Imagine you are a parent. You’ve just gotten a call from a police detective who says she’s at your child’s school and you need to come as quickly as possible. You don’t know it yet, but you are about to be in crisis as you are told that a school staff member has sexually molested your child. What do you do? Who do you turn to to guide you through the quagmire of law enforcement, court proceedings and mental health issues you and your child are now facing? If you are lucky, you have an advocate from the Valley Trauma Center at your side.
Since 1985, the California State University, Northridge-affiliated Valley Trauma Center has provided support to victims of domestic and sexual assault. Focusing on advocacy, intervention, education and prevention, the center offers a variety of services to individuals of all ages who have experienced child maltreatment, domestic violence and or sexual violence during their lifetime. Included are individual and family psychotherapy, couples counseling, treatment for traumatic stress, parent education, counseling, accompaniment to evidence gathering examinations and court appointments, supportive and counseling services to families adopting youth in foster care, violence prevention programs and a 24-hour crisis hotline.
One of the center’s long-standing partners in the fight against violence is the Lawrence P. Frank Foundation, which has donated about $10,000 annually to the center, totaling more than $160,000 since 1997.
In 1993, Lawrence Frank, a garment industry, retail and investment executive, passed away, leaving three friends to manage a foundation he had established in his name. Frank had picked a few charities to receive funds from the foundation, but left it up to the three executives of the new foundation to decide on further charities to support.
One of those executives is Frank’s friend, Don Hoffman. After retiring in the early 1990s, Hoffman began volunteering in the detective squad room at the Devonshire LAPD station, where he was exposed to domestic and sexual assault cases. When he was deciding what charities the new foundation should support, Hoffman asked the supervising detective of the Major Assault Crimes Unit if he knew of any organizations that assisted the women in these cases. The detective recommended Valley Trauma Center. Hoffman met with the center’s staff, took a tour and has been an ardent supporter ever since.
“Getting to support worthy charities is very gratifying,” Hoffman said. “Being able to give someone a check and watch the look on their face is amazing.”
The Valley Trauma Center accomplishes its mission through a very unique learning laboratory model. CSUN undergraduates in related fields, from sociology and public health to women’s studies, psychology and education, volunteer at the center to learn about their fields and prepare for graduate school. Graduate school students in programs that require service-learning hours fulfill those clinical internship requirements at the center. Students provide counseling, manage prevention outreach programs and staff the 24-hour hotline. The center even has high school volunteers and especially encourages those who may be struggling in a traditional academic path to volunteer at the center where they can gain basic competencies and the confidence that comes with them. The center currently has about 110 student volunteers, which account for 85 percent of their direct-service staff.
Kim Goldberg-Roth, the center’s executive director, says that this service-learning model is one of the hallmarks of the center.
“Students develop their core competencies for their profession, while we are also propelling them to be agents of change for their community around the issues of child maltreatment and domestic and sexual violence,” she said. “Whatever areas they go on to be a professional in, we have created this civic responsibility about giving back to the community.”
Charles Hanson, founder of the Valley Trauma Center and a professor in CSUN’s Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, agrees that the experience is life-changing for students.
“They have the opportunity to engage with various arms of the community: law enforcement; the sexual assault nurse examiners; city, civil and district attorneys; child welfare and social service agencies while providing critical advocacy, mental health and prevention services.,” he said. “It’s quite an education they get in the field while helping those in need. I think this unmatched.”
As Goldberg-Roth said, “It’s an amazing nexus that comes together. Everyone is getting his or her needs met in this and it really demonstrates the power of a university to render change in the community.”
For more: To support the Valley Trauma Center, make a gift using our online giving form and write “Valley Trauma Center” in the Special Instructions box.