When it comes to bringing comfort to a chaotic situation, finding peace and quiet for abuse victims to share their stories, and providing access to multiple services in one location, the Children’s Justice Center and Victim Services have had their hands full to the point where a new facility is in the pipeline.
Cache County Victim Services Director Terryl Warner has teamed up with Malouf Foundation, the charitable arm of Malouf, a premium bedding company, to create and build a Family Justice Center.
“This has been my dream for the past decade,” Warner said. “This will be a place where people can go as they wrestle with the most horrific moments of their lives.”
The CJC, which opened in 2000, is a child-friendly facility where victims of child abuse are interviewed and medically assessed by professionals. It currently serves Cache, Box Elder, and Rich counties.
Hundreds of cases are addressed there every year, however the space and resources are limited by age and situation. Warner said the FJC will open up the door for so many more cases to be attended to and examined.
Karina Brown, the president of the Friends of CJC Board, said the prosecution rates in child abuse cases went up around 15-20% after the creation of the CJC, and she said she hopes the FJC will bring similar results in adult cases.
“And not just for the justice side of it but for the human side of it,” Brown said. “To feel validated and heard can make all the difference.”
Victim Services and the CJC are under the same umbrella, meaning there is a lot of overlap. Warner spends much of her time at the facility assisting with child interviews and attempting to control occasionally chaotic and sometimes overwhelming situations.
“The problem is that with the adult sexual assault cases or stalking or protective orders, they are all done on-scene or at a hospital,” Warner said. “It is good but it is not best practice anymore. Domestic violence is handled the same as it was handled 50 years ago.”
According to stats from Victim Services, in 2019 there were over 1,000 cases of domestic family violence, nearly 600 cases of physical and sexual child abuse, and nearly 400 cases of adult physical assault.
“We need a place to bring people, all people, so they can decompress,” Warner said. “A place where they can fall apart.”
That is the vision of the new facility.
“We want the Family Justice Center to have that same homey feeling as the CJC,” said Jake Neeley, the executive director of the Malouf Foundation. “As an adult, imagine going through a traumatic experience that involved sexual or physical violence and you show up to the police station and even with the best resources we have, it doesn’t make you feel comfortable about a really uncomfortable thing. This new building is designed to bring peace to a not very peaceful situation.”
With five different wings, there is space for adult interview rooms separate from the children’s interview rooms, separate medical examination areas and office space for the many different entities involved. Warner said there will be therapists from The Family Place on site, along with medical examinations from CAPSA and space for law enforcement to facilitate interviews as well.
The building is designed to be adapted and fit into any different size of community. This FJC is not the first in the state, however it is the first FJC with a public/private partnership. Neeley said Malouf prepared the model with the flexibility to be adopted by other communities with the hope that the FJC will become commonplace across the county.
“This is a place where community organizations can come together to help victims but also have a space where they can find balance and ground themselves,” Neeley said as he shared plans to also have a gym for the employees on-site. “The family can now come to one place and it becomes the launch point for their recovery.”
The finalized plans for the FJC will be presented at a Malouf launch event in April. The exact date is tentative due to recent precautions taken due to COVID-19. Until then, the plans are still evolving but Neeley said they are hoping to see the completed FJC located next to Malouf in Nibley in the next few years.
“One of the major things we are working on now are what areas of this project that people can contribute to at any level,” Neeley said. “We don’t want it to just be funded by one person because the more people that are involved, the more people will be invested in this concept and there will be more awareness about the services that are offered.”
Warner said she has repeatedly seen the community rally around people and programs that really need support.
“Everyone in this community, based on how well people come together in times of need, can have a part in bringing this together,” Warner said. “As we continue to bring this to life, this community will make it happen.”