by Tom Sims
Everything is pretty low-key at Family Healing Center.
That is by design. Even the name is designed to protect the dignity and privacy of a specialized group of clients. People come to Family Healing center because more than their bodies need healing–they have been hurt at much deeper levels. In most cases, they have been wounded by someone they loved or trusted; they have been violated and they have been betrayed.
Walking into Family Healing Center is not a casual process and the experience is not left to chance. From the time a potential client enters the parking lot, everything is about welcome, respect, comfort, healing, and restoration. The plan is to make people who have been impacted by sexual violence feel comfortable, safe and at-home. In other words, great care is directed toward offering Christian hospitality and tailored to communicate the love of God to people who may feel abandoned by Him.
The Healing Center serves victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and family violence. The term “victim” is used with great caution, care and reluctance, because the goal is for those whose lives have been affected by such violence not to see themselves as victims, but as survivors. The Family Healing Center seeks to equip those survivors with the tools necessary to become victors who go on to lead healthy, productive and happy lives.
Statistics indicate that most perpetrators of such violence were once abused themselves. The Healing Center helps to break that cycle because there is a circular pattern that does not have to continue. A team approach is used to try and bring the experiences of medical examinations, gathering of evidence, counseling, preparation for court appearances, and all the necessary steps to walking through a process of justice and healing under one roof with as few people asking and repeating questions as possible.
It is, again, about dignity and respect with a large portion of compassion.
One can sense this as a visitor. The reception area is warm and well furnished with lots of magazines, positive pictures, good lighting, and warm greetings. New guests are given comprehensive tours of the facilities and their questions are welcomed and answered as thoroughly as possible. The focus of the attention is upon the person and family in need of healing. There are legal requirements, as in any crime, but those requirements are dealt with in such a way as not to “victimize the victim.”
This is in contrast to the way things may have been in the past, where examinations all took place in hospitals. Background information was taken by multiple investigators, lawyers, bureaucrats and therapists. Doctors and clerks alike joined the parade asking the same questions over and over in dank surroundings. Well-meaning souls subjected frightened, traumatized clients to more anguish in an effort to move the process along. The “victim” was lost in the process, made irrelevant in court and forgotten after the disposition of “the case.”
Steve Wright and Margie Jessen, informed by their professional experience and motivated by their Christian faith, decided to gather some like-minded professionals, community leaders and others to change all of that. Margie, from the world of nursing and forensics and Steve from law enforcement, began to envision a different sort of process that addressed the needs of “the system,” but more so, of the person.
Steve Wright is the Board Chairman for the Family Healing Center. He has worked in law enforcement for 26 years and is the Retired Chief of Police for the City of Reedley, and is a strong Victim Advocate and works towards building and restoring relationships. He has a Masters Degree from Boston University and is also an adjunct Professor at Fresno Pacific University in the Criminology and Restorative Justice Degree Completion.
Margie Jessen, Chief Executive Officer/Founder for the Family Healing Center, has been in nursing for 14 years, specializing in forensics as a Family Nurse Practitioner. Starting out as a Trauma nurse at UMC she found her true calling from God to service victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in 1999 and now is the owner of Forensic Nurse Specialists of Central CA, Inc. FNSCC, Inc., covers the entire Central Valley where Margie and her team of forensic nurses provide forensic evidence examinations to local law enforcement in a comforting and compassionate manner. Margie’s passion for serving God and her community extends beyond FNSCC, Inc., Margie is the owner of The Wellness Center for Women and Children a one of a kind medical practice where health and spirituality are combined to provide a holistic approach to healthcare.
They dreamed a new dream and the Family Healing Center was born. Much prayer and a sense of God’s direction led to the doors being opened and continue to motivate the staff daily. It is a Christ-centered ministry and message: “God did not do this to you; sin did. God loves you.”
Margie and Steve are volunteers, as are many of the care givers at the center. They provide space, parameters, support and structure for law enforcement, medical personnel, legal operatives and counseling professionals who work in the public, private and community benefit sectors to serve those who are truly the key people in the process: the “victims.”
Restoration is the goal.
Their mission is clearly stated on their website:
“The mission of the Family Healing Center is that all women and children who are victims of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse and those who have witnessed abuse will be treated sensitively by police, prosecution, and protection agencies by working harmoniously together with the professionals at the center. The center will feature a comprehensive team response to allegations of abuse including forensic interviews and medical examinations with photography, victim advocacy, case management and review, therapeutic intervention, and other follow-up services that may be needed.”
As part of their vision, they integrate best practices from the extensive scholarship in the field, seeking innovative and creative approaches, making themselves models to be studied and doing it all in the context of faith-based, non-profit commitments. A local board oversees the operations and is accountable to the public. The Center is funded by donations.
Their website also states: “The center strives to promote a sense of safety, trauma reduction, and consistency to abuse survivors and non-offending family members.”
That means follow-up after the cases have been through court, because legal adjudication is not the goal of the process or the primary means to healing. It is a part of the process, but not the whole process.
It does not take long to catch the enthusiasm, love or commitment that everyone associated with the center brings to the table. Nor does it take long to appreciate the deep intelligence and insight that they have into the depth of the issue and the possibility for making a positive impact. Margie, Steve and their staff are making a quiet difference in the community, bringing hope and dignity to people who have been plunged into some profound darkness and robbed of these precious qualities of life.
To keep the hope alive, the center needs to raise funds. For that reason, a Swinging with Purpose golf tournament is scheduled for September 26. To participate, see the paragraph and link at the end of this article.
Leaving the facility after my interview, I wanted to strike a balance between avoiding eye contact with the people in the lobby and taking mental pictures of their faces. In finding that balance, I was left with this abstract yet clear impression: smiles, relaxed acceptance and hope.
Check out these videos to learn more:
The Family Healing Center
7025 N Chestnut #102
Fresno, CA. 93720
Email: stevew@fhcfresno[dot]org or margiej@fhcfresno[dot]org
Swinging With Purpose Fundraising Event info:
Event Date(s): 9/26/2013 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Be a part of the first annual Swinging With Purpose golf tournament benefiting the Family Healing Center, a non-profit center that serves victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. FHC exists by the support of individuals, corporations and foundations who recognize the need to provide these critical services.
You can enable FHC to love every woman, child and family broken by the pain of sexual abuse and domestic violence in a welcoming, Christ centered environment.
Contact Jerilyn Zaveral at 559-392-3722 for any questions.