Eleventh hour push to keep the Family Justice Center open in Hillsborough County

Survivor: It's the difference between life & death

TAMPA - A Hillsborough County family safe haven is closing.  

The Family Justice Center on North Florida Avenue in Tampa has been a staple in the Hillsborough County Community since 2006.

Late Tuesday night, the news was made public that the center no longer has the funding to service the community.  It's news domestic violence survivor Patricia Parra-Perez says is horrible, because she knows the center could have been the difference between life and death in her life.

"If I would have had the Family Justice Center and I would have had the courage to walk through those doors, if I would have done that, perhaps I would have my kids here today," said Parra-Perez.

The Family Justice Center wasn't open in 2004 when she got the courage to divorce her husband after years of abuse.  It was in December of the same year that her ex-husband showed up at  her new home and shot her in the head.  He left her for dead and chased after their two children, fatally shot them and then turned the gun on himself.

A story that is all too real for women and men who call the Family Justice Center their safe place away from abusive homes.

"If I think of all the families the Family Justice Center has helped, double or triple that, and those are the families that will not be helped," said Parra-Perez.

To date, the Family Justice Center has helped more than 11,000 people since it opened.  Providing a safe environment, complete with bullet proof walls and glass.

But according to Executive Director Nikki Daniels, special project funding cuts have left the center $170,000 short of paying the bills.

"Without the Family Justice Center here, they are going to have to walk through multiple doors and tell their story over and over again to get what they need," said Daniels.  "Often times what we hear is that they give up."

Parra-Perez agrees, saying it's the victim's shame, hurt and fear keeping them handcuffed to their situation.

Her tragic story has a happy ending, as she has remarried and now has two children.  But she tells ABC Action News, in her soft spoken voice, what keeps her up at night is that without the center, thousands of people will have to endure nightmares just like hers.

"You don't born children to have them murdered by domestic violence.  You just don't.  It just may have saved my kid's life," said Parra-Perez.

The FJC is scheduled to close on Wednesday, July 31.

If you or someone you know would like to donate to the Family Justice Center to help them stay open, please visit their website for contact numbers and more information at www.fjchc.org  

ABC Action News is committed to Taking Action Against Domestic Violence.  If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help available.  Visit www.abcactionnews.com/dv for multiple services and organizations that can help. 

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