The Betty Griffin Center Offers Protection and Services for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence

By Lucia Viti

St. Augustine — Based in St. Augustine, the Betty Griffin Center offers protection and services for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors for St. Johns County residents.

In addition to a 24-hour, victim advocate Help Line, the Center acts as an immediate, confidential shelter space for victims and their children.

Longer-term services include transitional housing and community education programs for adults and children. Licensed therapists run strength-based support groups to empower the traumatized and discuss coping strategies.

Age-appropriate prevention training also includes the Peace Club, an initiative that teaches children between the ages three and 17 how to identify abuse and safely break the silence of at-home violence. The Peace Club also teaches students ways to peacefully resolve conflicts.

The Center offers confidential counseling, advocacy and forensic medical exams for sexual assault victims. Court advocacy volunteers assist with applications for protection injunctions and court appearances. Legal assistance is made on a case-by-case basis.

Also of note is the Center’s Green Dot Program. Established in 2017 in conjunction with Flagler College, the program is designed to prevent sexual, domestic, and dating violence, stalking and bullying. Participants are trained to safely intercede on the behalf of others when someone uses inappropriate - and potentially hurtful - words and/or behaviors.

The Center operates two thrift stores, one at Julington Square and one at Anastasia Square to assist in funding the agency’s ongoing operations.

Established in 1990 by Mary Alice Colson, Betty Griffin’s granddaughter, the property opened as a shelter in 1994. The namesake was Colson’s reminder that the property was purchased by funds used by the sale of her grandmother’s former home.

At the time of her grandmother’s death, Colson had been working with the Sheriff’s Office as a victim advocate. She quickly discovered that domestic abuse and sexual assault victims lacked a safe place to seek help. Working with community leaders, Colson, determined to shatter the cycles of abuse, established a shelter that offered assistance, counseling, and transitional support. Today, the Betty Griffin Center shelters more than 420 victims of domestic and sexual abuse every year.

“We’re here to help you get what you need to start over,” said Kelly Franklin, the Center’s newly-appointed CEO. “Pick up the phone and call the Help Line. There’s an advocate that wants to help you with resources for a safety plan to get you in a safe situation.”

Franklin, appointed CEO on October 1, has served the agency since 2002. Touting a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Florida State University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from the University of North Florida, Franklin remains determined to afford victims and their children a path to peace.

According to Franklin, the Center’s services and creative programs engage the community in preventing abuse while staging victims to get “back on track.”

“As a recent survivor of breast cancer, I know the difference support makes in a person’s healing journey,” she said. “I want to thank the St. Johns County community for their support. They have made it possible for the adults and children we serve to move past their shame and fear of being judged.”

Franklin added that the onset of COVID-19 tipped the scales in the wrong direction for local victims.

“Our need for outreach services, counseling and legal services skyrocketed,” she said.

Franklin aligned the Center with the appropriate protocols by placing those in need in local hotels. She also noted surprising stats for locals, tallying September’s 54 domestic violence calls with 76 adults and children staying in emergency shelter services. One-hundred and fifty-three adults and children used the Center’s outreach advocacy, legal and therapy services.

“The majority of women calling are between 30 and 40 years old,” she said. “Many leave with their children and nothing more than the clothes on their back.”

Franklin urges those who need help to reach out for help.

“Leaving things behind should not be a reason to not leave because we will help you get what you need to start over,” she concluded. “The Betty Griffin Center is a safe place where survivors of intimate partner abuse and sexual abuse are believed and supported. As our County continues to grow, we will have greater needs to meet. I humbly ask everyone to support our services and invest in our mission.”

Betty Griffin Center

2450 Old Moultrie Road, Ste. 202

St. Augustine, FL 32086

24-Hour Help Line (904) 824-1555

For more information, visit www.bettygriffincenter.org .



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