By Brandi Bartel, Executive Director for The Victim Center
Last year, The Victim Center (TVC) served almost 4,000 individuals through its free of charge services such as counseling, 24-hour crisis intervention, and advocacy. From domestic violence and sexual assault to homicide and child abuse, the individuals seeking our help have experienced a great deal of trauma from various forms of violent or sexual crimes. Although just one violent act is one too many, the need for TVC’s services is underscored by the growing demand for victim services; TVC served 62% more individuals in 2017 than just five years ago.
The Victim Center’s mission has a two-pronged approach: 1) Provide hope and healing through trauma-informed victim services and 2) Provide prevention-based education in hopes of increasing self-protective skills. The Victim Center was established in 1976 as a grassroots local nonprofit, and since that time, it has continued to serve as a safety-net resource providing life-saving and life-changing assistance to men, women, and children who are in their darkest hour.
Clearly, TVC’s good work could not be performed in isolation. The agency relies upon strategic partnerships with law enforcement, prosecutors, medical professionals, child advocacy centers, local shelters, civil attorneys, and many others, to ensure that crime victims receive wrap-around care paramount for recovery. TVC already co-locates several staff in strategic locations, such as the court house, Harmony House, and the Child Advocacy Center, and from these partnerships it has experienced improved outcomes and success.
For instance, one woman recently went to the Greene County courthouse because she was in a domestic-violence relationship and was afraid to go home. She was directed to The Victim Center’s office in the courthouse, where an advocate was able to discuss safety planning with her and assist with filing for an order of protection. During this initial conversation, our advocate learned from the victim that the offender had violated his bond conditions. Quickly, our advocate talked to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Victim Witness Office across the hall, and one of their employees was able to inform a prosecutor already in the courtroom about the offense. The prosecutor immediately filed an electronic petition to revoke the offender’s bond, and then law enforcement immediately apprehended the offender and took him to jail. With all partners working in tandem – just 90 minutes later – the victim had tears streaming down her face when she was told she could finally go home that afternoon. It was a powerful moment for the victim, and it was a fantastic opportunity for the agencies involved to see the power of teamwork at its best.
So, it is with great excitement and the “Power of We” that The Victim Center awaits the opening of Missouri’s only Family Justice Center. The Victim Center was an early partner during the planning process and will be housing Victim Advocates full time at the Greene County Family Justice Center. This Center will not be duplicating existing services in the community. Rather, it will serve as a co-located model where community partners such as law enforcement, prosecutors, civil attorneys, Children’s Division, and victim advocates can work in the same space with a streamlined intake process for improved efficiency, communication, and client accessibility. Even more importantly, communities that already operate Family Justice Centers are able to curb their rate of domestic violence and even eliminate family-violence-related homicides. What an exciting prospect for Greene County!
Domestic Violence is not just a law enforcement issue – it’s an issue that affects every aspect of our community, from workforce development and health outcomes to graduation rates and poverty. The economic impact is staggering, but the impact on individual lives – including children – is devastating. The time to act is now. It will require a collective “yes” from each segment of our community to support the momentum of the Greene County Family Justice Center. We hope you’re in.