MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – If you’re a victim of crime, getting help can be difficult, but for those in Middle Georgia, it’s about to get easier.
A new Family Justice Center is coming to Macon-Bibb County. It’s a place that will allow victims the opportunity to get the help they deserve.
“From law enforcement to prosecuting to service providers, all coming together in one location to provide everything victims need within that one location.”
That was the message from Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Executive Director, Jay Neal, during Wednesday’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week ceremony at Macon City Hall.
The One Safe Place Macon Family Justice Center will be one of the first of its kind in the state of Georgia.
Site Coordinator for One Safe Place Macon, Sarah Schanck, says more than 15 agencies across Middle Georgia currently serve thousands of crime victims in the community each year. When One Safe Place Macon is established, more than 25 agencies will work with the center.
“Right now, we have great services for victims of crime in our community, but they’re really spread out,” Schanck explained. “So the burden is on the victim and their family to access those, to figure out what they need, how to get it, maybe fill out lots of paperwork or even be re-traumatized by telling their story over and over.”
Schanck expects the center to dramatically decrease the rate of domestic violence homicide by making it easier for those affected by crime to get help.
This can also help victims leave an abusive situation, heal from their trauma and be less susceptible to future victimization.
Some victims might be reluctant to speak with law enforcement. That’s where One Safe Place Macon comes in. The center will provide a space where victims feel comfortable enough to come forward.
“When you’re able to build that trust and the victims know that they’re going to be heard or believed, then you’re able to get all of those players working together for the victims,” Neal said. “And the victims at that point become more willing to share the stories that have to be shared in order for the prosecution to take place.”
Neal says he hopes One Safe Place Macon will become the model for other Family Justice Centers statewide.
During the ceremony, Project Manager for Resilient Middle Georgia, Amanda Juarez, shared her experience of being in an abusive relationship and how having a center like One Safe Place Macon could have impacted her life.
“I think it just would’ve made a world of difference to me,” Juarez said. “To have one place to go to where I felt like I wasn’t a burden, I felt welcomed, I could actually be able to handle all of my legal documents, get counseling services, parenting classes, all of that in one place.”
One Safe Place Macon recently received $1.2 million from the Department of Justice with the help of Senator Raphael Warnock. Schanck says the money will go towards building the center and strengthening services it provides to victims.
“It’s going to help our victims feel safer, and that’s ultimately the most important thing that we’re striving for,” Shanck said.
Macon-Bibb Mayor Lester Miller concluded the ceremony by declaring April 23-29 Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
One Safe Place Macon is one of three Family Justice Centers coming to Georgia. The center, which will serve Bibb, Crawford, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and Twiggs counties, is expected to open in 2024.
Source: Andrew Willis, Original Article Here