Greene County nonprofit that serves domestic violence survivors plans to expand

The Family Violence Prevention Center is looking to add an outreach center and serve more Greene County residents.

The Greene County nonprofit runs a residential facility for victims of domestic violence, but hopes to expand services into a new facility on the same street. The nonprofit is still working on gathering a price for the cost of the expansion.

This new facility would be within walking distance of the current campus. The Family Violence Prevention Center hopes to start building in middle to late fall, said Debbie Matheson, executive director of the organization.

The land in question is vacant. The two parcels were approved to be rezoned for office space by Xenia City Council on May 27. The land is in a mostly residential area.

“This is an expensive time to build, with the pandemic and prices fluctuating, but it is the right time for survivors in our community to be prioritized,” Matheson said.

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Brian Forschner, Xenia’s city planner, said from a planning standpoint, changing the zoning makes sense. That lot had been vacant for a number of years before the nonprofit bought it.

“They’re providing an important service to the area,” Forschner said. “That is a mixed-use area and an office zoning fits the character of the neighborhood.”

Matheson said case management, advocacy and prevention services would be moved into this new facility.

Staff there will be “helping people with housing, income and connecting them with attorneys that will assist them with the things that they need to be working on because there are sometimes custody issues and divorces or other legalities that folks need to interface,” Matheson said.

The Family Violence Prevention Center became a certified rape crisis center for Greene County in 2019. Matheson said this new outreach center will help the organization make sure sexual assault survivors know there is support for them. There will be sexual assault counseling services and support groups in the new facility.

“This is going to be a place where they can find people that believe them,” Matheson said. “We are here and present for adult survivors of sexual violence.”

Some staff before the pandemic were doubled up on their offices, making scheduling confidential meetings with clients more difficult. This new center would alleviate that.

The Family Violence Prevention Center has been in operation since 1975. The organization became a nonprofit in 1980. The organization started in an apartment in Yellow Springs and grew to be housed in four different locations before moving to Bellbrook Avenue in 2001.

The Family Violence Prevention Center served about 8,100 people in 2019. Last year, the organization saw about 5,000, which Matheson said is an abnormally low number.

The Family Violence Prevention Center used to be in an undisclosed location, but Matheson said that gives a false sense of security to those staying at the shelter. Matheson said there are only three domestic violence shelters in Ohio that are in a disclosed location, the Family Violence and Prevention Center being one of them. A Xenia domestic violence detective is on the Family Violence Prevention Center’s campus throughout the week.

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There also is a social worker with the organization who works with every police division in the county.

The organization has a prevention specialist in the eight school districts in the county. The goal in the middle and high schools is to provide information to youth “with the idea that we can help educate about how to build relationships and what is healthy in a relationship,” Matheson said.

“We really have that opportunity to try to interrupt cycles of violence that they might be experiencing at home,” she said. “We are trying to give them a new path. And trying to interrupt the generational paths of domestic violence.”

The organization also has a sexual assault response coordinator who works with all five of the universities in Greene County. The sexual assault response coordinator works with college staff to provide support and education.

“We’re working with students and just really trying to provide a confidential advocate for students if they’re experiencing sexual violence on campus,” Matheson said.

Matheson said about half of the time domestic violence victims come into the shelter, they have previously experienced sexual violence in that relationship or another.

The Family Violence Prevention Center also offers counseling for anyone ages 3 and older. The center also has a 24-hour hotline at 937-426-2334 for anyone experiencing domestic violence or sexual violence to call. There is also a texting line at 937-347-5917.

Matheson said the organization also works with offenders to come at the issue “from all sides.”

The Family Violence Prevention Center’s shelter has 32 beds for both men and women. Matheson said the shelter is like a hotel, with a keypad to get into an individual room and a private bathroom in each room.

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