For the past three months, Californians have stayed home to stay safe.
But for some, home is not a safe place. In Contra Costa County, victims of interpersonal crime still have access to help at the county’s Family Justice Centers (FJC) including the East County location in Antioch.
Susun Kim is the executive director for the county’s three family justice centers located in Antioch, Richmond and Concord. She said the centers have stayed open and all services are available.
“We have stayed open though this,” Kim said. “A lot of social service providers have gone virtual, and we have, too. Most of our services are available virtually, but we have kept our centers physically open Monday through Thursday. We have clients facing emergencies who need places to go.”
Kim said abuse reports dropped dramatically during the first month of shelter-in-place, then spiked during April. Calls have leveled out for many interpersonal crimes, but child abuse and elder abuse reports remain low, causing concern.
Deputy District Attorney Jill Henderson said the elderly are choosing to self-quarantine, eliminating their contact with caretakers and mandatory reporters and causing a drop in abuse reports. Child abuse reports have dropped for similar reasons.
“Child abuse is very quiet, because the children aren’t reporting to their counselors and teachers because of the shelter-in-place,” Henderson said. “We rely on the Family Justice Centers for all sorts of interpersonal violence … they have navigators standing by to help victims with whatever their needs are.”
The county’s FJCs are all-inclusive services for victims of interpersonal violence such as domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, child abuse and human trafficking.
“We provide comprehensive services with 52 partners who provide services on-site at our three centers,” Kim said. “All three sites have the same models.”
Since child and elder abuse reports are down, and because many victims are in homes without access to phones or help. Kim said the centers are checking on their clients to ensure they have the support they need. From week one, her team has also worked to help clients who lost jobs by providing food, money and even masks to meet immediate needs.
As the county moves forward with its reopening plan, Antioch’s FJC will begin to allow its partners back to their offices. Schedules will be staggered, and no more than 10 employees will be on-site at once.
Dana Filkowski, supervising deputy District Attorney, said the centers’ value lies in their co-location, allowing victims to get community-based resources and support in one place. She further noted not all instances of interpersonal violence require the intervention of the criminal justice system.
“When you activate the criminal justice system, we are all required to have certain responses, and sometimes it’s not optional,” Filkowski said.
Contra Costa FJCs are nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations.