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© 2016 North Jersey Media Group

MAY 18, 2016

LAST UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, MAY 18, 2016, 12:31 AM

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The Jersey Battered Women’s Service (JBWS), its partner agencies and the Morris County Board of Freeholders and Prosecutor held a formal opening ceremony for the new Morris Family Justice Center, a comprehensive center for domestic violence and sexual assault victims in Morris County.

Some 200 people representing county and local government, law enforcement, non-profit groups and social service and legal services providers, and elected officials converged on the fourth floor of the Morris County Administration Building in downtown Morristown, where the center is located, to herald the opening of the new facility.

“It gives me a tremendous sense of pride to think of how many Morris County families will be helped by this new and necessary Family Justice Center, which will be a safe place where they can get help,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo.

“Unfortunately, victims of domestic violence have frequently suffered their abuse in silence with the fear of being alone or that no one would believe their complaints,’’ said Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp. “The Morris Family Justice Center will offer these survivors and their children a pathway out of the darkness. It will undoubtedly aid in the prosecution of offenders to hopefully end the cycle of abuse.”

The Morris Family Justice Center will provide services that a survivor of interpersonal violence and sexual assault needs in one place—counseling, protection, legal and immigration assistance, children’s services, and other services. Located is a secure county government building, the center’s services will be offered by representatives from a variety of partner agencies in a safe, supportive environment.

In addition to JBWS, partners in the effort are the Jersey Battered Women’s Service, the Morris County Freeholders, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris County Superior Court, Morris County BAR Association, Legal Services of Northwest Jersey, Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs, Morris County Sheriff’s Office, Morris County Bar Foundation, Morris Cares, Manavi, and the Morristown Police Department.

“In our 40 years, JBWS has evolved into a full service domestic violence agency and opening a Family Justice Center is the next logical step in improving services,” said JBWS Executive Director Patricia Sly. “This is the start of a new chapter in how we do things,’’ she added.

Allocation of space in the county government complex by the freeholders will make it easier for JBWS to obtain grants needed to operate the center, and allow them to use valuable funds for programs rather than allocating funds to rent or lease space.

There are some 2,500 domestic violence offenses recorded in Morris County annually, with only about 25 percent of incidents reported. The new center could encourage domestic crime victims to come forward and seek needed help before situations spiral out of control, leading to more serious assaults and even homicides, said Sly.

Too often, according to the national Family Justice Center Alliance, victims of interpersonal violence and sexual assault, and their children, are forced to navigate complex systems to receive critical services while gripped by fear and heartbreak.

Family Justice Centers bring agencies together to work with victims during the crisis and long after the crisis. Victims are no longer be burdened with traveling to different agencies and telling their stories repeatedly.

For more information on JBWS, please visit jbws.org or for confidential help call 973-267-4763.