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Tempe Family Advocacy Center opening delayed until summer

Members of Tempe's Family Justice Commission have not been able to secure a location to house services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and related crimes

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Tempe's Family Advocacy Center won't open for at least another three months after plans fell through at the original site.

The City of Tempe has delayed the opening of its Family Advocacy Center until at least June 30 after it planned to open the center at the beginning of the year. It will stand as a centralized location for residents who are the victims of sexual assault and domestic violence to receive support. 

The facility, which could cost an estimated $1.8 million over the next five years, was previously expected to be open by January 2022. The initial location that was never announced was ruled out of consideration due to disagreements between the owner and the city about modifications to the space, said Kristen Scharlau, manager of Tempe's CARE 7 program that handles the city's crisis response. 

According to its website, once the center opens, the CARE 7 team will provide five on-site victim advocates and a mobile crisis unit that will be ready to respond to calls for services and counseling. 

Jill Oliver, clinical assistant professor at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and member of Tempe's Family Justice Commission, said finding a location has been a complex process because there are specific needs for the space. Scharlau said the space needs to have a safe space for its visitors to participate in recreation, education and counseling.

Oliver said proximity to ASU's campuses has been a priority for the commission. The new location has yet to be announced, but "from campus, you could ostensibly walk there," Scharlau said. 

"Ultimately, I think the fact that the center may be off campus by a smidge isn't gonna be as big a deal as everybody thinks it is," Scharlau said. "I think we're sensitive to the needs of the student population."

Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault, a support and advocacy group for sexual assault victims not affiliated with the University, has been advocating for a dedicated Campus Assault Advocacy, Resources and Education Center on campus. A CAARE Center would provide some of the same services as the Family Advocacy Center but would prioritize ASU students, faculty and staff with an office on all four campuses. 

SDASA hosted a protest on the Tempe campus on Feb. 17 to call out ASU for not providing sufficient services to sexual assault victims. 

READ MORE: Student groups protest for better sexual assault services from ASU  

"On-campus victim advocates to support students and staff through sexual misconduct investigations are crucial to ensuring survivors find justice and healing," SDASA said in an email.

In the meantime, students and Tempe residents must continue to depend on the resources of the surrounding communities."If you're a victim of sex(ual) assault, you have to go to Mesa, or Scottsdale or Phoenix," Scharlau said. 

The partnership between the University, CARE 7 and other city resources allows the community to have access to a wide range of specialized dedicated services, Scharlau said. 

"Having that partnership is just a really wonderful thing, both for ASU and for Tempe," said Mary O'Grady, member of the FJC. "ASU students are an important part of our community.”

The ASU Police Department has committed a full-time detective from the special victims unit and could add a second if needed, ASU Assistant Chief of Police Stuart Bedics said in an email. 

 "You're getting that sort of trauma-informed care in a safe, comfortable place from the outset," O'Grady said. 

Scharlau is eager to share more details once the city is able to secure and announce the location for the center. 

"We've been working really closely with ASU, and I think we're going to do right by everybody," Scharlau said. "I really, really hope so."

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James Doyle Brown Jr.Opinion Columnist

James Doyle Brown, Jr. is an opinion columnist at The State Press. He is also in his final semester as a graduate student studying investigative journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He has previously reported for the State Press politics desk, The Howard Center of Investigative Journalism and Carnegie-Knight News21.

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