How the Crystal Judson Center helps survivors and victims of domestic violence
“Why don’t they just leave?”
It’s a common question people ask about women living with domestic violence, according to Abi McLane, assistant director of the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center in Tacoma.
“The answer is very complicated,” she says. “It can involve finances, the threat of children being taken away, the prospect of being homeless. So much goes into it.”
McLane thinks we talk about domestic violence more openly now, but misconceptions persist around what constitutes domestic violence, along with “victim-shaming.”
“We need to be talking about domestic violence as a society because this is not okay,” says McLane. “For years, it was discussed as a family issue rather than a societal issue. There is a shift in talking about it now, and more ways to talk about it, more platforms such as social media, and that’s a positive thing.”
Defining the many forms of domestic violence is vital to recognizing the signs and supporting victims.
“At its core, domestic violence is the desire to control the other person,” she says. “When someone uses power and control — emotional, psychological, physical or sexual — over someone else, that is the definition of domestic violence.
“Domestic abuse happens in every single demographic, regardless of income, education or culture. It is very nuanced. Everyone’s situation and needs are different.”
In response, the Judson Center takes an individualized approach to serving domestic violence victims. Now in its 13th year, the Judson Center provides a safe place for survivors and families to obtain comprehensive, coordinated services, including one-on-one advocacy, counseling and support groups.
In addition, partner agencies, such as the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and Prosecutor’s Office domestic violence units, are co-located at the Center to make it easier for victims to access law enforcement services. Other partners include the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), Korean Women’s Association (KWA), Catherine Place and Our Sisters’ House.
The Judson Center also works closely with the YWCA, which operates an emergency shelter for women and children in Pierce County.
“Our goal is to make sure clients get the right support for their needs,” McLane says. “They might get help filing a restraining order, or go to the YWCA for shelter or get help with child support enforcement. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
In 2017, the Center recorded 2,319 survivor visits to the onsite center. Typically, 90 percent of clients are women.
The Center uses a model called trauma-informed care to better serve clients, which focuses on:
- Flipping the script from asking “What’s wrong with the victim?” to “What’s going on in their lives?” (stress, chaos, etc.)
- Recognizing that trauma is a natural reaction to domestic violence
- Training staff to recognize trauma and give appropriate care
- Providing a warm, inviting space for clients
- Providing plenty of time for clients to tell their stories in their own ways
“Survivors of domestic violence have different reactions,” McLane says. “We used to think ‘fight or flight.’ But it’s also ‘freeze.’ Often people who have a lot of shame and grief will say, ‘I froze. I didn’t do anything.’”
“Ultimately, we want every client to have a safety plan, to connect with the services they want and feel better prepared to handle their situation,” she says.
In addition to client advocacy, the Judson Center delivers community education and outreach, including presentations to high school students about healthy relationships.
“We are always trying to improve,” said McLane, “We ask ourselves, how can we be better for our clients and the community?”
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