Family Justice Center opens in Claiborne

Published 2:46 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2023

By Jordan Brooks

jordan.brooks@middlesboronews.com

Recently the Claiborne County Family Justice Center unveiled the Hope Garden in Tazewell as a place of refuge and reflection honoring victims and family members of domestic violence in Claiborne County.

Bobbie Womack, the executive director of the Claiborne County Family Justice Center, provided insight into the beginning of The Hope Garden.

“We got a group of survivors together, our “Voices: survivor meeting,” and at our first meeting one of the lady’s said, ‘We have a stone planted in Knoxville on behalf of my aunt. She’s not from Knoxville, she’s from Claiborne County, and I really would like to have something to honor her here in Claiborne County that I can go to, so that I can remember my aunt,” said Womack.

From that idea grew the Hope Garden.

After diligent efforts in generating plans and ideas to get the garden started, the staff still struggled, but one volunteer, Brenda Graves, agreed to design the garden.

“The things that they have endured, the things that their families have endured, that their loved ones have endured, they are using that to educate Claiborne County on the effects of domestic violence,” said Womack. “They want it to be better in Claiborne County, and they want what happened to themselves or their loved ones to not happen to other people.”

Bishop Tim Goins recognized the many different battles people at the family justice center and in Claiborne County are still fighting.

“It’s easy to celebrate things when they’re easy, but when they’re difficult, and it’s a difficult challenge, the victory is so much more sweeter,” said Goins. “But however anxiety and scars can arise and remind people of not so pleasant times.”

Goins said the garden could have been named many different things, but The Hope Garden was chosen because of its dedication to survivors and families, and the message of hope they spread to others.

“Hope is a word we throw around a lot without considering what hope really means,” said Goins. “Hope is holding onto something very near and dear with excitement and anticipation, and we throw it out there, but right now I believe it has a much deeper meaning for so many people.”

“The symbol of hope is the butterfly… and it just does not automatically crawl up somewhere and become a butterfly but it takes time, it takes endurance, it takes perseverance–Everything [victims] have had to do for so long,” said Goins. “[Victims] have had to crawl into a place of hiding, and this is what this family justice center gives so many, a place where they can hide for just a little while until things turn around in their life.”

Goins emphasized that the challenges faced by victims of domestic abuse, as well as those who have experienced the tragic loss of loved ones due to domestic violence, often go unnoticed.

According to Womack, The Hope Garden is not just for Claiborne Family Justice Center clients, staff, or board members, but it’s for the whole of Claiborne County and the surrounding community.

To put into perspective just how much the Family Justice Center helps Claiborne County, in the last year from June 1, 2022 to July 30, 2023, the Claiborne County Family Justice Center served 266 clients. Of those 266, 64 were men, and 202 were women.

To break down those demographics even more, 30 people ages 18 to 23 were helped by the family justice center, 188 people ages 25 to 59 were helped by the family justice center, and 48 people ages 60 and older were helped by the family justice center

The majority of these cases were domestic violence, but that number also included physical assaults, sexual assaults, and a number of stalking and harassment cases.

The Family Justice Center also issued 400 referrals to make sure people were taken care of once they left the justice center, and 268 safety plans for the people who came through the doors.

The Family Justice Center offered comprehensive support within the criminal and civil justice systems to individuals, including services such as court date reminders, accompaniment to court proceedings, and facilitation of the entire process. The Claiborne County Family Justice Center has facilitated transportation services on 11 occasions, enabling individuals to access medical services, attend court proceedings, or visit the Family Justice Center.