide education and training on domestic violence to communities, and monitor any relevant legislation and policies.
Abernathy-Maddox sees her appointment to the state commission as an opportunity to share the work the Forsyth County Domestic Violence Task Force has done with the rest of the state, but also as a chance to bring innovative ideas from other jurisdictions back to Forsyth County, where Abernathy-Maddox will remain in her leadership role with the county task force.
“I want to be a part of that movement of expanding the sphere of influence, education, understanding and addressing system process changes,” Abernathy-Maddox said.