Cobb Family Advocacy Center provides resources for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder and child abuse, stalking, and human trafficking.
By Lindsay Field Penticuff
Cobb District Attorney Flynn Broady vividly remembers one of the first times he ever shared his personal story — the one of him growing up in a home of family violence.
“When I first started telling my story at some of our meetings, and I told the story about how my mom never reported [domestic violence in our home], I had someone come up to me after the presentation,” Broady recalls. “She was crying and gave me this big old hug and said I just told her story, and it really made me feel that this was important. This was a nurse, someone who is doing well and doing great things, but she had a story to tell, and she told me. And finally, after 16 years, she got away from her abuser.”
But Broady believes this individual was one of the “lucky ones,” because she got away, and got away alive.
“So many are not [lucky], and that’s why we need family advocacy centers. We must do what we can to protect our folks. And more than anything, we must protect our children, because they grow up seeing this trauma,” he says. “They grow up accepting that this is normal life, and they are more prone to drop out of school, join gangs, use drugs … all those things that we are trying to keep our children from doing.”
FAC opening in early 2024
On Dec. 15, 2022, Broady officially announced the groundbreaking for the Cobb Family Advocacy Center (FAC) — the first center of its kind in Georgia. It is modeled after similar family justice centers across the country. The grand opening for the center will be held December 15 of this year, with plans to deliver holistic wraparound services beginning of 2024 with assistance from community partners.
“Most of the country refers to these as ‘family justice centers,’ but we decided to name ours the Cobb Family Advocacy Center because we wanted it to be neutral and not be associated with just the criminal justice field,” Broady says. “We wanted people to understand that this is a place where they can go to get the resources they need to get away from their abuser.”
The Cobb FAC will provide victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder and child abuse, stalking and human trafficking a centralized, safe location to meet with organizations of their choosing. This may include support from law enforcement and assistance in obtaining temporary protective orders, as well as services such as counseling, housing, and employment assistance. The Cobb FAC also assists victims of other crimes, not just domestic violence.
“The model is designed where we can receive people in this building at any given time and in any capacity,” says TaNesha McAuley, Cobb FAC Executive Director. “It’s not a referral-only program, which is what’s so wonderful about it. If someone knows about this service and they are experiencing a domestic violence issue or abuse (elder abuse, stalking, human trafficking, rape, etc.), they can come here.”
Funding for the FAC was made possible through grants from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and the Victims of Crimes Act, and the location at 277 Fairground St. SE in Marietta was donated by Cobb County Government. It formerly housed offices for the Cobb County Division of Family and Children Services.
The Cobb County Board of Commissioners also voted unanimously to fund the three positions and roles that will be serving the center. “I can’t tell you how appreciative I am for that, because when we first started talking to the county about it, [board members] weren’t sure we needed this,” Broady says. “But we continued to talk to them and our partners, and tell the stories of some of our victims. When it came down to it, we honestly didn’t count on getting a 5-0 vote, but we did, and that’s because [board members saw] that we need this.”
The creation of the center is made possible due to the collaboration of community partners, including the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, County Manager Dr. Jackie McMorris, LiveSafe Resources, SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center, Cobb County Police Department, Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, Cobb County Solicitor General’s Office, Cobb County Public Safety Director Randy Crider, Cobb Legal Aid, and many more community service agencies.
Why open a center in Cobb County?
Broady describes domestic violence as a hidden crime, because oftentimes, victims don’t report it until the seventh or eighth time they’ve been abused. By then, he says, it’s usually only reported because the individual feels like the abuser is going to kill them. “And even then, 50 percent of them want to recant their stories and go back to their abuser, subjecting themselves to even worse,” he adds.
Having somewhere like the Cobb FAC helps encourage victims to seek support much earlier in the abuse cycle. “Everywhere [the centers have] been implemented, there’s also been a reduction in family violence; there’s been a reduction in fatalities due to domestic violence; and as a result, a lot of the trauma that children see that grow up in those types of homes, has been reduced,” Broady says.
“The sad part about our criminal justice system is that a lot of the people who are in it usually come from a broken home or a home where family violence was prominent,” he continued. “So, if we can eliminate or reduce it, we can continue to make our community safer. That’s the main focus on why we wanted to have a FAC here in Cobb County.”
McAuley notes that the center isn’t just for victims who are experiencing physical abuse. “Domestic violence and physical abuse are just one aspect of it,” she says. “We do recognize emotional, financial, and sexual abuse. It will be important for us as a team and our partners to provide that education, because a lot of times with what we’ve seen through research and group studies, people don’t make that connection and don’t realize that the mental and emotional abuse is just as critical as any physical abuse.”
And emotional abuse usually predates physical abuse, Broady adds. “Usually there’s the emotional abuse; the yelling and degrading,” he says. “And if they have pets, they may start harming pets or hitting walls, then the next thing you know, they are hitting you.”
An impact from day 1
Within the first 24 hours of announcing last December that the Cobb FAC would be opening, McAuley says her team started receiving phone calls, and she personally got to work with their first client. “Not having a building hasn’t kept us from being able to coordinate with our partners,” she says. “What we’ve told folks is that we are operational and have staff on-site who can get them connected to resources before they even step foot into the building.”
Such an immediate response from the community has helped validate what Broady says has been a need in the community for so long. “This is a service that’s needed in Cobb County, and all across Georgia,” he says. “Literally, the day we released the press release, we started receiving phone calls, which emphasized the need even more.”
And it’s even more convenient to be opening a location that will have so many services in one location — a one-stop-shop of sorts. “Our goal is to lessen the trauma,” McAuley says. “Our victims are already navigating a lot, and when we’ve looked at the studies and at other family justice centers: A victim could potentially have to go to ten or more different places to get services. Naturally, being able to get everything coordinated under one roof is going to reduce that trauma significantly. Victims are looking for help, hope, and healing. They can get that by being here and seeing us with one voice. They won’t feel like they are in this alone.”
“We aren’t asking you to come in here and rat on your abuser,” Broady concludes. “We are asking you to come in here and get the help you need to get away from them — we don’t care who it is. Get what you need to make you feel whole.”
Cobb Family Advocacy Center
277 Fairground St. SE, Marietta, GA 30060
Website: cobbfac.org • Phone: (770) 528-8121