BY CHARLES J. HYNES AND WANDA LUCIBELLO
My office reached a significant milestone recently as we marked the eighth anniversary of the Brooklyn Family Justice Center – the first family justice center to open in New York State. We were one of 15 out of 150 sites around the U.S. selected by the Office on Violence Against Women, Department of Justice. Since we opened in 2005, the center has a record of 128,208 total client visits, 57,587 clients who have visited the center on at least one occasion, and 10,868 total visits by children to the BKFJC Children’s Room, Margaret’s Place, which is funded by Joe Torre’s Safe at Home Foundation.
The center is a partnership between my office and the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence. I take tremendous pride in the fact that Mayor Bloomberg named the Center in honor of my mother, Regina Katherine Drew – herself a victim of the horror of domestic violence.
All of my domestic violence and elder abuse prosecutors, as well as our Victim Services Unit, share the space I provided with more than 18 on-site community partners. There are six civil legal agencies on site to help victims of intimate partner abuse, elder abuse and human trafficking, with child custody, support, visitation and immigration needs. Government agencies like NYPD and the Human Resources Administration are on site, while Probation, Parole and the New York City Housing Authority are off-site partners.
Before 2005, our referrals for victims for a multitude of different kinds of assistance were accompanied by a maze of emails and phone tag. Thanks to this holistic community-government partnership, domestic violence victims can speak with a prosecutor, receive support in leaving the abusive relationship, attend ESL classes and receive civil legal assistance in one location.
I take great pride in knowing that the center has been the template for other family justice centers around the city. Indeed, the U.S. Department of State has made our center a mandatory stop for visitors to the U.S. from countries around the globe which are working on ending violence against women.
We are now embarking on an exciting new initiative with the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. We are one of 12 sites around the country to be selected for a domestic violence homicide prevention initiative. Together with our partners NYPD, Safe Horizon and the Criminal Justice Agency for NYC, I hope to see the day when intimate partner homicides are eradicated.
Charles J. Hynes is Brooklyn district attorney. Wanda Lucibello chief of the Special Victims Division.