Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Jersey Battered Women’s Service (JBWS) and its partner agencies are preparing to open a comprehensive center for domestic violence and sexual assault victims:  the Morris Family Justice Center (MFJC). The planned March opening coincides with JBWS’ 40th anniversary.

Family justice centerPartners in this exciting endeavor include the Morris County Freeholders, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris County Superior Court, Legal Services of Northwest Jersey, Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs, Morris County Sheriff’s Office, Morris County Bar Foundation, Morris Cares, Manavi, and the Morristown Police Department.

“In our 40 years, JBWS has evolved into a full service domestic violence agency and opening a Family Justice Center is the next logical step in improving services,” remarks JBWS executive director Patricia Sly. “The model is recognized as a best practice in the field of domestic violence by the U.S. Department of Justice and Morris County will become the second community in the state, joining Essex County, to set up a Family Justice Center.”

Kathy DeFillippo

Kathy DeFillippo

“It gives me a tremendous sense of pride to think of how many Morris County families will be helped by this necessary service,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo, who helped spearhead freeholder board approval of the use of county government space for this new center. “The Family Justice Center will stand as a beacon of hope for the victims of domestic violence for years to come.”

The exciting month kicks off on Tuesday, March 2, when Family Justice Center Alliance national leaders, Casey Gwinn, Gael Strack and Michael Burke consult with local partners and community stakeholders at the Morristown United Methodist Church on the Green beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Gwinn and Strack, co-founders of the first family justice center and the San Diego, CA-based Alliance, will present the history and the vision for the Family Justice Center movement in this country.  They then will facilitate a strategic planning session with community leaders.

The Morris Family Justice Center will provide the services that a survivor of interpersonal violence and sexual assault needs in ONE place—counseling, protection, legal and immigration assistance, children’s services, and more.

MCLocated on the 4th Floor of the County Administration and Records Building across from the Morris County Courthouse, in space  being provided by county government, the Center’s services will be offered by representatives from the partner agencies in a safe, supportive environment.

Too often, according to the Family Justice Center Alliance, victims of interpersonal violence and sexual assault, and their children, are forced to navigate complex systems to receive critical services while gripped by fear and heartbreak. Family Justice Centers bring agencies together to work with victims during the crisis and long after the crisis. Victims will no longer be burdened with traveling to different agencies and telling their stories repeatedly.

“The new center will encourage domestic crime victims to come forward and seek needed help before situations spiral out of control, leading to more serious assaults and even homicides,’’ said Marcy McMann, Morristown-based attorney and chairwoman of the Morris County Domestic Violence Working Group.

The initial startup of the project is being funded by a federal grant from the Office on Violence Against Women and The Provident Bank Foundation. The Morris County Freeholders unanimously approved an agreement to provide space, at no cost, for the new center.

About the Family Justice Center Alliance

The Family Justice Center Alliance (FJCA) is a program of Alliance for HOPE International, one of the leading domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and intervention organizations in the United States.  The FJCA serves as the clearinghouse, research center, and national affiliation organization for Family Justice Centers and other multi-agency models that serve victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, child abuse, and/or human trafficking.

About the Need for the Morris Family Justice Center

“There are some 2,500 domestic violence offenses recorded in Morris County annually, with only about 25 percent of incidents reported,” according to Marcy McMann, Morristown-based attorney and chairwoman of the Morris County Domestic Violence Working Group. “We are only capturing a portion of the domestic violence cases that occur in Morris County. “The Family Justice Center will allow us to serve this group of people more effectively and efficiently,’’ she added. “But more importantly, the new center will encourage domestic crime victims to come forward and seek needed help before situations spiral out of control, leading to more serious assaults and even homicides.”

 About the Jersey Battered Women’s Service (JBWS)

Founded in 1976, JBWS celebrates 40 years of offering hope and safety to victims of domestic violence and their families. The services include a 24-hour hotline (1-877-R-U-ABUSED); counseling; safe house; transitional living; children’s services; life skills education; vocational counseling; batterers’ intervention; legal assistance; and professional training, education and youth prevention programs. For more information on JBWS, please visit: www.jbws.org.