SAN MARCOS, Calif. — One Safe Place, a family justice center that provides free support for victims of crimes, is set to open in San Marcos on July 5.
FOX 5 got an inside look at the facility before it opens to the public.
On Thursday, county and facility leaders held a ribbon-cutting ceremony inside the center. Its services will be available to victims of family violence, child abuse, domestic violence, hate crimes, elder abuse, human trafficking, sexual assault and violent loss — among other crimes.
The facility will offer free support and services, including acute crisis care, forensic medical exams, therapy, counseling, advocacy, legal services, workforce readiness, cooking classes, connections to shelters, educational assistance and free clothing, to name a few. The goal is to have everything that a victim would need under one roof and to eliminate the need for multiple appointments, driving long distances, etc.
“This will create one safe place for victims of crime who have suffered trauma and pain to find help, to find healing and to find justice,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “Every time that we looked in the eyes of victims, we knew we could give them more, that we could give them that line to safety, that we can support them better as a community.”
There are 70 community agencies that are partnering with the facility to help provide services to victims. That includes Palomar Health, which will be staffing the forensic medical exams.
It will ultimately help provide opportunities “for another career, for a job that has dignity,” Stephan said. That is exactly what happened with Isabel Rosales, who said the family justice center in San Diego helped her after she was stabbed during a violent marriage.
“They helped me gain my life back and my identity, and that of my three children,” Rosales said.
“Many victims of violence don’t feel like they have anywhere to go or turn, and they suffer time and time again, so this one safe place will hopefully interrupt that cycle of abuse and empower people to break free of abuse and start a new beginning,” Jim Desmond, San Diego County District 5 Supervisor, said.
“One Safe Place is that multi-agency center that focuses on reducing the number of times a victim has to retell her story, the number of times and places a victim has to go to heal and be safe,” Stephan said.
According to Stephan’s office, data shows that North County residents have a disproportionate amount of domestic violence-related murders and elder abuse reports compared the rest of the county. According to the data from the Automated Regional Justice Information System, 46% of domestic violence-related murders and 56% of elder abuse reports in San Diego County, were reported in North County between July 2015 and June 2017.
According to ARJIS, in 2020, there were 17,217 domestic violence case reports taken by law enforcement in San Diego County and 27% of them happened in North County. East County saw 19%, southern region reported 18% and the central region saw the highest with 37%.
Child Welfare Services reported receiving 38,653 reports of abuse/neglect to their hotline in 2019-2020, which represented 68,964 children, and 27% of those reports happened in North County, which represented 18,821 children.
According to homicide data, there were 311 domestic violence homicides reported in 24 years in San Diego County and 41.5% of them, 129 deaths, happened in the North County region.
“In a three year period, the sheriff’s substation in San Marcos referred just over 1000 cases to the DA for prosecution, in two specific crime types, 971 of these were domestic violence, and 53 of these were elder abuse,” San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones said.
Stephen said the data is what drove the decision to open the facility in North County.
“Family justice centers have the lowest per capita domestic homicide rates of any agencies in America that work with victims, and that’s what we are going to see here,” Casey Gwinn, president for Alliance for Hope said. During Thursday’s press conference, Gwinn said that this new center has set the standard for family justice centers across the nation.
The model of the family justice center has been adapted worldwide, but it started in San Diego in 2002.
One Safe Place will open to walk-ins starting July 5 and will be open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Find more information and appointments here.