MORRIS COUNTY — Jersey Battered Women’s Service (JBWS), its partner agencies and the Morris County Board of Freeholders and Prosecutor today formally opened the comprehensive center for domestic violence and sexual assault victims in Morris County: the Morris Family Justice Center (MFJC). The opening coincides with JBWS’ 40th anniversary.
The Morris Family Justice Center will provide services that a survivor of interpersonal violence and sexual assault needs in ONE place—counseling, protection, legal and immigration assistance, children’s services, and more.
Located on the Fourth Floor of the County Administration and Records Building in Morristown, the Center’s services will be offered by representatives from the partner agencies in a safe, supportive environment.
Volunteers play with the children in the bright, fun play area while their mothers meet with staff in the Center. Also, specialized child advocates will provide individual and group support for children from abusive homes.
JBWS’ partners in this exciting endeavor include the Morris County Freeholders, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris County Superior Court, Legal Services of Northwest Jersey, Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs, Morris County Sheriff’s Office, Morris County Bar Foundation, Morris Cares, Manavi, and the Morristown Police Department.
Within the Morris Family Justice Center, a Morristown Police officer Jermaine Marbley assists victims with their criminal investigations and filing for restraining orders.
“In our 40 years, JBWS has evolved into a full service domestic violence agency and opening a Family Justice Center is the next logical step in improving services,” said JBWS Executive Director Patricia Sly.
“It gives me a tremendous sense of pride to think of how many Morris County families will be helped by this Center, which will stand as a beacon of hope for the victims of domestic violence for years to come,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo, who helped spearhead freeholder board approval of the use of county government space for this new center.
Before a group of 100 Morris Family Justice Center stakeholders, Morris County Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo announces the use of the county government space for the new Center.
“Unfortunately, victims of domestic violence have frequently suffered their abuse in silence with the fear of being alone or that no one would believe their complaints,’’ said Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp. “The Morris Family Justice Center will offer these survivors and their children a pathway out of the darkness. It will undoubtedly aid in the prosecution of offenders to hopefully end the cycle of abuse.
Fredric Knapp, Morris County Prosecutor supports the family justice center model at a recent planning session.
Allocation of space in the county government complex by the freeholders will make it easier for JBWS to obtain grants needed to operate the center, and allow them to use valuable funds for programs rather than allocating funds to rent or lease space.
There are some 2,500 domestic violence offenses recorded in Morris County annually, with only about 25 percent of incidents reported. The new center could encourage domestic crime victims to come forward and seek needed help before situations spiral out of control, leading to more serious assaults and even homicides, said Sly.
Too often, according to the national Family Justice Center Alliance, victims of interpersonal violence and sexual assault, and their children, are forced to navigate complex systems to receive critical services while gripped by fear and heartbreak.
Family Justice Centers bring agencies together to work with victims during the crisis and long after the crisis. Victims are no longer be burdened with traveling to different agencies and telling their stories repeatedly.
In the new Morris Family Justice Center, victims of domestic abuse feel welcomed by staff who are ready help them. Natasha DeJesus, Bilingual Client Service Specialist can provide information and support in Spanish.
“We are only capturing a portion of the domestic violence cases that occur in Morris County,’’ said Marcy McMann, chairwoman of the Morris County Domestic Violence Working Group. “This new center will encourage domestic crime victims to come forward and seek needed help before situations spiral out of control, leading to more serious assaults and even homicides.’’
The initial startup of the project is being funded by a federal grant from the Office on Violence Against Women and The Provident Bank Foundation. The Morris County Freeholders in 2015 unanimously approved an agreement to provide space, at no cost, for the new center.
About the Jersey Battered Women’s Service (JBWS)
Founded in 1976, JBWS celebrates 40 years of offering hope and safety to victims of domestic violence and their families. The services include a 24-hour hotline; counseling; safe house; transitional living; children’s services; life skills education; vocational counseling; batterers’ intervention; legal assistance; and professional training, education and youth prevention programs. For more information on JBWS, please visit: www.jbws.org or for confidential help call (973) 267-4763.