180’s Family Justice Center Opened in Freehold

A one-stop shop to aid domestic violence and sexual abuse victims has opened its doors in Monmouth County and is ready to start changing lives.

180 Turning Lives Around, a nonprofit organization working to halt different types of abuse affecting county residents, will operate a new Family Justice Center out of the county courthouse, located at 71 Monument St.

Before the Family Justice Center, victims in the darkest times of their lives were tasked with navigating the choppy waters of the criminal justice system to seek help, said Anna Diaz-White, 180’s executive director. Now, everything they need is in one place.

“I think it’s going to be a game changer in the way that victims can access services,” she said.

An intake center at the courthouse’s lower level will be the first step, where 180’s staff can ask questions and guide victims in the right direction.

The Family Justice Center is located at 40 Monument St., connected to the courthouse’s parking lot. Different services will be available, Diaz-White said. A lawyer from South Jersey Legal Services is on standby, available to provide legal guidance. Detectives from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office will be on-call from the Freehold office to assist in pressing charges and filing police reports.

The building also provides shelter for victims with children who may fear returning home. Access to local food pantries, counselors and job assessment and training are other services now readily available. The two-story-home-converted center will have no public access and will only be open to people who pass courthouse security.

In Monmouth County, the numbers of abuse victims are significant, said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni. There were nearly 4,000 calls or reported incidents of domestic violence last year, and family courts in Freehold also heard requests for 1,600 restraining orders from domestic violence victims, he said. Those numbers put Monmouth County sixth-highest in New Jersey.

Diaz-White said her organization receives about 5,000 calls a year and not every incident they hear is reported to police. She said the main demographic for sexual and domestic violence victims is 20- to 40-year-old women. Diaz-White estimated 85 percent of victims in Monmouth County are women.

“We hope that it will stop the traumatization from here on out,” Gramiccioni said. “When somebody comes here, they get direction, they get assistance, they get what they’re entitled to.”

Monmouth County’s Family Justice Center is the fourth such center in New Jersey; others are located in Essex, Morris and Union counties. Diaz-White toured the state with Gramiccioni and elected officials over the past year to find the best solution for Monmouth County.

State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-11), who volunteered as a rape crisis advocate years ago, said the center is a necessity.

“They’re already stressed, they’re already emotionally fragile,” she said of victims. “They don’t need five locations to sort out life and get things moving.”

The building was provided by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders at no cost, said Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry. It was previously used as the county’s Weights and Measures offices.

“This Family Justice Center will provide both comfort and justice to these victims and their families by offering so many services in one place,” Burry said.

Plans for the center began when 180 was awarded a $145,000 grant last year by Impact 100 Jersey Coast which will contribute to staffing and overhead costs. Grant money was provided by 145 women who each pledged $1,000 for a greater cause.

The new Family Justice Center is another piece of the large footprint 180 has established in Monmouth County. Main administrative offices are located in Hazlet and a secondary location, the Shore Regional Outreach Office, is based in Neptune.

180 also operates a 45-bed safe house and a 10-family transitional housing center in the county, both in different, undisclosed locations. The nonprofit also partners with Amanda’s Easel, a creative arts therapy program in Middletown.

As Hollywood executives, journalists and other prominent people are being called out for their alleged prior sexual assaults, Diaz-White said it spotlights the importance of the Family Justice Center.

“Of course these make headlines,” Diaz-White said, “but for every one of those, there are thousands of women, men and children suffering in silence trying to navigate their and their children’s way out of seemingly impossible situations.”

 

By Jay Cook |

This article was first published in the Nov. 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

 

Help 180 Answer The Call

As you probably already know, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. 
All gifts received this #GivingTuesday (November 28, 2017) will support one of our most highly utilized programs – our 24 hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotlines. The hotlines are always available and are staffed by highly trained professionals in the field of domestic and sexual violence and human traficking. Everyday, 180 is answering calls and helping to guide victims to safety. Already this year, we have answered 2,805 hotline calls. The hotlines are often the entryway into additional agency services including: emergency shelter at our safe house, counseling, legal and court advocacy, and programs for children such as our Amanda’s Easel Creative Arts Therapy program.
Please donate in honor of #GivingTuesday and your gift will help us answer the call in a victim’s moment of crisis. Your support at any level makes a difference!

Please meet Honor.

I would like to introduce you to Honor. Honor is a two-year old Miniature Therapy Horse who spent time last month with children at our Safe House. Research has shown that equine therapy is an effective way to help heal from trauma.

Domestic abuse survivors and their families can learn from horses, including how to control fear, how to be more assertive and confident and how to connect with others. This was 180’s first experience with this form of therapy and we will be exploring ways to perhaps integrate programs such as this in the future.

At 180 Turning Lives Around, we are always exploring the best ways to meet the needs of our client-families and we welcome interest and support from our community in helping us bring innovative programs to the forefront. If you would like to support 180 and/or explore new initiatives with us, please contact, 180 Executive Director, Anna Diaz White Thank you!

Special thanks to Honor and “Mini Horse Heroes” for making this day possible for our families.

Mini Horse Heroes serve in memory of P.O. Ken Tietjen formerly of Middletown, NJ.  The organization was started in 2001 to honor Port Authority Police Officer, Ken Tietjen, who gave his life saving others on 9/11.

Domestic Violence a major factor in mass shootings

At 180 Turning Lives Around we share in the grief resulting from the recent atrocity in Texas.

Like the rest of the world, we try to understand why these events unfold and we are devastated to know that perpetrators of domestic violence account for 54% of all mass shootings.

In this recent case in Texas, the perpetrator was previously court-martialed on two charges of domestic assault after he beat and choked his wife, threatened her with a firearm and hit her infant son hard enough to fracture his skull. Common sense gun control laws which keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence offenders should be the law of the land. To read more about this issue in particular, please read the link here from Everytown for Gun Safety which released a sobering report on this topic. Also, a recent article from Time, “Domestic Violence is the Canary in the Coal Mine for Mass Shootings” is equally informative.
For those of you who are angered and moved to do something in response to these devastating facts and in honor of the lives ruined by this massacre, please become even more involved with 180 and our mission. While events like this can leave us feeling helpless, let’s remember that 180 is on the forefront of combating domestic violence in Monmouth County and helping survivors turn their lives around.