by Jennifer Tipton
The Family Justice Center is a program of Alliance for Hope International that serves more than 150,000 survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the United States each year. Hope International was contracted by Ventura County in 2016 to assist in the development process for the creation of a Family Justice Center, a collaborative effort which will bring all services together in one location for the victims of trauma and abuse and their children.
According to Ken Corney, Chief of Police for the City of Ventura, “it’s long overdue”. In 2012, Ventura County law enforcement agencies received 7,478 domestic violence calls.
After many years of working in partnerships and multi-disciplinary approaches in addressing child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse, and human trafficking, Ventura County, under the leadership of District Attorney Greg Totten, decided to pursue the creation of a Family Justice Center model.
District Attorney Totten tells us, “victims are traumatized and then thrown into a system that is spread out and difficult to navigate, the Family Justice Center will pull all of our existing services together under one roof”.
And because the system is so hard to navigate, many victims become frustrated and return to their abuser. Between 2009 and 2013, Ventura County experienced 24 deaths resulting from family violence.
The Alliance team met with survivors in Ventura who had experienced the criminal justice system and it became apparent that victims were fearful because they didn’t understand the process and needed help navigating it. While they appreciated brochures, they needed more personal assistance, but they said the courthouse was the scariest place to seek help and all the continuances made the process even more difficult. Some described having to go to 15-20 different places for services and it was traumatic to repeatedly tell their story. They unanimously endorsed the Family Justice Center model.
The plan is to partner with K-12 school districts, law enforcement and victim advocates amongst others. Agencies will include provision for legal assistance, transportation, medical and financial services.
Currently, the estimated costs of family violence in Ventura County are between $2.6 million and $10.4 million per year. The Ventura County Family Justice Center Prospectus, April 2016 makes the business case for the Center, current plans for funding include creating a justice center foundation and grant writing.
The primary objective is to provide a safe place to go but the 24-hour facilities also proposes to offer transportation, job training, a dance studio, a community garden and an ice cream parlor.
For more information visit www.familyjusticecenter.com.