Tempe Family Advocacy Center plans for January opening

Funding for the facility, which will provide services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, was approved by Tempe City Council this month

A Family Advocacy Center, a facility that would provide services such as medical exams, rape kits and investigative interviews for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, could be established in Tempe as soon as next year.

After Tempe City Council approved funding for the center at its June 10 special budget meeting, a task force created by the Tempe Family Justice Commission can move forward with the implementation of the center, which could open in January 2022, according to Kristen Scharlau, a member of the Tempe FJC.

The center would house victim advocates, therapists, special victims unit detectives and medical personnel to assist victims of assault and violence with anything they may need during recovery. The services will be provided by Care 7, the Tempe Police Department, the ASU Police Department, medical personnel and potentially the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

"We're very victim-driven, victim-focused and victim-centered," said Scharlau, the manager of Care 7,  Tempe’s crisis response program that oversees victim services. 

The task force has now begun the process of looking for a building to house the center. Scharlau says the task force plans to have a building identified within 30 days to move forward with outfitting the facility to the center's needs.

According to a memorandum given to Tempe City Council, the FJC is looking for a 10,000 square foot building that will incur an estimated one-time cost of $487,150 and an estimated yearly cost of $276,500.

"We work together to determine what it is that we're looking for, what are the minimum requirements and what's on our dream list," Scharlau said. "We're working toward identifying a building that works for everyone and that we can afford, and that we could make some improvements to and have it suit our needs."

Scharlau emphasized the need for comprehensive victim services in Tempe, with the city seeing an average of 5,125 victims referred to Care 7 for services per year over the past five years. 

"I wish we didn't need one (a center), but if we do, we need to make sure that everybody gets their needs met," Scharlau said.

FJC chair Mary O’Grady said in a statement the commission has been supportive of establishing a center since 2017 and has been lobbying behind the scenes to make it happen. 

“Our commission is grateful to see so many partners around the table, including the City of Tempe Human Services Department, Police Department, and Arizona State University, collaborating to bring the very best practices and services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence,” O’Grady said in the statement. 

Jill Oliver, a member of the FJC and a clinical assistant professor at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, said the progression of the center has been exciting for the commission.

"Now that it's come to fruition, there's a bit of celebration," Oliver said. "Having a central location that first caters to client needs, and then brings all these various resources together, so that we don’t have people being sent here and there for resources is amazing."

The center's funding approval comes amid calls from ASU students and student groups for a rape crisis center to be established on campus. Jasmine Lester, an ASU alumna and founding director of Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault, the group proposing a rape crisis center, said a Tempe center does not satisfy the need for on-campus services.

"The Tempe Family Advocacy Center does not solve the problem of on-campus, confidential advocacy services not being available to ASU students," Lester said in a statement. "The Tempe FAC also would not improve ASU’s sexual and relationship violence prevention programs, which are in desperate need of additional staff trainers to support the student workers on whom the program relies."

ASU President Michael Crow denied the need for an on-campus rape crisis center in a February meeting with The State Press and said "we don't know that putting 'rape center' on the side of a building for people to walk in is necessarily the best way to provide that help and assistance to them."

Scharlau said the center is being designed to be accessible for everyone, ASU students included, to better the Tempe community as a whole. 

"It's been a long time since I was a student, but it hasn't been a long time since we've assisted a student," Scharlau said. "We help everybody, from the youngest of children who are victims that will break your heart to the most elderly in our community.

"We're going to try our hardest to do everything that victims tell us they need, whether they're an ASU student, an elderly woman, a mom, husband, whoever it is, we're going to do all the things that we can do."


Reach the reporter at rpriest2@asu.edu and follow @reaganspriest on Twitter.

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