“These people are God-sent,” Lois Doty said about the new St. Louis Family Justice Center, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You’re right at home. They’re not judgmental.” Thirteen agencies have offices there, from a nurse practitioner who can photograph bruises and test for sexually transmitted diseases, to a lawyer who helps accompany victims to the courthouse to get an order of protection. Having the free services under one roof is a big selling point, especially for someone like Doty, whose only transportation is a city bus line.
In the past, victims who got up the courage to report domestic abuse would have to make five or six stops around town – and spend a day or more doing it – to accomplish everything the Family Justice Center offers. The center opened in January under a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. It is one of 15 such centers around the country, most of which were established by President George W. Bush’s Family Justice Center initiative. Since its opening, the St. Louis center has helped about 250 people, most of them walk-ins, and handled 300 phone calls. Agency leaders expect the number of clients to climb to about 2,000 a year. Last year, St. Louis police handled more than 23,300 domestic disturbance calls, and the courts in St. Louis granted about 3,500 orders of protection.