Strength United, formerly known as the Valley Trauma Center, is a CSUN community agency dedicated to assisting victims of abuse. The desire to improve the community, spread awareness, provide focused aid and empower families is center to the mission of Strength United.
These attributes are part of what guided their recent name change.
“We wanted a name that reflected both the strength of the people we serve and how we unite their strength, and it tells how the community [is] coming together,” said Ann Conkle, the outreach and engagement officer at Strength United.
Established as part of CSUN’s Michael D. Eisner College of Education 25 years ago, the organization started off as a rape crisis center but now provides a wide range of services and support to victims of abuse in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valley. Services that are offered include domestic violence and advocacy counseling which includes support groups, crisis intervention, safety plans and group programs such as parenting courses and group family support services.
On the Family Justice Center
Recently, they finished construction on the Family Justice Center, which provides comprehensive care to victims through the onsite aid of Strength United staff, volunteers, the LAPD, forensic nurses and counselors.
“Nurses will take that all the information they gather from DNA testing and put it in a closet where Detectives and anyone else who needs it can access it,” said Hollie Roberts, staff member at Strength United. “The same goes for video in the interview rooms. This way we can do things once and share all the information.”
Delsy Sandoval, a CSUN graduate and staff member at Strength United, provides counseling and works directly with victims and their families.
“Its incredible, just on a personal level, how much you allow yourself to feel,” Sandoval said. “That intense empathy, the connection you feel for others [here] is incredible.”
Strength United has built a center that will bring all the agencies that a victim of abuse would normally have to visit and brought them all under one roof. This way a victim can come to a single place to receive help and not have to go through the difficult experience of having to tell an intensely private story to nurses, precincts and legal counselors multiple times.
“The LAPD’s expertise is law enforcement and investigative work and that’s where they shine and should be able to focus on. Their expertise is not in social services,” said Conkle.
“By working together, we can provide services for the client that each agency is specialized in.”
On the Volunteers and Staff
The pillar that holds up Strength United are the volunteers and staff. Given the sensitive nature of what victims discuss, the volunteers and staff have to be especially empathetic.
While they have many opportunities to volunteer and get involved, there is no doubt that you must be dedicated to the cause of ending abuse to work here.
“They are people who are concerned about the issue and really do want to make a difference and are committed to making a difference,” Conkle said. “They are the people who have the capacity to provide crisis and prevention services in a helpful manner.”
The new family justice center will open in the next two weeks. With the help of companies such as In-N-Out and 7-Eleven, they have created a children’s center and purchased equipment needed by the onsite agencies.
To promote their cause of ending abuse Strength United will host a Walk a Mile in Their Shoes, a march against sexual and domestic violence on the Nordhoff Hall Lawn on Oct. 25.
“We recognize that we can’t solve this problem alone,” said Conkle. “So, to keep children and adults safe it takes more than one person from one agency.”