Women Aware, Inc. recently received an unprecedented $1 million grant from the U. S. Department of Justice Office for Violence Against Women 2021 Improving Criminal Justice Responses to Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Grant Program (ICJR). The grant provides funding for the Middlesex County Family Justice Center, the first of its kind in the County and only the fifth in the State of New Jersey. The goal of the family justice center is to reduce domestic violence homicides, and increase the safety and confidentiality of domestic violence survivors and their children in collaboration with co-located victim services agencies. The FJC will help survivors and their families get the resources and support they need at one location.
Partnering with Women Aware are Middlesex County (the Middlesex County Office of Human Services, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Middlesex County Center for Empowerment), Central Jersey Legal Services, Jewish Family Services, Partners for Women and Justice, American Friends Service Committee, Middlesex County Board of Social Services, NJ DCF Division of Child Protection and Permanency, Coming Home of Middlesex County, Manavi, Town Clock Community Development Corporation, and A Partnership for Change.
“Moving survivors beyond abuse is a community effort. Women Aware is grateful for our County partners’ commitment to serving survivors better,” said Chief Executive Officer Phyllis Yonta. “Working collaboratively, in one space, under the umbrella of the family justice center, our purpose is to radically improve family safety as well as offender accountability.”
The OVW grant will pay out over four years from October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2025. The grant will fund rental costs of the family justice center space; staff and visitor parking; family justice center branding and website creation; and salary and benefits for one full-time Legal Resource Director and one full-time Intake Specialist.
“For over 40 years, Women Aware has provided safe shelter, hotline services, legal services, educational and community programming, and housing services for victims of domestic violence in Middlesex County. On behalf of all the Board of County Commissioners, I would like to thank Women Aware for not just assisting victims but for creating a safe environment that removes the stigma, stress, fear, and hesitation that often influences victims’ ability to reach out for help,” said Board of County Commissioners Director Ronald G. Rios. “This federal award of $1 million from the Office of Violence Against Women is a testament to the work Women Aware has done and the coalition of agencies they have brought together to further develop the Family Justice Center for the benefit of Middlesex County residents.”
“The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office is honored to work with Women Aware. We congratulate Women Aware for their efforts in securing a substantial OVW grant that supports the FJC initiative here in Middlesex County. The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office secured the first grant that allowed for initial space and growth for the FJC initiative. We look forward to working with Women Aware and the additional partner agencies to help best support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault dating violence and stalking,” stated Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone, Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
As the Middlesex County Family Justice Center improves safety, access to services, and confidentiality for victims and families, so, too, will survivors in Middlesex County, New Jersey benefit from this project through:
- stronger legal advocacy and other services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, including strengthening assistance with immigration matters; and
- safe and affordable housing options for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
“Central Jersey Legal Services has a great working relationship with Women Aware for decades and looks forward to continuing that relationship as a partner in the Family Justice Center,” said Janice Chapin, Executive Director.
“As the coordinating entity in the County for serving people who are homeless and ending homelessness Countywide, Coming Home of Middlesex County, Inc. is looking forward to strengthening its existing collaboration with Women Aware and other partners through the Family Justice Center to help victims of domestic violence regain their sense of self and enjoy the benefits of a warm, stable home,” stated Eileen O’Donnell, JD, MPP, MSW, Executive Director.
“JFS Middlesex (Jewish Family Services) is proud and excited to stand with our valued partner, Women Aware, as we move forward with this innovative new center. As our missions and visions closely align, JFS is ready to serve those affected by domestic violence in one comfortable, safe location with crucial services like counseling, employment services, emergency food and diapers, and more,” said Roni Salkin, Executive Director.
“A Partnership for Change is honored to be a part of the very important work that Women Aware and the Family Justice Center of Middlesex County are embarking upon. We look forward to working with them and their other partners to provide the much-needed support to all victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking,” stated Allison Bressler, MA, Co-Founder/Co-Director.
“The American Friends Service Committee’s Immigrant Rights Program has been providing representation to survivors of domestic violence in their immigration cases for over 25 years and has seen firsthand the tremendous need across the state and in Middlesex County for holistic, culturally competent services for immigrant survivors. This OVW funding will allow the FJC to provide critical wrap-around services to survivors and their families that will put them on a path to safety and independence,” said Nicole Polley Miller, Esq., Legal Services Director.
The family justice center is open at 100 Bayard Street, 4th floor. Women Aware’s domestic violence hotline is available 24/7 at 732-249-4504, toll-free at 833-249-4504.