Family Justice Center Project underway

The Family Justice Center Project is making significant progress to bring much needed resources and services into Scott County in hopes to end the fight against family violence. In July of 2018 the project will open its doors no longer as a project, but as the Family Justice Center providing victims access to a variety of services in one central location. The project officially began in July 2016 when the State of TN awarded the County a three-year planning and implementation grant. In November 2016, Christy Harness was then hired as the Site Coordinator for the project. Now in October of

The project officially began in July 2016

when the State of TN awarded the County a three-year planning and implementation grant. In November 2016, Christy Harness was then hired as the Site Coordinator for the project. Now in October of 2017 a physical location for the center has been identified, and Harness says they will be ready to open their doors in July of 2018. The project has partnered with providers alreadyestablished in the community such as the Scott County Shelter Society, Oneida Police Department, Scott County Sheriff’s Department, and The District Attorney’s Office to identify what resources victims need most. In addition to partnerships in the community, Harness is visiting other Family Justice Centers in TN to identify successful and unsuccessful tactics to ensure a bright future for the center in Scott County. Scarlett Ellis, Magistrate and Chairperson for the Family Justice Center Project, and Harness held a Community Forum on October 17 introducing the project, and responding to questions from citizens and officials. During the forum, Harness answered what she says is a common question; What exactly is a Family Justice Center, and how is it different from other already established resources in the community? A family justice center is a physical building that provides a co-location for office spaces of local agencies that provide needed services to victims of family violence; a home base for core staff, agency representatives, and community volunteers that facilitate cross training and support to our family violence service providers; One place that can educate victims on all services available to them and all the ways to address family violence, then coordinate appointments and transportation for victims; an advocate and supporter of those in our community who are victims of family violence. Harness and Ellis spoke with the SCN later in the week, both confirmed that the center will not be in a hidden location, as they will not be providing residential services. The two hope to make the building

Scarlett Ellis, Magistrate and Chairperson for the Family Justice Center Project, and Harness held a Community Forum on October 17 introducing the project, and responding to questions from citizens and officials. During the forum, Harness answered what she says is a common question; What exactly is a Family Justice Center, and how is it different from other already established resources in the community? A family justice center is a physical building that provides a co-location for office spaces of local agencies that provide needed services to victims of family violence; a home base for core staff, agency representatives, and community volunteers that facilitate cross training and support to our family violence service providers; One place that can educate victims on all services available to them and all the ways to address family violence, then coordinate appointments and transportation for victims; an advocate and supporter of those in our community who are victims of family violence. Harness and Ellis spoke with the SCN later in the week, both confirmed that the center will not be in a hidden location, as they will not be providing residential services. The two hope to make the building

Harness and Ellis spoke with the SCN later in the week, both confirmed that the center will not be in a hidden location, as they will not be providing residential services. The two hope to make the building well-known, so that victims know where to go if they need help. “I want victims to just know this place as the place of help,” Ellis said. Harness hopes with the opening of the center, victims will have access to every single service they need to move away from a life of violence, and toward a life of freedom. She says, from research and her own experience working with clients, she knows that victims are generally in a frightened and confused state of mind when they seek help. Being in this state of mind, they are often unaware of what services they need. Additionally, Harness hopes opening the center will eliminate some of the common barriers to victims seeking help, and improve the experience to prevent victims from returning to their situation. Harness says, In the past, victims may have had to tell their story many times to many unfamiliar

Additionally, Harness hopes opening the center will eliminate some of the common barriers to victims seeking help, and improve the experience to prevent victims from returning to their situation. Harness says, In the past, victims may have had to tell their story many times to many unfamiliar people and drive to many different places to get the help they need. She plans to strike out the unfamiliar, and reduce the number of times the victim must tell their story. At the Family Justice Center, a trained navigator will make a connection with the victim, identify what services are needed, explain all their options, and then connect them with the right resources, all in the same office. Harness added that if victims did have to travel to another location to receive any services, she wants, at the very least, to have the victim speak to a person over the phone prior to the victim leaving the center. She believes this will establish a connection between the victim and the resource; therefore, eliminating the unfamiliar that can sometimes deter them from getting help. Some of the services that will be provided initially will include; The Magistrates’ office, Circuit Court Clerk’s office, Scott County Sherriff’s Department, Oneida Police Department, The District Attorney’s office (prosecution and child support), Shelter Society, Child Advocacy Center, and the Legal Aid Society. Ellis also has bright ideas for the center. She hopes they can prevent perpetrators from intimidating their victims during court cases by utilizing technology that will allow the victim to be at the center

Some of the services that will be provided initially will include; The Magistrates’ office, Circuit Court Clerk’s office, Scott County Sherriff’s Department, Oneida Police Department, The District Attorney’s office (prosecution and child support), Shelter Society, Child Advocacy Center, and the Legal Aid Society. Ellis also has bright ideas for the center. She hopes they can prevent perpetrators from intimidating their victims during court cases by utilizing technology that will allow the victim to be at the center during their order of protection hearing, and never must step foot in the courtroom where the perpetrator would be. “I’m hoping that will boost their confidence and encouragement,” Ellis said. Another problem that prohibits victims from living a life of freedom is financial insecurity. Ellis explained that perpetrators use finances to constrain and control the victim. So, upon leaving the situation they are unsure of how to take control of their own money. During a recent visit to another Family Justice Center in Sullivan County, Ellis and Harness learned of a new program that Allstate provides to victims to help them take back the control of their finances. In the future, the two hope to bring this service to the Center. The project has gained much support from community leaders and partnering centers,

“I’m hoping that will boost their confidence and encouragement,” Ellis said. Another problem that prohibits victims from living a life of freedom is financial insecurity. Ellis explained that perpetrators use finances to constrain and control the victim. So, upon leaving the situation they are unsure of how to take control of their own money. During a recent visit to another Family Justice Center in Sullivan County, Ellis and Harness learned of a new program that Allstate provides to victims to help them take back the control of their finances. In the future, the two hope to bring this service to the Center. The project has gained much support from community leaders and partnering centers,

During a recent visit to another Family Justice Center in Sullivan County, Ellis and Harness learned of a new program that Allstate provides to victims to help them take back the control of their finances. In the future, the two hope to bring this service to the Center. The project has gained much support from community leaders and partnering centers, however there are challenges. Ellis says two of the greatest barriers are financial support and the stigma of shame surrounding family violence. “I want the community to get behind us not just financially, but emotionally, and I believe they want to. This is just new,” Ellis stated. The two want victims to know they don’t have to be ashamed or afraid to seek help. Harness related to victims saying, “No one wakes up one morning, and decides they want to be a victim of family violence; it just happens.” She further added, the center will be there to show victims that we are going to do what we say we are. Harness says she can recalls a moment she recently experienced when she knew the center was going to help people. “When you’re sitting in a room full of survivors, and they say they wish that a Family Justice Center had been available when they were going through what they had been through. You just know it’s the right thing.”

“I want the community to get behind us not just financially, but emotionally, and I believe they want to. This is just new,” Ellis stated. The two want victims to know they don’t have to be ashamed or afraid to seek help. Harness related to victims saying, “No one wakes up one morning, and decides they want to be a victim of family violence; it just happens.” She further added, the center will be there to show victims that we are going to do what we say we are. Harness says she can recalls a moment she recently experienced when she knew the center was going to help people. “When you’re sitting in a room full of survivors, and they say they wish that a Family Justice Center had been available when they were going through what they had been through. You just know it’s the right thing.”