Sonoma County is known for beautiful vineyards, incredible food and wine and diverse cultural events. Despite its shiny exterior, Sonoma County suffers from a problem that often escapes notice. This problem affects many people, causes families to break apart and harms the essence of community life. The problem is domestic violence.
While domestic violence often occurs behind closed doors, we must be willing to address and combat it publicly. October is nationally recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As executive director of the Family Justice Center Sonoma County, I would like to shed light on the critical work being done at the center and in our community to assist those trapped in the cycle of violence.
The Family Justice Center works in collaboration with on-site partners including Legal Aid, Verity, Council on Aging, YWCA, the Santa Rosa Police Department and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, among others. We recognize the complex nature of family violence. We address it by offering the services of our partner agencies to victims in one safe location — 2755 Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa.
In doing so, we ensure that victims of intimate violence receive the legal, investigative and holistic services they need to safely move forward. A survivor can access housing, emergency supplies such as food, clothing and vouchers, apply for a restraining order or make a police report if so desired. All of this happens under one roof. More importantly, a victim will not have to repeat his or her story multiple times, to multiple agencies, increasing the trauma and suffering.
This is not a small problem. Every nine seconds, a woman in the United States becomes a victim of assault or physical abuse. Shockingly, partner-inflicted physical harm afflicts roughly 20 Americans every minute.
In Sonoma County, a staggering 54,000 residents, or 1 in 5 adults, have faced physical or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner. The Family Justice Center served 2,102 survivors of violence in 2021 and 1,826 survivors in 2022. These numbers represent our friends, neighbors, co-workers and colleagues who silently bear the burden of abuse.
Domestic violence doesn’t exist in isolation, and its impact on community safety is substantial. The annual cost of intimate partner violence to Sonoma County is estimated at over $240 million, a colossal burden that affects us all, directly, or indirectly.
The Family Justice Center is cost-effective, offering a consolidated and comprehensive solution for survivors of domestic violence and abuse, saving time, resources and ensuring survivors receive the support they need promptly. By reducing inefficiencies and duplications in services, the Family Justice Center effectively maximizes the use of available resources.
As we observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, we must not forget the courageous survivors who have shared their stories and taken steps toward healing and reclaiming their lives. As we move forward, let us continue to support survivors of intimate violence by working together to create a future where domestic violence and abuse is a thing of the past, and where our community remains safe, strong, and united.
Marsha Lucien is executive director of the Family Justice Center Sonoma County.
Source: Marsha Lucien, Original Article Here