Domestic violence advocates are experienced in providing assistance to those victimized by domestic violence. Advocates understand the criminal justice, family court, and social service systems and are familiar with other community resources that might be helpful to you. Advocates can also provide you practical and emotional support. FJC advocates can explain what the police and courts can do for you and how the courts function in Buffalo and Erie County. They can help you decide whether to use the system and can help you navigate the process of pressing charges and/or obtaining an order of protection. Advocates can also help you fill out a safety plan, will provide you with emergency resources such as hotline numbers and can provide access to shelter. Advocates from the Family Justice Center, the BE-SAFE Program, Hispanics United and the International Institute are all on-site to meet with victims and provide advocacy.
FJC Intake Assessment
The FJC intake assessment is completed by an intake specialist who meets with you to determine what services you need. Once the intake is completed, the intake specialist will make referrals to FJC partners and advocates.
Whether you are currently with your partner or not, a safety plan can reduce your risk of being harmed. Safety plans may be made for a variety of different situations, such as when you are threatened with physical assault or if an assault has occurred; if you are continuing to live with or to date a partner who has been abusive; or to protect yourself after you have ended a relationship with an abusive partner. You don’t need to wait for an emergency to develop a safety plan. In fact, it is a good idea to know in advance where you can go to stay, where you can go for financial, assistance and who can keep copies of important papers for you. In case an emergency does arise, a plan can also identify resources such as shelters and hotlines which can be used to help keep you safe.
Order of Protection
An order of protection is a document issued by a court to help protect you from harassment or abuse. In an order of protection, a judge can set limits on your partner’s behavior. Once an order is issued, only a judge can change it. If the order includes a stay-away provision and your partner comes to your house, he is violating the order and will be arrested, even if you invited him. If you want changes to an order, you must request them from the court. In an emergency situation, you may be able to receive an order of protection at the FJC via video-conferencing
Forensic Medical Unit
Physical injuries can be documented at the FJC by a nurse from the UB Department of Family Medicine. Documentation consists of photographs and body mapping with accompanying explanations of all injuries that you have received. This material can be of great importance if you decide to press criminal charges against your abuser.
Child Waiting Area
When you come to the FJC with your children, the Child Waiting Area provides a safe play environment for them while you receive the services that you want. Foster grandmothers and volunteers provide supervision. An advocate from the Child Advocacy Center is also available to provide access to counseling services for your children if you feel that this would be helpful for them.
Every time the police respond to a domestic violence call, they are required to fill out and give you a copy of the Domestic Incident Report even if an arrest is not made. If an arrest has not been made and you decide that you wish to press charges, when you come to the FJC, you will meet with an advocate from the BE-SAFE Program and with an officer from the Buffalo Police Department who will help you.
Civil Legal Assistance
At the FJC you can also receive help resolving civil matters. Generally this might involve going to Family Court with the goal of protecting you and your family. Advocates can help you decide whether you want to pursue an order of protection from Family Court, or answer questions related to divorce, custody and visitation, or problems with benefits through the Department of Social Services.