Talk about a running start.

Around 300 people gathered early Wednesday at Mauh-Nah-Tee-See Country Club for a breakfast fundraiser to get the Family Justice Center off the ground. The club’s parking lots filled quickly, and if you arrived past quarter to 7, chances are yours was one of the cars parked in a line that stretched down the driveway all the way to Guilford Road.

That’s a testament to our community’s commitment to break the cycle of domestic violence in Winnebago County. And it’s on top of a community meeting held the day after the July Fourth holiday that drew 125 residents to learn about what a Family Justice Center would mean for the community.

The Family Justice Center proposed here is based on a best practice in the field of domestic violence intervention and prevention identified by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In a nutshell, the center will be a one-stop shop providing services commonly need by victims of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse and human trafficking. Law enforcement personnel, medical providers, prosecutors, social service representative and mental health professionals will be among those on hand, in one spot, to help victims.

That’s a significant change from the status quo. Now, victims are forced to scurry among roughly 20 offices for the help they need — a process that tends to revictimize these vulnerable souls as they tell their stories over and over to different agencies.

The need for the Family Justice Center is self-evident.

Domestic violence is the root of many evils we’re grappling with as a community. For starters, it accounts for about one-third of calls to the Rockford Police Department.

And the effects of domestic violence reverberate down through the years. Rockford police, for example, reported that 75 percent of 357 juveniles arrested for violent offenses in 2016 and 2017 had been victims or witnesses in previous incidents of domestic violence reported to the department. Violence in the home also affects children’s readiness to succeed in school and beyond.

Wednesday’s fundraiser, however impressive, was just a start. The money raised will help pay for a consultant to guide Rockford through the process of creating the Family Justice Center. Larger sums are on the way; Winnebago County expects to receive a $450,000 grant by October to get the operation up and running.

All the evidence suggests these are worthwhile investments. Around the country, Family Justice Centers have cut murder rates, reduced the level of fear among victims and their children and produced more prosecutions of abusers, among other positives.

We encourage you to contribute to the startup campaign if you are able. This is a righteous cause that promises to improve our community in important ways.

How to give

Contributions to the Family Justice Center are tax deductible. To give, make your check payable to City of Rockford and mail to: Family Justice Center Donation, City of Rockford Mayor’s Office, 425 E. State St., Rockford IL 61104.

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