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Guilford County Family Justice Center is taking a new approach to helping the community

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- The Guilford County Family Justice Center has now been open for four years.

When the center first opened, Guilford County was leading the state with the highest number of domestic violence related homicides. Since then, those numbers have dropped by 88%.

Around 25,000 people have come into the center for help after a variety of traumatic instances, including domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse and more. Of those people, none have later been involved in a domestic violence homicide.

The director of the center, Catherine Johnson, says they've been able to make a difference in so many lives, because the center makes getting help easier during one of the most challenging times.

"For many survivors experiencing sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, those situations are really complicated and difficult to navigate so having a place you can find that hope and healing and connection," Johnson said.

On average, the people who come to the Family Justice Center use around five to six resources, and they can get access to all of those in one stop right away.

Johnson says the Family Justice Center has also been able to grow in the amount of resources it provides for people. When it first opened, there were around 45 partnerships in the community. Now there are around 70. Those partnerships help people with the legal process, medical care, counseling, finances, find a safe place to stay, and more.

"We hear feedback from survivors prior to the center opening, going from place to place to place can be exhausting emotionally and sometimes financially just having the logistics and where with all to make it all happen," Johnson said.

Because the center has proven successful, Johnson says they are also seeing more survivors come in for help through word of mouth or by referral from people who have used the center and its resources before. In the past, the majority of people who came in were from law enforcement's referral.

One of the main goals staff at the center are working toward now is making sure people across the community can access the resources, and know they are available for them.

Greensboro Police say so far in 2019, officers have responded to more than 1,200 calls for domestic violence. There have also been 92 calls for aggravated assault domestic violence situations, as well as 36 rape cases.

One thing the Family Justice Center is working towards is establishing procedures and protocols for first responders on how to respond to some of these calls in order to help the victims get the help they need.

"Strangulation or choking someone is the most lethal form of violence and often times we say that's the last warning you get before your partner is likely to kill you. So if we can do some training with patrol and first responders around first responders around strangulation response that's an earlier intervention to divert a potential homicide," Johnson said.

Another area of focus the center is working towards is reducing the risk of abuse in communities caring for seniors.

Elder abuse can be physical, neglect, or even financial exploitation. The staff is working in a number of areas to help with these different facets. They got grant money in order to help hire another elder care coordinator to help with these efforts as well.

They have trained nearly 2,000 seniors in fraud prevention skills. There is also an education series on abuse and sexual abuse in long term care communities. A lot of the help for elder abuse starts with increasing awareness, and one of the challenges is the misconception that elderly people are not facing the same risks for abuse or assault as others.

"We really recognize there's a gap. And a lot of times, when we think about domestic violence we're thinking about women and children, but the truth of the matter is domestic violence can happen across the life span and that goes well into your wisest years," Johnson said.

If you, or someone you know needs to access the Family Justice Center's resource, you can find it on South Greene Street in Greensboro. There is also a location in High Point off East Green Street. You can also call (336) 641-SAFE (7233) for either location.

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