BY JASON KOTOWSKI jkotowski@bakersfield.com 

Read the original story HERE

Victims of domestic violence in Kern County don’t have to travel all over town anymore searching for all of the assorted services they may need to get their lives back.

The Kern County Family Justice Center, a one-stop shop that houses representatives from various agencies, opens its doors at 2101 Oak St. on Tuesday. They’ll do it in style, too, with a formal ceremony and the unveiling of a poster campaign that features Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and his brother, former NFL quarterback David Carr.

The center’s opening marks the culmination of seven years of work, Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green said Monday.

Shortly after she was elected, Green said, five Kern County women from different occupational backgrounds went to a conference in San Diego and heard leaders from other counties discuss the power and potential of the centers. Upon hearing their report, Green began planning to bring one to Bakersfield.

Between then and now, a number of high-profile incidents involving domestic violence have made headlines, including former NFL player Ray Rice’s assault on his then-fiancee in Atlantic City, N.J. Video of Rice punching and knocking the woman unconscious went public in 2014, leading to a national conversation on domestic violence.

Including in Kern County.

With the Rice incident fresh in people’s minds, Green said, she started speaking publicly about how the centers could benefit people here.

Among the PowerPoint slides, Green said, was one that showed how much mileage victims travel and how many different agencies they visit seeking services related to the domestic violence they endured. Some don’t have cars, so they rely on public transportation and make multiple stops to get everything they need.

Green was impressed by the feedback she received.

“There were women, and even some men, who came up to me and said they had been exposed to domestic violence in their home, either personally or through witnessing it between parents, and it was a common theme that people would talk to me about their experiences,” she said.

In a column she wrote for The Californian last year, Green said statistics show that the number of felony cases — those involving serious bodily injury — have nearly doubled since 2010. In 2016 alone, there were 594 felony cases filed by the District Attorney’s office, and the number of misdemeanor cases has averaged 2,700 per year.

And in another column, coauthored by Green and Kristin Barnard, executive director of Bakersfield’s Family Justice Center, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes each year. That’s a troubling number, because studies have shown that children who witness domestic violence are more likely to become either victims or perpetrators of domestic violence.

The concept of a Family Justice Center began in San Diego in 2002. There are now a number of centers across the country, including in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The centers “focus on reducing the number of times victims tell their story, the number of places victims must go for help, and look to increase access to services and support for victims and their children,” according to the Family Justice Center Alliance website.

Bakersfield’s center will house representatives from the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Kern County District Attorney’s office, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, Kern County Department of Human Services and Child Support Services.

Offsite partners include the Bakersfield Police Department, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Dress for Success Bakersfield and Aging and Adult Services.