Letters to the Editor

Family justice goals near reality

Safe Families has been talking, writing, and talking some more for over four years about domestic violence. How to turn around the deplorable domestic violence statistics for South Carolina and specifically for Georgetown County from bad to measurably better? From the get go, we addressed the issue from the standpoint of finding a way to make a significant, permanent change in the way battered women, abused men and their families received services and were processed through our social and legal systems.

We then started talking in earnest about the possibility of one day opening a Family Justice Center right here in Georgetown. This was no random idea, we discovered, but a proven working model that was saving lives in communities all across the country. The first center picked its name very, very carefully, polling professionals and victims alike to get at the heart of the Family Justice Center philosophy.

In reality, each facility is a "Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence," obviously a very confusing and unworkable title. Instead, the founders decided they wanted to put the words "family" and "justice" in the name for their new center, and Safe Families has embraced their reasoning.

As domestic violence affects every member of every family configuration - mother, father, children of all ages, the elderly, the disabled and even the pets - then the center would by definition need to address the needs of "family" with all its variables.

With the word "justice" a center is charged with a more complex task: What is really going on in this family, what is the truth? The harm that has been done will need to be repaired; the conditions that created the violence will have to be altered, with clear and consistent consequences for perpetrators.

This is not about helping victims to "feel better," this is about building new lives through profound and lasting change. To this day Safe Families is still talking about a Family Justice Center, but now we are talking about the one going into the former medical clinic at 1530 Highmarket St. in Georgetown. The vision at long last has a home, and we are working feverishly towards a fall opening. Yes, an actual Family Justice Center in our community where "family" and "justice" will come together as the name surely promises.

Safe Families and our many partners are committed to protecting families from violence.

The writer is president of Safe Families of Georgetown County.