A co-worker has been calling in sick a lot and confided in me that her husband is physically abusive, but she doesn’t want to have him arrested. Is there somewhere that she can get help?I saw firsthand what domestic violence did to my mother and our family. As a result, I have been very proactive in making sure my office’s Domestic Violence Bureau prosecutes offenders vigorously and also assists the victims of domestic violence in as many ways as possible. Toward that end, in 2005 we collaborated with the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence to open the city’s first “Family Justice Center.”
The soundest advice one can give to someone who is being abused, is not in imminent danger and is unwilling to report it to the police is to tell that person to visit the Family Justice Center. The goal of the Center is simple: to bring together under one roof all of the services needed by domestic violence victims in order to provide for easier access to them.
Brooklyn’s Family Justice Center is located on the 15th floor of my office’s headquarters at 350 Jay Street. It provides a safe, welcoming environment where those who are affected by domestic violence can access a wide array of services. These include counseling; legal information on immigration and family court matters, including how to obtain an order of protection; access to shelter and housing; assistance in filing police reports; safety planning; and services for the elderly and disabled. Because children are usually the most helpless victims of domestic violence, the Center offers a full-service children’s program. On-site childcare is provided for mothers who bring their children with them to the Center.
Clients visiting the Center have the opportunity to meet with advocates from various service organizations. Representatives from government agencies are also there to provide assistance, in addition to lawyers from legal support organizations. Advocates speak several languages and represent diverse cultures. Spiritual support from many religious groups is also available.
An arrest or pending case is not required to access the Center’s services. However, prosecutors and police officers specially trained in domestic abuse are on hand should anyone wish to speak with them.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and would like more information about domestic violence services, please call the New York City Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-621-HOPE (4673). The call is toll-free and 24-hour assistance is available in all languages. Of course, in an emergency, 911 should be called immediately.
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Charles J. Hynes