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A New Lease on Life: The Stanislaus Family Justice Center 

Stanislaus County has always had a strong stance against family violence. One of the county’s earliest recorded efforts is the Haven Women’s Center, founded in 1977. Haven provides domestic violence support services to battered women and their children.

The Stanislaus District Attorney’s Office, Modesto Police Department, and Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department have had Domestic Violence Units in place since 1995, and on April 15, 2009, the ordinance was passed which brought the Family Justice Center [FJC] into being.

“I love to watch all of the pieces come together to help our clients,” said Carol Shipley, Executive Director of the Stanislaus Family Justice Center. “Whether the client is working with our Civil Legal, our partners, or utilizing our Kids Zone, you can almost see the relief in the clients’ faces.”

Shipley said it was very rewarding to work there, but admitted that it was stressful for the staff who “listen to people in crisis all day long.” The work is heartbreaking, but gratifying. The hardest part? Making sure they have sufficient funds to keep their doors open, and the pressure of not having all the resources their clients need. But it’s worth every minute — and the clients think so, too.

One client in particular thanks the Stanislaus Family Justice Center for the aid in navigating her darkest days. She wrote a letter to FJC staff after having been a client since Jan. 2014, and that letter was shared with us by Shipley. The client will be kept anonymous for her privacy.

“I left my abuser in 2015 with no knowledge of what was going to happen next for me and my son,” the client writes. “I had left in the past, but this time it was different. This time I was leaving for my son. I put him as my priority and made it a goal to change his future. As I lay cold, naked, and beaten in the shower, I gave it up to God.”

The client goes on to say that she felt compelled to seek out the Stanislaus Family Justice Center. She relied on the help of the FJC and other community efforts, such as Haven Women’s Center, to pull her through.

“God brought me to the Family Justice Center,” she writes. “He gave me an ‘army of angels’ to guide me, to shelter me, to provide for me, to listen, and best of all to fight for me – to stand up against my abuser to let him know he could never hurt us again.”

According to the website, a recent review of their statistics from Nov. 2010 to Oct. 2011 indicates that they have provided 913 services to first-time clients like this one — both adults and children. Including subsequent visits, that number rises to 1,747. Their services include a daycare, ladies’ nights, and a Civil Legal attorney to sit in the clients’ corner.

As the Stanislaus Family Justice Center grows, the number of provided services will rise substantially, helping more clients like this one to get a new lease on life.

“Thank you to whoever invented the FJC, for without it I would not be here today instead of being a statistic – another loss to domestic violence,” the letter finishes. “I am a survivor. I am a Conqueror and best of all, I get to live to be my son’s mother. Thank you and God Bless.”

By Noel Daniel

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