By Bill Davis, Special to the Press-Tribune
The idea of NWLA FJC began more than 10 years ago to provide centralized services to victims of domestic violence right here to northwest Louisiana.
Bossier/Webster Parish District Attorney Schuyler Marvin had a vision to develop a one-stop shop to help coordinate various services for domestic violence victims, yet he “did not want to duplicate services that were already being provided by churches and other places that helped people in need,” he noted.
“It was a huge undertaking and a long process to get it started,” Marvin said. He said some people would tell him that there’s not much domestic violence here because this is a nice place to live. “Sure, we’re a nice place to live, but that’s full of bull to think we don’t have domestic violence going on.” So, he wanted to do something about it.
In late 2007, a formal request from the 26th District Attorney’s Office, along with community collaborators, was made to the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement (LCLE) to establish the Family Justice Center.
Office space was donated from Willis Knighton Health Systems, and with continuing workshops, meetings, community partnerships, the idea became a reality. Assistance from other family justice centers helped develop the structure for the operation, and in early 2016, a grant through the Victims of Crime Act provided the funding that allowed the NWLA Family Justice Center to open its doors.
The center is located at 1513 Doctors Drive in Bossier City and is a collaboration among public and private agencies, serving nine parishes in Caddo, Bossier, Webster, Bienville, Claiborne, DeSoto, Jackson, Sabine and Red River.
Jeri Bowen serves as the director for the NWLA FJC, and the vision of the center to become a central source to aid victims of domestic violence has become a reality.
“We work to ensure victims get counseling services, help with protective orders,
work with our partners such as Geaux Bags for children’s services and Project Celebration to provide a safe house, provide transportation services, or bus services,” Bowen said. “We also help victims with food and hygiene items, utility deposits, and medical and dental care, school relocation for children, all in an effort to have no out-of-pocket cost for victims of domestic violence.”
Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington has been in law enforcement for more than three decades and has seen the tragic impact that domestic violence has on victims and their families.
“The court process can be lengthy and burdensome, and some give up, thinking it might take too long,” said Sheriff Whittington. “The Family Justice Center can help cut through all that and directly help victims get the services they need.”
In July 2019, Sheriff Whittington committed another deputy – Dep. Stephen Mackey – to be assigned to FJC as part of the Domestic Violence Unit. He and Downey work alongside a Bossier City Police Officer and three victim advocates at the center.
For help, call (318) 584-7171, and the after-hours hotline number is (318) 226-5015.