Crime & Justice

Long Beach trauma center aimed at victims of violent crime who don't usually seek help

From Left: Bita Ghafoori, Cameron Shibata, Kim Reddy, and Stanley Wong stand in the lobby of their new workplace, the Long Beach Trauma Recovery Center.
From Left: Bita Ghafoori, Cameron Shibata, Kim Reddy, and Stanley Wong stand in the lobby of their new workplace, the Long Beach Trauma Recovery Center.
Rina Palta/KPCC

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A new trauma recovery center in Long Beach opened in April with the goal of providing counseling services to crime victims who don't usually seek help.

"We're willing to come to the victim," said Bita Ghafoori, a professor at Cal State-Long Beach and head of the new Long Beach Trauma Recovery Center.

That willingness may help the center overcome a major hurdle in getting services to crime victims who don't make it through the paperwork involved in accessing government run programs. A recent study showed those who don't receive help are more likely to be victimized again or engage in criminal activity themselves. 

That report by the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute at UC-Berkeley found victims often don't access the services they're entitled to either because there are no providers located in their community or because they're required to cooperate with law enforcement in order to access funds.

The California Victims Compensation Program is trying a new approach to get services to victims. It issued a grant to UC-San Francisco to start a trauma center for victims in 2001. The program had great success: In a nine-year period, the percentage of sexual assault victims receiving services jumped from 6 percent to 71 percent, according to the testimony of the center director's before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2010.

Late last year, with the help of State Senator Mark Leno, the program authorized another two grants – worth $1.1 million – to open trauma recovery centers in the L.A. area.

Ghafoori said she chose the Long Beach location, at St. Mary's Medical Center, because the neighborhood is home to a lot of crime and crime victims.

"Unfortunately, Long Beach has really high crime and violence rates," Ghafoori said, particularly domestic violence and rape. "We're here to serve the victims who have to deal with these terrible situations."

Unlike victim funds distributed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, the trauma recovery center does not require a police report or cooperation with law enforcement as a precursor for receiving counseling. Though they do encourage victims to go to the police, Ghafoori said.

Otherwise, the criteria to qualify for help is similar: the crime must have occurred in the past three years and the victim must not have a felony record.

As of Thursday, the center had received four visitors. The team is currently in outreach mode, determined to let the community know where they are and that their doors are open.