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Unsafe at home: Family Justice Center works toward solutions

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Looking around the Family Justice Center in Georgetown, Garvey and Carol Winans can’t help but feel happy — and perhaps a little awed.

The center, which opened its doors in January and will have a ribbon cutting today, in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, was years in the making. The couple were part of a dedicated and persistent team that turned the vision into a reality and both now serve on its board.

“It’s heartening,” Carol said. “The reason I can say that is we received an estimate it would cost $365,000 to get that building presentable. We did it for $65,000 and the reason is tradespeople in this area stepped up to the plate. Many of them worked for nothing and supply houses gave materials at cost or less.”

It’s a sign of how much support for the center exists in the community, the couple said.

Located in a former medical office building, the center at 1530 Highmarket Street is a safe, secure location where victims of domestic violence, family violence or sexual assault can go for help without having to go from agency to agency to access different resources. It already has about 250 people in its client files.

“It has been very encouraging to see the community support we have had, especially during a time when domestic violence isn’t uppermost in everybody’s mind,” said Joan Meacham, interim executive director.

She describes the center’s work as “going beyond putting a Band-Aid on a situation.”

The center pools resources from a range of different groups and agencies to help victims reach a point where they can be on their own long-term and won’t go back into an abusive situation.

“We’re not just going to drop them because their immediate needs have been met,” Meacham said.

While some victims who come in are ready to leave their abusers, others are just starting to think about it.

“Those are the people I love to see, the ones I really want to talk to and say it’s OK that you haven’t made up your mind to leave,” said Linda Collins, a case manager at the center. “So many believe it has to be all or none, that once they’ve sought help, they’ve reached the point of no return. They think they can’t go back because they’ve exposed it to the world, but that’s not true.”

Visits to the center are completely confidential.

“We don’t have to involve anybody else,” Collins said. “We will meet them where they are in the process.”

The center has a resource room where people can access information to help them in their situation. A supervised children’s room allows parents to bring their kids and know they’re safe while the parent talks to a staff member. A “boutique” still in the works will give victims a place to find professional clothing to wear to court or job interviews.

Though most referrals to the center come from law enforcement, Meacham said the center is developing a reputation in the community. People who aren’t victims but have heard about the center walk in looking for information to pass on.

Get information about the center at 546-3926 or visit their website

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