Washington County Family Justice Center Removes Barriers for Domestic Violence Survivors: 2021 Share Season

Julie Bonn Blank knew there was a problem with her relationship as soon as she returned from her honeymoon.

“My girlfriends were still in town since the wedding and they wanted to get together,” she said. But her husband didn’t want to let her go.

The controlling behavior worsened. There were physical and sexual “consequences,” she said, when she did things he didn’t approve of, like going to her brother’s wedding in California.

It took him 17 years to leave this relationship.

According to Washington County Family Justice Center, Rachel Schutz, it can take between seven and ten attempts for survivors of domestic violence to leave a situation for good. The center works to remove obstacles for survivors and, once they are ready, bring them to safety and heal.

The Washington County Family Justice Center is a beneficiary of the Oregonian / OregonLive 2021 Season of Sharing Vacation Fundraising Campaign.

> Donate to Family justice center or the General Fund of the Season of Sharing

The center, which opened in March 2018, aims to be a one-stop-shop for people trying to leave situations of violence. Survivors have access to around 22 organizations with offices at the center.

At the Washington County Family Justice Center, representatives from many organizations work together to coordinate assistance for survivors of domestic violence.Randy L. Rasmussen / For The Oregonian / OregonLive

“A lot of survivors who come in don’t know what they need,” said Judy Willey, chair of the board of directors of the Family Justice Center.

They may start to know they want a restraining order, she said, “but they have no idea what next steps.”

In the center, a survivor enters a hall protected by glass and bulletproof walls in an unpretentious building away from Beaverton. A staff member behind a window speaks with the survivor to determine what happens next.

In a conference room that has become a courtroom, a judge issues protection orders. There is an outpost of the Family Violence Resource Center and another for the Department of Social Services. There are counseling and recovery groups.

In an office, Jessica Sanchez de Community action helps survivors enroll in Oregon’s health plan, food assistance or rent, or a TriMet pass or parenting classes.

At the rear, local law enforcement officers are available.

There is a kitchen stocked with food and a pantry where everyone can take whatever they need, including diapers and menstrual products.

There is even a shower if a hot shower is what someone needs to feel comfortable and safe.

And while a parent meets advocates or makes calls from the large living room, Esthefania Aguiar entertains and feeds the children in the playroom.

A woman stands in a playroom.

Services at the Washington County Family Justice Center include a child care room, where Esthefania Aguiar, a family worker, looks after the children while their parents meet with advocates for domestic violence survivors.Randy L. Rasmussen / For The Oregonian / OregonLive

Recently, Schutz said, a family came over and just wanted to play for hours. “It was the first time they could play it safe in a while,” she said.

Chrissy Horn, who works at the center, said that when she was in a controlling relationship more than 20 years ago, she had little to turn to. “If there had been a place like the (center) with people who really understood and would really fight for me and offer genuine help, who knows how sooner I could have left,” she said. .

The Family Justice Center is part of Alliance for Hope International, a San Diego-based social change organization. There are similar centers in Multnomah and Clackamas counties.

According to Willey, efforts to establish a center to serve domestic violence survivors in Washington County began in 2016, when civic leaders including retired Hillsboro Police Chief Lee Dobrowolski and the Retired District Attorney Bob Hermann formed a group to meet with Alliance for Hope International.

The Family Justice Center now has an annual budget of $ 806,095 and receives financial support from Washington County and its cities, as well as fundraising efforts. It has five employees and 15 volunteers.

Volunteers include Bonn Blank, who started the Voices Committee at the Family Justice Center, an advisory group that helps keep the organization focused on survivors.

She was drawn to the center by the seemingly simple idea of ​​a one-stop-shop, an option she didn’t have as a mother of three in County Clatsop.

“Going to a million different places, especially with a family, is a deterrent” to escape abuse, she said.

A woman is standing in a conference room set up as a courtroom with a video screen on which a judge can appear from a distance.

At the Washington County Family Justice Center, where Rachel Schutz is executive director, victims of domestic violence can apply for restraining orders through a video courtroom.Randy L. Rasmussen / For The Oregonian / OregonLive

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, most of the centre’s partners walked away. For survivors of domestic violence, it was a dangerous time, with many of them stuck in homes that weren’t safe.

But the Family Justice Center continued its mission of ensuring that its lounge remained available for people who needed ways to contact services remotely.

“We wanted the doors to be open,” said Willey, “because we wanted a safe place.”

What your donation can do

$ 50: Provides a day of walk-in child care in a trauma-informed environment so survivors can safely access the services they need to break the cycle of family violence.

$ 100: Coordinate services and help remove obstacles for five survivors in one location.

$ 150: Help the Family Justice Center create a safe place for victims of child abuse and provide more essential services to survivors of family and domestic violence.

> Donate to Family justice center or the General Fund of the Season of Sharing

Read more Season of Sharing stories at oregonlive.com/share.

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