BUFFALO, N.Y. — During the pandemic, the number of domestic violence cases skyrocketed in Western New York. The Family Justice Center is one place victims can turn for help, and just this month they opened a new satellite office in Grand Island. The woman at the helm of the FJC is Mary Travers Murphy, and 2 On Your Side is celebrating her as one of the "Selfless Among Us."
When Angela Moss died at the hands of her fiancé and Aasiya Hassan was murdered by her husband only months apart in 2009, Mary Travers Murphy said it shook her to her core.
"They touched me deeply and they haunt me everyday of my life and it really opened my eyes to think, 'ok what are we going to do about this,'" said Murphy.
What she did was when her term ended as Orchard Park Town Supervisor she became CEO of the Family Justice Center.
With the new satellite office opening at the beginning of this month at 1801 Grand Island Blvd., as well as offices in downtown Buffalo, Orchard Park, and Amherst, domestic violence victims and their families have a place to go for help where everything is confidential and everything is free.
"Virtually anything they need from filing charges, to trauma informed counseling, to a safety plan, to an order of protection, to an attorney, we got it and it's right there at their fingertips," said Murphy.
Murphy and her small staff saw 4,000 new clients and 4,000 return clients last year - a caseload that doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. Ava is the FJC operations manager and a survivor herself.
It's a miracle she survived that attack by her boyfriend almost 10 years ago. Since then she's worked tirelessly to help other just like like her.
"One morning in a public space in front of a lot of people, he beat, strangled and stabbed me," said Ava. "I was a shell of a person afterwards and it was such a long road to healing. And that was really important to me to let other survivors know you can heal, you can grow, you can be ok."
Ava says Murphy's selfless leadership at the Family Justice Center saves lives.
"She's very passionate about this issue. She's passionate about our agency, about all of our staff and most importantly our survivors," said Ava.
But Murphy says protecting domestic violence survivors at the Family Justice Center is a team effort.
"I just run the place. It's the people who do the work day in and day out, the angels (donors) and the selfless volunteers who make this operation tick beautifully," said Murphy.
And she says to her, this is not work. It's her calling to get this message out to domestic violence victims:
"They've been gaslighted and brainwashed into thinking they caused it, they deserved it, they're responsible for it. Our message is clear. You didn't cause it. You're not responsible for it. And you sure as heck don't deserve it. There is hope."
Murphy implores anyone in a domestic violence situation or knows someone who might be, to just make one simple phone call for guidance and help, because help can bring hope.
To find out more about the Family Justice Center, click here, or call (716) 558-SAFE (7233).
To nominate someone to be featured in the "Selfless Among Us" series, email Melissa.Holmes@wgrz.com
To see others featured in the "Selfless Among Us" series, click the links below.