Buncombe County Family Justice Center Commemorates Five Years of Service to the Community

Michael Gebelein / Carolina Public Press

In the aftermath of eight domestic violence homicides in 2013, Buncombe County leaders envisioned a safe place where survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault could easily access the resources they need to find shelter, counseling, seek legal action and start their journey toward healing.

In 2016 the doors of the Family Justice Center (FJC) opened, bringing together multiple partners in a collaborative model for crisis support. In the five years since the ribbon cutting, more than 2,500 new survivors who were not previously served have been able to access services to begin their journey toward healing, hope, and safety.

“When we launched the Family Justice Center five years ago, we all hoped and believed it would make a difference,” says County Commission Chair Brownie Newman. “Now, after serving thousands of survivors, we see the impact and reaffirm our commitment to a clear path toward help and hope.”

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By the numbers

2,554 new individuals: Since the FJC opened in 2016, 2,554 new/unduplicated people have been able to access integrated intake at the FJC. This does not account for the number of times that those survivors have come back to continue to access services. Additional survivors have been served by the partner agencies, but did not need the consolidated intake service.

28 Forms: A case mapping in 2016, showed that a survivor who would have had to fill out 61 forms and travel eight times prior to the FJC, now only fills out 28 forms with as little as 2 trips. Many of these forms are part of the paperwork required by the court to file a Domestic Violence Protective Order.

1 Room: The Family Justice Center’s client dens allow a survivor to meet with different professionals without leaving the comfort of one room. Before 2016, survivors traveled to a dozen places and spoke with 21 people in their first few days after a traumatic event.

100%: From January–June of 2021, 100% of survivors who completed a survey after intake reported decreased levels of fear and anxiety.

How the pandemic has affected survivors

Research shows that rates, as well as intensity of domestic and sexual violence increase during natural disasters and the COVID pandemic is proving to be no exception.

As restrictions loosened, survivors seeking services in April 2021 rose 400% from the prior year and increased 614% for May 2021 when compared to the previous May.

During January-June 2020, 21% of new intakes saw more than one agency during their first visit compared to 65% in January—June 2021 showing the increased complexity of our cases.

65% of survivors provided integrated intake at the FJC accessed more than one agency in their first visit to the FJC during January—June 2021 – still holding steady at a higher percentage.

“Over the course of the last five years the FJC has championed, uplifted, and shared the voices of survivors across our community,” says FJC Division Manager Paulina Mendez. “At the FJC, we have the opportunity to interrupt intergenerational trauma. That’s huge for the public safety and well-being of our communities. I want to acknowledge all of the years of hard work and intentionality that went into planning the FJC and thank our partners and their staff for their collaborative spirit that makes this a successful model.”

Partners

The FJC has many partners in one location. The partners, service providers, and collaborators include Asheville Police Department, Buncombe County Health and Human Services, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, HCA/Mission Health Forensic Nurse Examiners, Helpmate, Mountain Child Advocacy Center, Our VOICE, Pisgah Legal Services, the SPARC Foundation, our survivor-led VOICES Committee, and the YWCA of Asheville.

You do not have to walk this path alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out. The FJC is located at 35 Woodfin St., Asheville, NC and you can reach the organization at (828) 250-6900. All of the services are free and are offered in English and Spanish with additional interpretation available. They accept walk-ins, appointments, and referrals Monday – Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. You can also call Helpmate’s 24-hour hotline for domestic violence situations at (828) 254-0516 and you can reach Our VOICE’s 24-hour hotline at (828) 255-7576 for issues of sexual assault. If you are in immediate danger, please dial 911.

Prepared by Buncombe County.