The Family Advocacy Center brings together resources to help survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence
It’s kind of a dilemma, which Bev McMillan has grappled with since taking over as the manager of the Albuquerque Family Advocacy Center, a place she calls the city’s best-kept secret but one that shouldn’t be. be – and again, it must be.
Hence the dilemma.
The center, which she likes to call the FAC (rhymes with “back”), provides free social, legal and law enforcement services to victims of rape and domestic violence under one roof – a one-stop-shop, if you will, to do so. the grueling next steps after a slightly less complicated, a little more cohesive, a lot more caring assault.
FAC agencies include the Domestic Violence Resource Center, Legal Aid New Mexico, Central New Mexico Rape Crisis Center, Albuquerque Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), and Para Los Niños. The Albuquerque Police Department, which now includes members of the brand new Community Safety Unit, also has offices in the building but in a separate wing on the same floor.
When it opened in October 2007, the FAC was hailed as an innovative way to combine efforts for victims in need of assistance, law enforcement in need of evidence, and social service agencies in need of hire. a safe place to provide care. Then-mayor Martin Chavez called it “one of the most important things that will be accomplished” during his tenure.
Ten years later, the CAF was called a “beacon of light in a very dark world,” but officials acknowledged that the light was not bright enough to reach as many victims as it should. To that end, McMillan was hired in 2017 to help reignite the FAC.
At the same time, this very dark world has become even darker. To ensure the safety of survivors and families and to protect them from their attackers, the FAC requires layers of security and some anonymity.
“It’s a best kept secret, but in a way it has to be,” McMillan said. But maybe it’s a little too secret, she admits. So I’m here at the FAC to shed light on a space that shouldn’t be a secret to survivors.
The building itself on Silver SW, originally the offices of Mountain States Telephone in the 1950s and later the local offices of US senators in New Mexico, reveals nothing from the outside about its current occupants.
But if you know, you know.
McMillan waits upstairs in the lobby of the FAC, which like most offices is awash in purple tones, the color of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, seen every October. A purple pumpkin sits on the lobby table – McMillan’s own creative contribution. Purple ribbons wrapped in small copper tassels adorn most of the doors of this maze of hallways where the well-appointed agency offices, examination rooms, supply rooms, waiting rooms and game rooms are located. .
To access it, we have to pass a receptionist and a series of security doors. We feel safe here but not confined.
The medical examination rooms include baskets of stuffed animals. In one room, the size of the table stirrups, which hold the rape victim’s feet during a pelvic exam, are smaller and covered in fabric decorated with cartoon turtles, a gruesome reminder that some victims of sexual assault are children.
“We had a 2 month old who was sexually assaulted and examined here, and I couldn’t understand what kind of person would do that to a toddler child,” McMillan said.
Para Los Niños, part of the University of New Mexico health care system, provides assessment, treatment, and follow-up care for these children and adolescents. SANE, a nonprofit in its 25th year, also performs forensic assessments and provides support to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Here, an assault victim can speak to a police investigator – if they wish – and then come to the FAC for examination and evidence collection at the same facility, instead of walking between the police station. and the hospital. A shower and new clothes are also available after the end of the exam.
Down the hall is a room filled with garbage cans of clothes and shoes, sorted and marked by size, gender, and item. Shelves of work clothes are also available for court appearances and job interviews.
Customers can also choose from the multitude of items in the pantry and the assortment of toiletries and diapers.
“We try to anticipate any needs a victim might have,” McMillan said. “We can also help with temporary housing.
Other rooms are reserved for counseling and maintenance, the child-centered rooms are equipped with sandboxes, a whiteboard and toys.
One room has a huge beanbag, where traumatized children can snuggle up to Graham, a friendly black Labrador who is the ODA crisis intervention dog. Another room, nicknamed the Reflection Room, has a working waterfall and reading materials, including the Bible.
Advocates at the Family Violence Resource Center can help victims file restraining orders; Legal aid workers can help with other separation machinations, such as divorce and custody issues.
The FAC exists thanks to the generous support of United Way of Central New Mexico, which pays McMillan’s salary, and local corporate donors. The City of Albuquerque provides free offices to agencies, although each agency maintains its own budget to fund its services.
As we walk through the halls, I am struck by the novelty and the welcome of the place, by the eagerness of the staff of the various agencies to inform the public about the work they do – and by the fact that it there are no clients, at least none. I am able to see. Maybe it’s just a slow morning, as McMillan puts it. I know it’s not because Albuquerque’s sexual assault and domestic violence problem has dramatically diminished.
As we speak, McMillan is responding to emails from iHeartRadio. Billboards are also increasing, she said. Brochures are being printed, some in Spanish. These are just a few of her efforts to raise awareness of the CAF. It is time for this to stop being a secret to those in need.
UpFront is a front page news and opinion column. Contact Joline at 730-2793, [email protected], Facebook or @jolinegkg on Twitter.