Story by: WAVY Staff, News Channel 11 Staff
NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY/WJHL) – Thursday afternoon, Norfolk, Virginia community leaders held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Family Justice Center inside Plume Street Plaza.
It’s the first of its kind in the state.
“We are thinking thousands of victims and their families will come through here each year,” said Kirsten Pine, co-director of the Norfolk Family Justice Center.
It’s a place where crime victims can get all the help they need in one place after trauma.
Pine says the center was created because they noticed victims had to go to four to six different places to get the help they needed.
“Going to all those different places, having to take off work becomes so overwhelming they often don’t, so then we have a population that’s dealing with this trauma that’s untreated,’ said Pine.
Many departments and groups came together to make this center possible.
The onsite partners of the newly-formed Norfolk Family Justice Center are Chesapeake Forensic Specialists, Norfolk Department of Human Services, Norfolk Police Department, Office of the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney, and YWCA South Hampton Roads.
The new hub will bring together law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim-witness advocates, social services specialists, and sexual assault nurse examiners. They’ll even have counseling and childcare.
The center has an exam room where nurses can perform rape kits and other physical exams in a warmer environment.
“It’s unlike a hospital setting, whereas if a patient is coming to an ER they might see someone they know in the waiting room,” said Jennifer Knowlton, director of Chesapeake Forensic Specialists.
They’re also bringing in a full-time special crimes unit detective from the Norfolk Police Department to help when it comes to reporting crimes.
In addition, the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office will host a camp for kids who have dealt with trauma at the center on a referral basis.
“We’re meeting patients at some of the lowest points in their life and [are] able to connect them to services to know that little by little we’re making a difference,” stated Knowlton.
In Tennessee, there are Family Justice Centers across the region, including one in Johnson City. They offer sexual assault advocacy, therapy, and emergency shelter.
You can learn more by calling 423-722-3720.