Victims of domestic violence are often frightened and desperate, and seeking resources to extricate themselves from the source of the violence can seem overwhelming, said Tracy Theodore, executive director of the Orange County Family Justice Center.
Founded in 2006, the center is a collaboration between multiple agencies that provides a variety of services including legal help and emergency and long-term housing.
Letting the community know that these services are available, and all under the same roof, is the reason the Family Justice Center hosted a resource fair on Oct. 26 at the center’s headquarters in Anaheim.
“Family violence is a really, really difficult situation for folks to deal with, so knowing they can come to one place and get many of the resources that they need makes it more possible to think about getting out of the situations they’re in,” Theodore said.
“We try to break down the barriers so they can get the legal assistance, the financial assistance, the restraining order if they need it, social services, counseling … all in one place so they feel like they have someone on their side who can advocate for them.”
Service providers at the resource fair included representatives from the Anaheim Police Department, Orange County Social Services, Orange County Child Support Services, the Women’s Transitional Living Center, My Safe Harbor, the Mexican Consulate, the LGBT Center, and state Sen. Ling Ling Chang of the 29th District.
Maggie Villegas, who works in the Anaheim PD Traffic Unit, was at the resource fair promoting car seat safety. The APD will inspect and install car seats for free, Villegas noted.
“It’s important to educate parents on how to keep their kids safe,” she said. “A lot of folks came by. A lot wanted to know if their kids needed to be in a car seat or a booster seat.”
Leticia Morales, a mother of four minor children, found her way to the Family Justice Center three years ago after being referred by an emergency shelter.
Morales said the Justice Center helped with securing a restraining order against her abuser, and provided the legal help she needed to get full custody of her children.
“The Family Justice Center has saved my life,” Morales said. “Thanks to the Family Justice Center, my children, instead of being on the streets, are now on a better path and actively participating in educational and recreational opportunities. The Family Justice Center became the family I needed. Because of them, I wasn’t alone through the worst part of my life.”
Daisy Dorado, 23, programming coordinator at the center, helped plan the resource fair.
Dorado, who started volunteering at the center at age 13 and became a part-time employee at 18, said helping domestic violence victims always has been an inherent passion.
“I hope they know that our doors are always open for them,” Dorado said of the attendees at the resource fair. “I hope that they know that the Justice Center will always be a home and a safe haven for many, and that we will always be here to help whoever needs it.”
Theodore said the goal is to have three resources fairs per year, one in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, one in February for Teen Dating Violence Awareness, month and one in May for Mother’s Day.
Lesly Dominguez, 15, was a volunteer at the resource fair and has been volunteering at the center for two years.
“What I hope that people take from this event is that they (realize) they are not alone,” Dominguez said. “They don’t have to hide. There are people here that want to help.”
For more information on the services offered by the Orange County Family Justice Center or to make a donation, go to ocfjcfoundation.org