FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Anti-Violence Task Force, an organization dedicated to ending domestic and sexual abuse through education and outreach, recently elected its 2020 Executive Committee.
“It has been an honor to be part of the task force and to see it grow and bring collaboration and education to our community,” outgoing Chair Toledo Caiñas said of her six years with the task force.
Casey Waters, who joined the organization in 2017, was elected chair for 2020. She served as secretary this past year.
Being part of the task force is personal for Waters who lost someone to domestic violence.
“If she had had the resources that we have at our fingertips every day, maybe the loss of her life could have been avoided,” Waters said. “We have so much information to give out and assets to use that the majority of our community don’t know about. I want to be a part of getting that information out to the public and help as many people as possible.”
Waters has been a communications officer at Forysth County 911 Center for six years. She holds an associate’s degree and is furthering her education through Johns Hopkins University.
Waters said she is looking forward to bringing a fresh perspective and new eyes to the task force.
“I have had so many amazing role models with the task force who have paved the way and encouraged me to want more and go for more,” she said. “I am ready to learn, lead and facilitate new opportunities for our community members to get involved in.”
Erin Wallis, RN, the newly elected co-chair, came to the task force through her work with Rape Response, Inc.
“Once I discovered this task force through my work with Rape Response Inc., I found it vital to advocate for the urgencies the task force brings into focus,” Wallis said.
Serving with the FCAVTF team is essential to Wallis.
It is imperative to collaborate with like-minded individuals and organizations to help eradicate the issues we are grappling with, Wallis said, adding that the FCAVTF enables and empowers members to do so.
She holds an Associate of Science degree in early childhood education with a focus in special education, a Bachelor of Science in registered nursing with certifications in emergency and trauma nursing from the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University, a Bachelor of Arts in human services, a Masters of Special Education and a Masters of Clinical Sexology. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Human Sexuality through The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University.
Jenni Mason, who will co-chair with Wallis, is a communications officer at the Forsyth County 911 Center. In addition to call taking and dispatching all local responders, she is a Communications Training Officer and member of the Georgia Telecommunicator Emergency Response Team, which responds in disasters to provide mutual aid to other telecommunication centers.
“I believe in the mission of the task force and would like to be more involved in fulfilling it,” Mason said. “It is only by working together as a community that we can get as much information and resources to those who need it.”
Mason holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology with a minor in Spanish from Mississippi University for Women. She is passionate about studying violence as a public health issue.
“The task force is important to me on a professional level because the number of times I have heard the desperate pleas for help from victims is truly horrifying,” Mason said.
She comes from a family with a long tradition of public service, and feels a strong responsibility to the community, she added.
“I have witnessed first-hand the consequences of generational cycles of abuse in the families of people I love,” Mason said. “The task force is not only a way for me to help the citizens of Forsyth County, but also speaking about it to people in my life has allowed me to bring up some hard topics with those who needed to hear it in a new and more effective way.”
The new secretary to the committee is Amanda Hardin, who brings 17 years of experience in the field of domestic violence. She has served on the GACA Board of Directors since 2018 and has been the secretary for the Hall County Domestic Violence Task Force for the past year. In 2016 she assumed the roles of owner and director of New Hope Counseling, a state certified ASAM Level I facility and state certified family violence intervention program where she focused on offering quality treatment to those who otherwise could not afford it.
Jen Tarnowski, a Gwinnett County transplant, was elected treasurer of the taskforce. She brings years of social service and ministry experience and holds a degree in psychology. Tarnowksi is the advocacy director for Rape Response, work that she loves.
“Serving in my role as advocacy director at Rape Response, I have had the opportunity to increase my involvement and support in Forsyth County and have been grateful to be a part of the community,” she said.
Providing support, education and advocacy to those experiencing or at risk for violence, is a passion of Tarnowski’s.
“Raising awareness through education as well as shining a light on resources and support services is critical,” she said.
Tarnowski said she sees daily the effects of violence and the impacts on the survivor, their friends, and family.
“The FCAVTF helps bridge any gaps and provides much needed collaboration and partnerships that are CRITICAL for raising awareness, providing resources, and serving individuals and groups,” Tarnowski said.
The Forsyth County Domestic Violence Task Force was launched in 2013. In May of 2018, members voted to incorporate sexual assault crimes and human trafficking crimes into its mission.