Justice for Families
Former prosecutor battles domestic violence
By Cecily Hastings
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that one in every four women and one in every 31 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Locally, domestic violence occurs every day. It includes elder abuse, child abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking.
Last year in Sacramento County, there were more than 18,000 domestic violence calls to 911. Our law enforcement agencies respond to more domestic violence-related calls than any other problem. The tragic loss of 26-year-old Sacramento Police Officer Tara O’Sullivan—who in June was fatally shot while responding to a domestic disturbance—is a sad reminder of the danger these situations pose for law enforcement.
The Sacramento Regional Family Justice Center, or FJC for short, gives victims and families a “one-stop” facility to report a crime, provide a complete statement taken by a detective or trained child interviewer, get assistance to obtain temporary restraining orders, find safe housing, and meet the prosecutor and victim advocates to learn what will happen in court.
“But most importantly, the center helps them find the support they need to keep them from falling back into the hands of the accused,” says Jan Scully, who led the effort to create the center, which opened three years ago.
Scully was the first female elected as Sacramento County District Attorney, serving from 1995 to 2014, a record five terms. She was the first woman to serve as president of the California District Attorneys Association.
Scully says the very first center of this type was established in San Diego in 2002. Over the years, similar facilities have opened across the nation.
“I had been involved in family violence issues over my entire career in the DA’s office,” she says. “Even before I was elected in 1994, I approached these issues in a collaborative, multi-disciplinary way which is the early FJC model.
“As a prosecutor I have always been passionate about family violence, but generally we were only focused on the victim until the case was concluded. The victim generally got support by counselors through the prosecution of their case, but was then left to fend for themselves when the case was over.”
The experience led Scully to recognize the value of a multi-disciplinary, holistic approach to working with victims and families—providing hope for survivors to escape the cycle of violence.
“The FJC is the community answer to ending violence,” she says. “Over time, the longer-standing FJC’s have demonstrated they can profoundly change their communities.”
In 2012, Scully established the Sacramento Regional Family Justice Steering Committee and served as its chairperson. Since her retirement in 2014, she has served as chair of the center’s board of directors. It’s an excellent fit given her energy, determination and connections.
“We brought together more than 124 community stakeholders to craft a strategic plan that would guide us to make the FJC a reality. Multiple agencies and organizations, including law enforcement, worked hard to make the FJC a reality,” she says.
Partner organizations WEAVE and My Sister’s House played significant roles in founding the coalition. “I just served as the captain for the team,” says Scully, eager to share credit.
The collaborative approach helps fill cracks in the system, providing early support for victims and helping to end domestic violence. The model is catching on: 13 California counties now have their own centers.
“The safety and well-being of our men, women and, especially, our children is the foundation of a thriving and prosperous Sacramento region,” Scully says.
Like any successful business model, the FJC allows for a coordinated, efficient and effective delivery system of critical services and support, resulting in lives saved and less violence in our community. The model is less bureaucratic than relying on traditional public agencies.
Services at the center include individual and group counseling, a mobile civil legal team, personal safety planning and application assistance for temporary restraining orders.
“While the victims of family violence are predominantly women, domestic violence also victimizes men, teenagers and the elderly. And the impact on children can really be devastating. Studies show that people who abuse were often abused themselves,” Scully says. “So breaking these intergenerational cycles of abuse is one of the most important challenges we face.”
Each summer the center takes children from the region to participate in Camp HOPE America. For one week they are free to simply be kids and enjoy swimming, zip lines, hikes, campfires and more.
“We are still a very young organization with so much more we can do, so many more people we need to tell, so many more partnerships to make and so much more to build,” Scully says.
“In the future, I clearly see the center as a one-stop center for family violence victims on a much larger scale than it is today. We currently are provided office space by Sacramento County, but we are hoping to build a home where many more of our public, private and community-based partners are able to co-locate with us under one roof.
“Our goal is to move our clients from being victims to being survivors, and from being without hope to full of hope.”
The center is holding its annual “Celebration of Hope” gala fundraiser Friday, Nov. 8, at the Sacramento State University Union Ballroom. “This year’s event honors Raley’s owners Julie and Michael Teel, who have been tremendous supporters of the center,” Scully says.
Our entire community should be grateful for Scully’s continued leadership in retirement to help the most vulnerable among us.
For information on gala tickets and sponsorships, visit hopethriveshere.org or contact Daniel Iritani at email@example.com or (916) 296-5897.
Cecily Hastings can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.