Family Justice Center: ‘One place to call, one place to go’ for domestic violence victims

Den (Photo: Family Justice Center)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One of the most dangerous calls an officer can respond to involves domestic violence. Every 30 minutes Knox County law enforcement responds to one of those calls, according to the Family Justice Center.

“One in four women will be a victim of intimate partner violence and one in 13 males in their lifetime,” says Family Justice Center Executive Director Amy Dilworth. “This issue is about power and control.”

Cities across the country started to open centers to help their communities respond better to domestic violence. The centers provide victims the opportunity to have all of their needs addressed in one place.

Every 30 minutes Knox County law enforcement responds to a call relating to domestic violence.

Under the George W. Bush administration, over 400 communities sent proposals to create centers. Knoxville was one of 15 granted to put a center together.

“We learned in this process that victims in Knoxville went to over 20 places in town to get their needs met,” says Dilworth.

Knoxville’s center opened in 2006.

The center is able to help anyone, residency does not matter. All services can be provided to a non-Knox County resident except for law enforcement concerns. Orders of protection, civil court matters and more must be handled through counties that have jurisdiction.

Related: Knox County creates Orders of Protection informational video

WATE 6 On Your Side talked with Dilworth about the Family Justice Center and its services.

How does the center help victims? 

The first way the Family Justice Center helps someone is by letting them meet with an employee right when they come.

(Photo: Family Justice Center)

Dilworth says if someone needs help with intimate partner violence, elder abuse, stalking, domestic violence or teen dating violence, then the employee will send them to the third floor. An advocate will meet with them.

The person will receive a lock to secure belongings in a locker and will be able to keep the key with them.

An intake coordinator will meet with them to discuss paperwork and explain services. Afterward, an advocate from their choice agency to discuss their situation, come up with a safety plan, complete a danger assessment, explain services and provide referrals if needed. Advocates will schedule follow-up meetings with clients.

What if the person has children or specific needs? 

Dilworth says if someone comes to the center with a child and does not have someone who can watch the child, the kid will be able to spend time in the playroom. Each den has a TV monitor that has a live feed of the playroom for parents. There are volunteers who are able to watch young children. Each volunteer goes through a background check.

Den (Photo: Family Justice Center)

The center also addresses addiction concerns.

“If someone comes to the Family Justice Center and they are under the influence and they have driven a vehicle, they will be asked to take a cab home,” says Dilworth. “If they see law enforcement, they could be detained.”

If the person is not under the influence but has an addiction, advocates can provide referrals to help them seek support.

What is Camp Unite?

The center recently launched a new program called Camp Unite. With the help of the Trinity Foundation, Thompson Charitable Foundation and Pilot Flying J, the program is able to strengthen the family unit once the abuser is out of the home.

“The abuser is a very centralized force in the family and everything tends to revolve around him. Approximately 85 percent of abusers are male,” says Dilworth. “Once he is out of the home the new family unit has to learn who they are without that figure in the home. This is very confusing and often chaotic time for the family.”

Along with Harmony Family Centers and the University of Tennessee, the center is able to create a weekend camp curriculum for these families.

The center determined that almost 84 percent of children who participated believed that they have the abilities to meet their needs and to persist to overcome obstacles after completing the program.

Dilworth says the center is hoping to expand the program to more weekend camps and adding a day camp to help build support for the families.

What should someone do if they need help?

Dilworth says:

“First and foremost, safety must be looked at, if you even think you may be a victim of domestic violence, STOP and think about these things.

  • Does your abuser have access to your email, computer passwords, phone, etc. Think about who has access to bills as well.
  • If you share a computer, erase all of your history after you visit each site you visit.
  • If you are starting to think about leaving, this is the most dangerous time. Get advice and help to plan this safely. Call an advocate at the Family Justice Center (865-521-6336, hours: Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) Plan at least two hours of time. 
  • Put a suitcase of medicine, important documents and clothing at a friend’s house.
  • Keep your keys and phone on you at all times and program 911 in your phone.
  • Do not talk to your abuser about thinking about leaving or separating. This is very unsafe. 

Any success stories?

The Family Justice Center has a committee called Voices. The group is made up of “survivors and thrivers” who are using their voices. Dilworth says the group receive training, speak in the community, conduct focus groups and works on projects.

“At present, they are working on a large prevention effort of topics they believe are most important for people and children to know, both male and female, before anyone can think about having a relationship.”

If you are a survivor and are interested in participating in the committee, call the center at 865-215-6800.

Related: East Tennessee organizations help domestic violence victims become survivors

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