California State University, Northridge’s Strength United gave the community and its supporters a sneak peek last week at the new Family Justice Center, the first multidisciplinary violence response facility of its kind in Los Angeles County. The open house on Aug. 21 included tours of the brand-new facility, which is under construction on Oxnard Street in Van Nuys.
Operating through CSUN’s Michael D. Eisner College of Education, Strength United (formerly the Valley Trauma Center) provides counseling, victim advocacy and prevention education programs to individuals and families affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, child maltreatment and other crimes. It is also the lead agency of the Family Justice Center, the only multidisciplinary violence response system in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys.
Committed to ending abuse, empowering families and developing leaders, Strength United trains and supervises hundreds of CSUN students each year in volunteer and internship roles, where they interact with mental health, social service, medical and law enforcement professionals.
“The most amazing part of the center is the students,” said Kim Roth, ’02, ’05 (B.A, M.A., Marriage and Family Therapy), Strength United’s executive director. “They give so much back to the community. They’re willing to wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning to answer the phone for someone in crisis.”
The organization was founded 26 years ago by Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling faculty, including CSUN Professor Charles Hanson. He continues to lead the center as executive administrator and principal investigator. Ninety percent of its staff are CSUN alumni. The agency serves more than 2,800 children and adults annually in three locations.
The new Family Justice Center, which is scheduled to open this fall, will boast offices for the Los Angeles Police Department’s major assault crimes detectives, medical exam rooms, forensic interview rooms with digital recording capability, a children’s play area, therapy offices, training rooms — even a room where clients can spend a night before going to a shelter or new housing. It’s a collaboration between CSUN, Dignity Health Northridge Hospital’s Center for Assault Treatment Services, LAPD, L.A. city and county attorneys, Neighborhood Legal Services and Jewish Family Services Family Violence Project.
Currently, victims have to visit up to seven facilities for the services that will be available in one location at the new center. The shared space will help law enforcement professionals connect clients immediately with social services, Roth said.
“It’s often less complicated to stay with the abuse that you know than to seek help,” she said. “The Family Justice Center is meant to alleviate that. How can we make it safe for you to leave?”
For more information about Strength United and ways to support their work, visit www.strengthunited.org.