Plans for Rockingham County family justice center

ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- Peg Stephenson is a domestic violence survivor.

"I was married for seven years,” Stephenson said. “It was abusive for most of that."

She's remembers the moment she decided to leave her husband.

"He had attacked me in front of the children," she said.

She also remembers how hard it was getting help with three children and no money.

"When I asked for a protective order, I was told, 'You’re 29 years old, learn how to deal with your own problems’," she recalled.

Nearly 40 years later, Stephenson now helps other women get out of abusive situations.

She's a therapist with Help Incorporated Center Against Violence in Rockingham County.

Although times have changed, Stephenson says, for victims of domestic violence, getting help is still hard.

"It becomes overwhelming,” she said. “A lot of people just stop."

"Transportation, child care," said Angie Boles, executive director of the nonprofit.  "There's all kinds of barriers for victims of violence especially in rural communities."

On Monday, the Rockingham Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to allow the nonprofit to turn two acres of land next to its office into a family justice center.

Legal, medical and law enforcement help along with the department of social services will be under one roof.

"They could come to one place and get a variety of needs met," Boles said.

Since 2012, the nonprofit has seen an increase each year in the number of people it serves.

From 2012-2013, the center served 1,628 people.

From 2015-2016, that number jumped to 2,388 people.

It’s an increase Stephenson says shows how important it is for victims to have access to the help they need.

"There is help,” she said. “We are here."

Guilford County opened a family justice center last year in Greensboro.

There are also family justice centers in Alamance and Henderson counties.