312018May

N.C. Domestic Violence Commission meets in Burlington

Alamance County Family Justice Center promotes mission, reiterates confidentiality and care for victims

Success in supporting victims of domestic violence takes collaboration.

That was the message of a meeting the N.C. Domestic Violence Commission hosted Wednesday, May 30, at the Alamance County Family Justice Center in Burlington. The meeting provided an overview of how the FJC works, how it’s funded, and how community collaboration has allowed Alamance to succeed where other counties have struggled.

It took awhile to get to that point.

Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tim Britt told the group that in 2002, law enforcement would arrive at the scene of a domestic case, make an arrest, and hand the victim a stack of business cards.

“Now think about this from that perspective,” Britt said. “We leave, and they’ve got a handful of cards, so if they want to follow through with this, they’ve got to drive to Burlington to go here, leave and go to Graham to go here — sometimes these folks would [eat up] a tank of gas just to go to all of these places they need services.”

When the FJC was established July 8, 2010, it brought those services to one central location, and now responding officers can call the center directly day or night, put victims on the phone, and help them get what they need in the moment.

Burlington Police Chief Jeffrey Smythe said the city has seen a significant decline in domestic violence murders and repeat offenses since the center came online, but the hope is that there will be an increase in the reporting of domestic violence cases.

As victims begin to trust police and the FJC, they’re more likely to seek help, and so what may look like an increase in domestic violence would actually be an increase in victims seeking help.

Trust means confidentiality.

FJC Director Cindy Brady says one of the biggest misconceptions about the center is that anyone seeking services must speak to a police officer. That’s not true.

If victims aren’t ready to involve law enforcement, it’s the center’s job to support them in that choice and get them what they need in the moment.

“The other [misconception] is that confidentiality just goes out the window,” Brady said. “It does not go out the window. Every agency here maintains and works by their confidentiality standards and rules. … We are committed to that.”

Another aspect of their mission — and perhaps the most important one — is providing hope.

“We have people come to us at their most broken moments, trying to put their pieces back together again,” said LaTonya Penny, executive director of Family Abuse Services.

So, she says, the center subscribes to the science of hope, meaning that by providing a pathway for victims of domestic violence, they are providing hope that they can rebuild their lives.

The Family Justice Center is at 1950 Martin St., Burlington. For more information, visit https://www.alamance-nc.com/fjc/ or call 336-570-6019.

Reporter Jessica Williams can be reached at jessica.williams@thetimesnews.com or at 336-506-3046. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicawtn.

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