Family Justice Center opens today

Domestic violence victims and their families no longer must go from office to office or building to building to obtain services and support. The Crystal Judson Family Justice Center, which opens Monday, Dec. 12 offers an array of social service and government assistance.

The center, funded and operated jointly by Pierce County and the City of Tacoma, is located in a remodeled former funeral home basement at 718 Court E., a half block east of Tacoma Avenue South. The site is within walking distance of the County-City Building.

“I want the FJC to be a place where victims of domestic violence and their children feel welcome and safe,” said director Susan Adams, a former county deputy prosecuting attorney. “The center is designed to be a place where our clients can receive the help they need to make the decisions that are best for themselves and their children.”

Modeled after a San Diego program that features a one-stop concept, the FJC will bring together under one roof two groups of partners, community/nongovernmental and criminal justice. Services are free and include victim advocacy, safety planning, electronic filing for temporary protection orders, criminal and civil legal services, housing, emergency assistance and chaplaincy services.

Pierce County Council Chair Shawn Bunney is the FJC Executive Board’s first chair. Other members include County Councilmember Barbara Gelman and Tacoma City Councilmembers Connie Ladenburg and Rick Talbert. “The center will substantially enhance county and city efforts to prevent domestic violence by consolidating and coordinating law enforcement and community based services,” Bunney said.

Ann Eft, director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Commission on Domestic Violence, said the FJC will be a valuable community asset. “It will be a place for victims of family violence to find safe space and where violent offenders will be held accountable,” she said. “The FJC will concentrate on providing that safety and accountability, making Pierce County a safer place to live.”

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used by an individual to establish and maintain power and control over another individual. Abusive behavior can include physical harm, threats of physical harm, depravation of food, sleep and-or money, intimidation with a weapon, forced sexual contact, restraining someone from leaving, emotional abuse and verbal abuse. The FJC Domestic Violence Helpline – 253-798-4166 — was established to assist victims of abusive behavior.

The tragic death of Crystal Judson Brame, who was shot by her husband, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, in April 2003, focused community attention on the domestic violence issue. Establishment of the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center was part of the community’s response to the tragedy.

Adams will be assisted by a staff of three, assistant director Craig Roberts, victim services specialist Midge Tipton and receptionist Kaye Stone. During her 14 years in the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Adams headed both the domestic violence and misdemeanor units. Roberts was domestic violence coordinator in the County Clerk’s Office, where he served for 19 years.

The office will be staffed by representatives of the partner organizations: law enforcement, prosecutors, nonprofit victim agencies, civil legal advocates, faith-based programs, counseling providers and translation services. “The goal is to improve access to services for victims and their children and eliminate barriers, which currently exist when victims have to tell their stories repeatedly to various service providers and travel from one location to another for assistance,” Roberts said.

Adams, Roberts and others in the community have been working for the past year to make the FJC ready for opening. “I am excited about the arrival of this day,” Adams said. “It is an honor to be involved with so many people committed to helping the victims and their children.

The outpouring of support we have received from government officials and community leaders is amazing and gratifying.”

While no fanfare is planned for Monday, “You never know who will stop by,” Adams said. Plans are in the making for a grand opening after the first of the year.

Director Susan Adams and Assistant Director Craig Roberts head the new Crystal Judson Family Justice Center in Tacoma. (PHOTO COURTESY PIERCE COUNTY)