The Yavapai Family Advocacy Center provides safety and support for victims of abuse, so they can begin to heal
By Hilary Dartt
The Yavapai Family Advocacy Center (YFAC)—a program of Prevent Child Abuse Arizona—is a place where people come to get help, to begin healing, and, ultimately, to change the trajectory of their lives.
Its mission: to reduce trauma to victims of abuse by providing a safe and supportive environment and facilitating a team approach to advocacy, investigation, and prosecution.
For YFAC Director Missy Sikora, “It’s a good feeling to be part of the process of helping people heal.”
In 2018, more than 850 victims from throughout the county—children and adults—came through the doors of YFAC, which opened in 2000. And as the county’s population increases, Missy said, the number of people seeking services does, too.
“People don’t realize how often domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse happen,” Missy said, and that it often goes on for quite some time before a victim reports it or leaves the situation for good.
That’s why, she said, an important element of what the team at YFAC does is to empower people to break the cycle of abuse.
The team comprises forensic interviewers; nurses specially trained to complete sexual assault and strangulation exams, collect evidence, and testify in court; and trauma-informed therapists who specialize in helping people process trauma. Victim Advocates also assist with protective orders, safety planning and community referrals. The center also offers support groups for victims of domestic violence.
YFAC staff can connect people with the resources they need to address immediate needs like food and shelter, and emotional needs, too.
While about 75% of the people who seek services are referred by law enforcement, a significant number come in on their own, Missy said, and the YFAC welcomes them, no matter when or where they experienced abuse, or whether they previously reported it.
Some people come in and explain that although the abuse or trauma they experienced happened a long time ago, it still affects them, Missy said, in terms of how they related with people, their ability to be social, and even their sleep.
“We will gladly get them connected to the center, and provide them services,” Missy said.
Because abuse can affect everyone in a victim’s life, YFAC also provides services to family members of victims who need help coping.
“A victim of domestic violence will leave [and return to an abuser] as many as seven times before they stay away from their abuser for good,” Missy said.
This is because the emotional and psychological abuse that often occur at the same time as physical abuse have a huge impact on how a victim perceives his or her own ability to leave.
Missy recommends that people who believe their loved ones are victims of abuse “be available, and not judgmental. Be a listening support. Do your research, know which resources are available so that at the right moment, you can let your loved one know, and say, ‘I’ll go with you.’”
Also, be careful not to blame someone if he or she says they were abused.
“Don’t say, ‘What were you wearing?’ or, ‘How drunk were you,’ or, ‘Why were you there?’” Missy said. “Read up on how to support a loved one who is a victim of a crime.”
Missy, who taught school in Phoenix before working for the Department of Children’s Safety for 13 years, took the helm of YFAC in May 2016. She’s also involved with several local taskforces, boards, and nonprofit organizations, all with one goal in mind: helping families.
Through her work at YFAC, she’s doing just that.
“This is a place where people can feel safe,” she said, “where they can change the trajectory of what’s been going on in their lives.”
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and in honor of that, YFAC is offering the third-annual “No More” Sexual Assault Awareness event from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 3 at Yavapai College. Every August, YFAC hosts a gala fundraiser, Hope Still Floats.
YFAC is always seeking help from volunteers in a variety of roles: helping plan and run the Hope Still Floats gala fundraiser, providing childcare during support groups, helping prepare training materials, running the office, taking care of the property (yard work), and more.
For more information about services or volunteer opportunities, visit www.yfac.org or call 928.775.0669.