Reedley Police Department partners with Family Healing Center to ensure overall welfare of domestic abuse, sexual assault victims
REEDLEY – To make forensic interviews for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault easier for victims, the Reedley Police Department keeps a continuous partnership with the countywide-serving Family Healing Center.
For the last 12 years, the department has utilized the services of the Family Healing Center to give victims a supportive environment for assessment and treatment services. Reedley police chief Joe Garza described the partnership as suitable for all parties involved, more so for victims of any type of abuse, sexual assault or both.
“The reason this is happening, that we have this agreement with the Family Healing Center, is for the benefit and for the welfare of victims of any sort of sexual assault, especially children that are that are victims of sexual assault,” Garza said.
Before this collaboration, which is arranged between county law enforcement agencies like Reedley Police Department, the Fresno County Sheriff’s and district attorney’s office, forensic interviews were done more than once. Garza said a victim would be interviewed overall at least four to five times, circumstances varying, due to law enforcement agencies requiring information for their investigations and the court system sometimes asking victims to testify.
“What studies were finding was that the victim was being re-traumatized, because they’re having to relive the incident several times,” Garza said.
Now, with the help of the Family Healing Center, interviews are done in a safe environment where the process can be done in one go to spare victims of reliving their trauma over and over again. According to Garza, the interviews are conducted in a room with a single interviewer in order for the victim to build a level of trust with them instead of becoming overwhelmed with multiple people.
Everyone else, like detectives, district attorneys, victim advocates and other necessary law enforcement associates, sit in a separate room and remotely watch and listen to the interview. If a law enforcement officer or district attorney has a question for the victim, they are able to send it over to the interviewer who is able to relay it to the victim.
“If you have too many people throwing questions at one time—and a lot of times it’s juveniles that are victims of sexual assault—they get confused,” Garza said. “A lot of times they will shut down because they just get overwhelmed.”
Per year, Garza said the Reedley Police Department sends approximately 10 to 15 victims to be interviewed by the Family Healing Center. He said that number can vary, but all in all, the center is always busy because it serves all of Fresno County and has partnerships with about 16 law enforcement agencies.
From the Reedley Police Department, and other departments in the county, the Family Healing Center requests $1,000 to assist in covering the costs of essential services for victims. This year’s payment from the city of Reedley was approved by city council on March 14 in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Reedley Police Department and the Family Healing Center. The center gets its other funding through state and federal grants.
“That’s why they’re able to do this and it’s a partnership we could not live without,” Garza said.
If anyone is in need of services with the Family Healing Center or needs to report a case of sexual assault or domestic violence, Garza said they can contact their local law enforcement agency. From there, he said the department will start the investigation, evaluate the situation and make the determination of if they need to make arrangements with the Family Healing Center for the interview process.
In addition to helping law enforcement agencies with their interviewing process, the Family Healing Center also helps victims by ensuring they have access to adequate services. Whether it be talking to advocates, psychologists or providing aftercare, Garza said the center works to get people pointed in the right direction.
“It’s a service that’s necessary, but I would say that if there’s a way that we can eliminate sexual assault in general then, you know, I am sure that they’d be okay being out of business,” Garza said.