Manchester Family Justice Center now offers services at downtown YWCABy PAT GROSSMITH
New Hampshire Union Leader
June 21. 2017 8:27PM
MANCHESTER — The Manchester Family Justice Center, a collaborative project among five city agencies, is now providing all services to survivors of stalking, human trafficking, domestic and sexual violence at a central location at the downtown YWCA.
The center, which involves the Manchester Police Department, YWCA NH, Manchester Community Health Center, Manchester Community Resource Center and Easterseals NH, hosted an open house Wednesday.
The idea behind the center is to knock down barriers victims encounter in trying to find help for themselves and their children after traumatic events. The services currently are available in the city but at five different locations.
Now a domestic violence victim will be able to file a police report, obtain help in filing a Domestic Violence Petition, mental health care and childcare for their children while they are filling out paperwork.
Lt. Paul Thompson said services can also include finding a safe place for them, providing financial support, helping them obtain jobs skills and receiving confidential advocacy.
The police department has its own Domestic and Sexual Violence Unit with two investigators, one sexual assault investigator (adult cases), three DART (Domestic Assault Response Team) officers and two advocates.
It works in conjunction with the Domestic Violence Project, a grant-funded community based effort to support victims of domestic violence with a goal of holding offenders accountable for their actions. The unit works with the YWCA Crisis Services, the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office, and the New Hampshire Department of Corrections.
The justice center, Thompson said, is the next step. It was made possible through a three-year, $450,000 grant from the US. Department of Justice.
“We plan to expand services as we identify what’s needed,” Thompson said.
One issue often encountered is the need for child care. The police department doesn’t offer it so a victim of abuse can’t bring the children to the police department when filing a report. Easterseals NH now will provide drop-in childcare service for domestic violence victims for those seeking the center’s services.
Jessica Sugrue, CEO of the YWCA, said it often takes a victim of domestic violence six to seven tries before breaking free of an abusive relationship.
“We’re looking at the whole person,” she said.
Police have a secure office at the center where officers can speak with a victim. Thompson said the officer who takes the initial report will be the one who will see the case through, from the arrest to the court outcome.
Jessica Vaughn-Martin is the center’s director.