Sacramento State collaborates with DA in the campaign against domestic violence

State Hornet Staff

A Sacramento State partnership with the Sacramento County District Attorney is providing community support against domestic violence while opening educational opportunities for students and faculty.

In November 2012, District Attorney Jan Scully organized a two-day meeting with more than 130 agencies representing law enforcement, government, higher education and community outreach, to discuss  as a solution against domestic violence.

A family justice center allows domestic violence victims access to all needed services in one location. There are approximately 30 centers throughout the United States, including San Diego and San Antonio.

“The main goal is to meet the many needs of a victim who wants to leave a violent and dangerous situation by providing her and her family with what she needs to be supportive,” Scully said.

The center will cost approximately $300,000 to $400,000 and will be funded by a combination of public, grant and foundation money, mostly going toward salaries and utility costs.

Fred Baldini, dean of Health and Human Services, represented Sac State at the meeting and saw the center as a natural fit for the campus to contribute. He said the partnership will allow for faculty research, student internships and community service opportunities.

In return, Baldini said the center will benefit from several different resources on campus. For example, Sac State’s Criminal Justice Research Center will create a business plan to look at the effectiveness of  a family justice center and analyze the impact on the community.

Even though the center is not a new concept, Scully said Sacramento’s version will have a unique edge over all the others.

“Our goal is to have this serve as the national model because there is no family justice center in the United States that has a strong partnership with a university,” Scully said.

Sac State’s Creative Service department is almost finished with a two-month long production of a film that covers the harmful effects of domestic violence in Sacramento and helps sell a solution by incorporating local victims, law enforcement, government officials and educators as supporters of the project.

Creative Service Film Producer Laurence Campling said the video is intended to be a call for action, as the piece demonstrates a need for community involvement, commitment to the project and asks for more help.

“We all have heard of domestic violence and we all kind of know what it is,” Campling said. “But if it hasn’t touched your life personally, until you actually talk to people about it, it is hard to grasp. And even then, you don’t know what some of these people go through.”

Once completed, the film will be used in presentations to the community and available on the center’s project website as a way to stimulate community interest and fundraising.

Aside from research and promotion contributions, several Sac State officials are remaining in constant contact with the district attorney’s office, including President Alexander Gonzalez. 

Baldini said it is exciting to see Sac State be recognized for a lot of its assistance on a project that could have a major impact on services provided to domestic violence.

“This is exactly what a university is supposed to do,” Baldini said. “Do things that matter in the region. Do things that help improve the conditions that we live in.”

County District Attorney Planning Manager Paul Durenberger said the next step is to find a suitable location and the plan is to take over an already constructed location that is empty and not being used.

While Gonzalez said it is unlikely that the center will be on campus, Scully and Durenberger hope it will be close by as a means to keep the partnership actively engaged.

“One of our hopes is that by having this link with Sac State, we can get to a different demographic of victims,” Durenberger said. “There is a lot of young people going to Sacramento State that are in relationships and violence can happen.”

Durenberger said by catching cases early, the center can stop the cycle before it becomes more complicated with children or marriage. The longer a relationship, the longer it takes for the victim to leave, Durenberger said.

Durenberger said his visits to other family justice centers has allowed him to better plan the project financially because he saw what worked and what failed.

Mistakes such as relying on one grant to fund the project or becoming a county budget item are concepts that Durenberger said he knows to avoid because those programs had no strategy to survive once they were completed.

Scully said partnering with Sac State is exciting since the center will encourage students and faculty to collaborate across multiple disciplines in ways they never have before.

In a meeting between Scully, Baldini and department chairs, they discussed how the colleges of business, education and nursing all had the potential to offer strong contributions to the center in terms of job training skills, tutoring, counseling and medical needs for victims seeking help.

Cristina Gonzalez, a senior criminal justice major, said the partnership is a great idea.  She took a class on domestic violence last fall and said there is a definite need for the center.

Gonzalez said her class covered certain domestic violence programs in the class, but most of them only catered to specific groups of people like Asians, or only women and children. She said people need to remember men suffer from domestic violence too.

Gonzalez also applauded the internship possibilities with the family justice center.

“It is refreshing to see more opportunities for students. Our major is impacted and there is only one criminal justice internship program open for students,” Gonzalez said.  “Having something more available that gets us involved with hands-on work in the real world would be great.”

Scully, who served more than 20 years as district attorney, said the project is the most tremendous collaboration that she has seen in Sacramento and the partnership with Sac State adds to that effort.

“We want this to not be a law enforcement effort or an entity effort, but a community supported effort,” Scully said.