Fulton County DA wants family justice center for domestic violence victims
A family justice center is a collaborative model where several community partners are in one place to help families impacted by domestic violence.
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office is exploring what it will take to bring a family justice center to the county.
District Attorney Fani Willis said a “one-stop shop” for domestic violence victims is desperately needed in Georgia’s largest county.
“It is not a luxury,” Willis said. “What this center will do is make sure we keep people safe and productive members of society.”
A family justice center is a collaborative model, where several community partners are in one place to help families impacted by domestic violence. They’ve been in communities across the country for about 20 years.
“Whether it’s housing, how to navigate through family court, needs for their children, needs for safety,” Deputy District Attorney Asia Baysah explained.
Data from the DA’s Office shows an explosion in domestic violence cases since 2021 when Willis took office. In Jan. 2021, the DA’s Office indicted 383 domestic violence cases compared to 825 cases as of April 2023 – a 115% increase.
Research shows victims often must go to dozens of places to get the crucial services they need which can create more trauma, according to Deputy District Attorney Simone Hylton.
“Ultimately, we re-traumatize a victim who has to continue to tell their story over and over again versus having this one-stop shop where they can maybe tell their story one time,” Hylton said.
Tanesha McCauley is the executive director of the Cobb Family Advocacy Center in Cobb County. They were awarded a grant in 2020 to start planning for the center. When it opens this fall, it’ll be one of just three family justice centers in the state of Georgia.
“This is a solution,” McCauley said. “This is one way we can be a part of solving some of those problems.”
McCauley said the most challenging part of the process was securing the necessary partnerships.
“That’s the core of your family justice center, bringing all those partners together to make this a reality,” she added.
Willis and her team have started to lay the groundwork for a center in Fulton County. They’re planning a trip to New York City to see an established center in action. Willis said they’ve also started speaking with potential partners and researching possible funding sources, among other things.
“We want to know what the best practices are,” Willis said. “We want to know what they tried and what failed, then how it failed. We often learn great lessons from other mistakes.”
Willis said she wants to ensure that if Fulton County gets a family justice center, it will provide the most services for victims.
“So, this is something that is needed so we can restore people and make them whole,” she said. “There’s too much judgment around this issue.”
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