The Family Justice Center of Acadiana opens on Monday to serve as a one-stop shop for abuse victims seeking help.
Located at 210 W. Main St. near the Lafayette Parish Courthouse, the center will offer help for victims of stalking, dating violence, sexual assault, beatings and elder abuse. Services available will include legal representation, counseling, shelter information and a place where victims can file police reports.
In the past, victims had to go to six or seven locations to receive those services.
“We’re excited to be able to provide a better layer of services for survivors,” said Crystal Scrantz, the program director for women’s shelter Faith House and director at the justice center.
An average of 417 incidents of domestic abuse battery were reported in Lafayette each year from 2010-14, with an average of 113 protective order violations recorded each year during that time, according to Lafayette Police Department data.
Scrantz said that after several domestic violence homicides in 2012, she and others started planning how to address such violence.
Similar family justice centers have seen noteworthy results in other cities, said Sara Ritchey, president of the board of directors for Faith House.
“Within 15 years of opening the very first justice center in America, located in San Diego, officials reported a 95 percent reduction in domestic violence homicides,” Ritchey said.
A Lafayette Police Department detective who specializes in investigating domestic violence crimes will work from the center, paid for by a $224,668 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.
The grant will fund three years of the detective’s salary, and pay for additional training, education and computer equipment.
Center officials are now trying to find permanent funding for the detective, Scrantz said.
Before creating the specialized position, detectives investigating all crimes — including rapes, robberies and homicides — also investigated domestic violence cases. And victims of spousal abuse had to contact multiple law enforcement officers at several sites across Lafayette.
“When you bring a family justice center together and truly integrate … then it’s like having a community response on steroids,” said Mary Claire Landry, of the Family Justice Center in New Orleans.
Other partners include the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Lafayette Police Department, Lafayette Volunteer Lawyer Program, Hearts of Hope and Avec les Enfants Supervised Visitation.
A similar center is open in New Orleans in partnership with Catholic Charities of New Orleans and the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement.
Advocate staff writer Lanie Lee Cook contributed to this report.