Family Justice Center brings Knoxville together in fight against domestic violence

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The Knoxville Family Justice Center provides hope for victims of domestic violence. Photo by Megan Sadler.

The Knoxville Family Justice Center (FJC) offers a place of respite and safety for victims of domestic violence by combining the resources of organizations from across the city.

According to FJC Executive Director Kathryn Ellis, its five employees are working with the community through a multitude of partnerships to guide victims to the resources they need.

“As for immediate needs that we can provide here, we have food, we have toiletries, we have diapers, things for personal care. We have busy bags for kids that we put together with age-appropriate toys,” said Ellis. 

From its office on Harriet Tubman Street in East Knoxville, the non-profit organization offers other basic survival items, including secure phones and 911 only phones in case the person is being monitored by their abuser and needs a safe way to call for help.

But the FJC’s role in improving lives doesn’t stop with immediate needs. Ellis described a host of resources available to help victims not just survive but hopefully get back on their feet and build safer lives.

“Our purpose is to provide support to victims of domestic violence,” said Ellis. “When somebody comes here and says that they are a victim of domestic violence, they are first able to speak with a person who we call a navigator, and the navigator talks to them about what all is available. And then the navigator says that they’ve got different options with our on-site partners. We have both law enforcement partners and non-law enforcement partners and victims can choose whichever agency they want to work with.”

Ellis said victims who need it can also get access to attorneys and paralegals from the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office as well as a special court order allows victims to submit documents pertaining to their case electronically with the help of an on-site notary in order to help cut down on repeated courthouse trips. 

The center also serves to connect victims with access to transitional housing through off-site partners like the Compassion Coalition, Catholic Charities and The Salvation Army.

Thanks to newly received grant funding, Ellis said her team is working to do even more for families and parents with small children. 

“We found out we’ve got a new grant that is going to enable us to purchase car seats and pack n’ plays to give to mothers and fathers who come in and have young children that don’t have safe ways to transport them or safe spaces for them to sleep,” Ellis said.

Knoxville Family Justice Center Executive Director Kathryn Ellis sports the emblem of Wonder Woman on her mask as she explains how her organization joins forces with agencies all across the city to support victims of domestic violence. Photo by Megan Sadler.

“When they’re potentially in a shelter or when somebody can’t get shelter because the shelter is full, we’re able to give them a hotel room for a night or two while we’re figuring out what needs to happen to make them safe from their abuser,” she explained.

Helping someone build a safe environment also requires reaching outside of the center. Ellis said the FJC is able to offer lock changes at the homes of victims and provide ride services to anyone who needs to access the center but doesn’t have transportation. 

“Somebody who doesn’t have transportation, they can still come here. They just have to tell us when they call in and we will send a Lyft to them, then … we’ll have them taken home,” Ellis said.

She also mentioned a newly forged alliance with Centro Hispano that allows FJC workers to meet with Spanish speakers and offer support with the help of a translator. 

“We have law enforcement, social services, religious groups, non-religious groups all sort of working together, and each month we meet with what we call our coordinated community response team and that is a team of representatives from most of our partners,” she continued. 

“We all come together once a month and talk about what gaps we’re seeing, what issues we’re seeing related to victims of domestic violence, and we talk about the different programs that we’ve all got because we get different grants, and make sure that we’re able to give as much of a holistic wraparound to victims as possible,” she said.

In total, the Family Justice Center works with about 55 off-site partners to provide a full range of support, according to Ellis.  

Community members who are interested in helping the Family Justice Center’s cause can give monetary donations, or purchase items the center needs through an online donation center. Donators can send items directly to the center by purchasing them off an official Amazon Wish List. Applications for volunteer opportunities are also available online. 

Anyone who has witnessed someone they know being domestically abused can utilize guidelines posted online for how to approach the situation safely. 

Anyone who is experiencing domestic violence can seek help by calling (865) 521-6336 to access the resources available through the Family Justice Center. In cases where active violence is occurring, call 911 immediately.  

Megan Sadler can be reached at news@hardknoxwire.com.

Published on November 1, 2021.