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Family Advocacy Center celebrates 10 years

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque Family Advocacy Center this week marked its 10th year of service to survivors of domestic and interpersonal violence.

The center, which houses social services and police in one easy-access stop in a Downtown office building, is taking the anniversary to relaunch itself, hiring a coordinator to remind the community what the center has to offer.

“We are truly a beacon of light in a very dark world,” said Albuquerque Police Department Cmdr. Paul Szych at a ceremony marking the anniversary on Thursday.

“Prior to the Family Advocacy Center, they (survivors) would have a lot of stops to go to” across town, Szych said.

In October 2007, numerous agencies, including law enforcement and advocacy groups, partnered to rent the entire second floor of the Silver Square building on the corner of Seventh and Silver.

There, law enforcement personnel moved into one half of the building while advocacy groups, including the Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico, Albuquerque Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and New Mexico Legal Aid, moved into the other half.

Splitting the building means survivors do not have to engage with police to use the center, they can simply access the social services if they choose.

With financial help from the United Way of Central New Mexico, the one-stop shop opened and has served thousands of rape, domestic violence and abuse survivors since.

“It’s a unique model,” said Amy Whitfield, executive director of the Domestic Violence Resource Center, one of the groups that operate out of the center. “We see a dramatic reduction in stress and trauma.”

The reduction is noted in comparison to those survivors who must visit police stations or emergency rooms or areas where abusers and suspects are also present. Suspects or perpetrators are not allowed to be interviewed at the center.

Szych, who is leaving his post in charge of the center, said Thursday that the anniversary is a perfect time for it to “relaunch” and “reignite awareness” of the resources available.

To that end, the center has hired its first coordinator. Beverly McMillan takes that post starting Monday, and she plans to “get the word out” about the partnerships at the center that have evolved over the 10 years into a truly helpful resource.

The center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but staff can be reached 24 hours a day at 243-3333.

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