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PorchLight: How family justice centers help communities

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — PorchLight Family Justice Center has been working to give victims of abuse a safe, one-stop resource with the hope of curbing the fear of coming forward.

The lack of a centralized hub of resources leaves many victims of abuse choosing silence over safety.

"What I would see as a prosecutor is it was easier to go back to the offender,” PorchLight executive director Candace Cooledge said. And when a person goes back to the offender, they can't safely participate in the prosecution of the case.”

Cooledge, a former prosecutor, said PorchLight started with the goal of removing that problem by combining dozens of resources in one building. The ability to serve victims of many types of abuse — ranging from domestic violence to human trafficking — all in one place makes it easier for everyone to get the help they need, Cooledge explained.

Counselors and therapists are available to support adults of all ages, while youth specialists offer guidance for those most vulnerable. Specialized prosecutors provide legal services and the most notable resource — the video court room — has allowed victims to feel more comfortable attending hearings.

"There is one other family justice center in the state of Colorado. That's it.” Cooledge said. “Folks need us when they make a decision to get help.”

Cooledge said a community’s domestic violence homicide rate drops by 50%, on average, whenever a center like this opens and that it’s important for everyone to know that this resource exists.

PorchLight has over 20 partner agencies that are available Monday through Friday. It’s important to note that there does not need to be a criminal case in order for someone to receive help, and all services are free to the victim or survivor.

"People leave saying they felt so supported, comfortable and safe. That there's finally a place that they can come to and not feel ashamed of their situation.” says Cooledge.

For her and the entire organization, “there is something in that, it's perfect.”

For more information on PorchLight visit: 

William Peterson is the senior photojournalist at Rocky Mountain PBS and can be reached at

Colorado Voices

PorchLight: A Family Justice Center

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