By Beth Lawrence
The Center for Domestic Peace’s ability to provide help to Jackson County residents has become a little more solid with the addition of a new director.
Wesley Myers joined CDP staff March 31.
“CDP is beyond excited to have Wesley directing our organization and leading our transition effort,” Board Chair Heather Baker said. “Since he began work with CDP, everything has started to fall into place. We cannot wait for the future when we will have the opportunity to introduce Wesley to our community.”
Myers, a native of Winston-Salem, is a 2015 graduate of Western Carolina University, where he studied criminology. He earned his master’s degree in criminology from Florida State University where he later taught.
He also completed an internship with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Part of his criminology studies at Florida State led him to his work with victims of domestic violence.
“I worked with a professor named Jillian Turnaovic who is a big victimologist in the United States,” Myers said. “That’s where I started to develop my interest in studying victims, (understanding) how the system helps or hurts victims, and working with victims and understanding their needs.”
He began helping victims in general with an emphasis on ethnic minority groups, LGBTQ and other disadvantaged groups and eventually wound up working with survivors of spousal abuse.
Myers’ work at CDP will consist of grant writing, overseeing the budget and the office tasks of a typical director, but he plans to be hands on as well. He will conduct direct client services such as intake interviews, coordinating housing, job training or counseling, and manning the 24-hour emergency hotline as would other employees of the center.
Though the job is stressful and heartbreaking at times, Myers has found that it can be rewarding.
“Success stories,” he said. “Seeing that end outcome where the victim is able to walk away with a different life and seeing that they have been impacted for the better by contact with our agency and contact with my advocates.”
Part of what frustrates him about the job is seeing how the justice system sometimes fails victims of spousal abuse. The legal system is charged with ensuring that the rights of everyone involved are taken care of. Sometimes victims can become lost in the shuffle.
“The justice system is set up to be very fair, and that doesn’t always indicate that victims are the sole focus,” Myers said. “That can be hard to deal with.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has stalled but not stymied his ability to jump into his job, especially meting and coordinating with other agencies. Most agencies are considered essential and still operational, so the efforts have not been crippled.
It has also affected plans for the Center for Domestic Peace to divest itself of REACH of Macon, the group that took over domestic violence and rape crisis services when REACH of Jackson was disbanded.
“Fortunately I got here with more than enough time to coordinate everything before our July 1 separation date from REACH when we will become a standalone agency,” Myers said.
Myers has wanted to return to Western North Carolina since he graduated from WCU. He was “heartbroken” at having to leave the region. The position at CDP gave him the opportunity to work in a field he is passionate about and live in an area he loves.
“I love the mountains; I love the Southern charm that’s here,” Myers said. “It reminds me of home. I’m really looking forward to us being able to grow and get more integrated into the county and make sure that everybody knows we’re here and willing to serve.”
CDP now has its own phone number as part of the effort to take over local services. For help or information, call 586-1237. Center for Domestic Peace offices are located at 26 Ridgeway St.