In my advocacy on the issues of violence against women and children, I find that I am never without an abundance of stories shared with me. You would be surprised of how many stories that flash in my head from those I have witnessed and/or talked to directly (or via the phone or chat or through some other means) and I hold them within me due to confidentiality terms. However, today, I was being sought after to seek help with the courtroom process. I have been a paralegal in the past, but I am in no position to advocate someone through the legal process because (1) I am not an attorney and I never purport to be an attorney and (2) it has been about 9 years since I have worked in a law office; court procedures change bit by bit during the years through statute changes and preference of County preferences. She came back to me today and said directly to me, “There is one thing that you can do…
“There’s one thing you can do, even though it’s too late to help me, but it could make a world of difference for others. Through your advocacy work, all the calls and conferences you participate in, your radio show, and your delegation to the UN, you can be a voice and perhaps recruit others to be a voice for many in speaking about the lack of legal service and the desperate need for them.
I’m FAR from the only person going through this. There are dozens of women in this country, and most especially in FL, who are not getting legal help AT ALL!!! I know a woman living in one room of her house with her disabled son, her husband is a wealthy doctor, and she hasn’t seen one penny from him. Yes, there is *some* help in many areas of the country with getting orders of protection. But beyond that, there is exceptionally little legal help with divorce/custody, etc. And there are women who are suffering immensely, as a result. Conversely, there are dozens of lawyers that I have personally spoken to (either online or over the phone) who are completely unaware that DV organizations are NOT providing legal assistance to these victims in their divorce/custody/immigration, etc. matters. In fact, many of them simply didn’t believe me when I told them that. They really thought I couldn’t possibly have tried hard enough or asked enough places (which is very far from the truth). These lawyers donate to the domestic violence organizations every year, and they donate significant sums of money. (I know this to be true because I’ve seen some checks at my job.) But they are completely unaware that their help is needed. It shocks them. Here in this area, the lawyers I’ve spoken with (who can’t help me because they don’t know FL law), think this must ONLY be happening in FL. Lawyers in other parts of FL whom I’ve spoken with simply can’t believe it. They are approached several times a year by domestic violence organizations for donations NOT for pro bono legal work. Granted, lawyers in FL are not required to do pro bono work. But some of them might, if they were told about the cause. In many other parts of the country, lawyers are REQUIRED to do pro bono work. Many of them, especially women, feel strongly about domestic violence. They just aren’t aware there’s a need. Obviously, domestic violence agencies are not communicating with lawyers. The agency where I receive counseling in DC doesn’t do any legal advocacy. There is NO agency in DC that does anymore since WEAVE closed down when it lost its funding. Lawyers in DC are REQUIRED to do pro bono work. The last agency I received counseling at in MD only offered someone to go to court with you. That woman, nice as she was, knew nothing and barely spoke English (great for a Spanish speaker, not so much for someone who doesn’t speak Spanish). There is only ONE agency in MD which offers a hotline and occasionally takes on cases. They’re in Baltimore, which is a bit of a hike from the area surrounding DC. MD lawyers are REQUIRED to do pro bono work. The DV agencies I dealt with in FL can’t suggest anything other than Legal Aid. Legal Aid won’t help women unless there are minor children in that part of FL, and barely helps anyone else only taking very very few cases. They’re the only game in town that *will* help. FL lawyers are NOT REQUIRED to do pro bono work. But some of the big firms expect their associates to do it. There’s a HUGE lack of a DV community voice communicating with law firms and individual lawyers. DV agencies, apparently, want the money more than they want to provide a service their clients really really need. Here’s where you, especially someone like you who has a background working for lawyers, could make a huge difference. You know how to speak to lawyers. You know how they think. You’re an established advocate with a long history of solid advocacy behind you. You could start getting the word out to law firms that help is needed. And maybe if you took on such a task, perhaps another story like mine or the lady I mentioned above could be prevented from ever happening again.
I would be both honored and blessed to carry your story with me, along with the other story you mentioned. That is a part of what I want to do … be the voice… in my role of a delegate at the United Nation’s Commission on Status of Women and Children, through my radio show, and other DV advocacy work that I do among many different scenarios. There are so many needs yet unmet in many realms of domestic violence advocacy — especially with all the funding cuts that we have all experienced in many areas of the domestic violence and sexual assault advocacies. It is my hopes and prayers that we find a way to address this issue for once and for all as we keep trying to do what we can within our own limitations. I invite my fellow advocates to also take hold of this story and push it through the channels and barriers that we so that we can eventually be heard loud and clear. I also invite you and others to share stories on my blog United Nations Delegate (http://unitednationsdelegate.com) so that I can have collective stories to share. I want and desire change — part of the reason that this upcoming role is so very important to me.
I must not have explained myself well. What I think you should do is begin to (and recruit others to) get out the need for pro bono legal services for domestic violence victims DIRECTLY to law firms. All the conferences you attend in the world won’t get the word out to lawyers that are willing to help UNLESS someone starts talking directly to law firms and letting them know. But no one is doing that!
Advocates have got to stop sitting around talking to other advocates about what is lacking, and raising funds. They’ve got to actually get out and ask for help for victims. Otherwise, nothing will change.
The domestic violence movement has been going on for decades on end — even before the first enactment of VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) was enacted more than about 18 years ago. It is no way, in any shape or form, done yet. We might have come a long, long ways, but there is much yet to be done – definitely and clearly. Sometimes, I just wonder “Why can’t we seem to get moving ahead ever?”, but that passes by the urgency of so many like you who need the voice to help bring about change. I, personally, may not even see that change take fully place in my lifetime, but I can sure try to put the efforts out there. (((HUGS)))
All I see and hear advocates doing is sit around and talk to one another about what’s lacking. There are some few wonderful advocates who actually get into the trenches and help women who need help, but they get burned out within a few years, for the most part. In my 20 months dealing with this, I’ve known of two women who got burned out. They were actually helping. But the vast majority of advocates sit in on conference calls, go to conferences and conventions, participate in fund raising for the NNEDV, etc. But they don’t actually *do* anything to help victims. They think what they’re doing is helping, I assume. I’m sure their intentions are good. But they’re not getting ahead. The big agencies only get involved when they can get in the media. Then, they speak up. They’ve become like politicians. That’s the big problem.
And with all due respect, I think you are getting stuck in the same rut. I made a valid suggestion above about what you *could* do. It won’t benefit me, so it’s not selfishly made. But it could benefit so many others. Your answer is to just talk about it on your radio show and at the UN (instead of recruiting others to join you). More talk. You think lawyers will be tuning in to your radio show or attending the UN? You think they’ll read articles about what’s said at the UN? No, they won’t. They’ll never hear about it unless someone starts telling them. And it takes someone with a history of advocacy. This is a project I dearly wanted to tackle myself. But I don’t have a history of advocacy behind me. I didn’t work for a big agency. So, lawyers won’t believe me.
Well… I am hoping to be more than words on paper. I do hope to be a voice. I have followed some dv rhetoric when I was employed by the domestic violence programs. No one pays me any more; I do so because i have a passion and a determination to make a change outside of their boxes. I so wish I could be getting paid; however, that isn’t in the cards right now. Taking me away from the job will never take me away from the passion to do all that I CAN do. I do have my own limitations even with my rebellious nature in the advocacies that I do. I don’t have any funds to help pay for transportation from point A to B, but I did more than most of the advocates do. I have some barriers, too, besides the money issue; which is why you see me doing all that I do do…. and the United Nations delegate role gives me more of an opportunity for my voice to be heard. I will get heard… I have that determination within me… and I have been given the perfect platform to be able to do so. Beyond that, my roles will be education of domestic violence in a variety of settings and supported by the Presbyterian’s Against Domestic Violence Network and others. My goal is to be able to reach out to others in the court system to educate more and more. I’m in a position, without money, and setting my ducks lined up in a row, working the best laid strategies, etc., and educating myself more on the processes of the systems in order I know the best ways to reach as many people as possible. It’s endless process, and I’m not going in there without knowing who, what, where, when and how; just as any strategist will tell you must be done. I have taken the past few months time to regroup and revisit strategies. Just diving in something aimlessly (I have learned) won’t help you to get to Point B any faster. I’ll have an agenda at the United Nations, but I have some additional tasks that I want to do while there. As Erika Gilchrist talks about the “Unstoppable Woman”, I am one of those type of women and look forward to role even more so, as a result. Send me what you have done so far and I’ll pick up and run with it from there.
REMINDER FOR INVITATION
to all advocates of domestic violence and sexual assault
and on all global issues involving violence against women and children,
as well to all victims and survivors thereof,
I invite my fellow advocates to also take hold of this story and push it through the channels and barriers that we so that we can eventually be heard loud and clear. I also invite you and others to share stories on my blog United Nations Delegate (http://unitednationsdelegate.com) so that I can have collective stories to share. I want and desire change — part of the reason that this upcoming role is so very important to me.
Please let me be a voice of many…
Please share your stories with me so that I can take them with me.
- Lawyers to receive awards for free legal services (sfgate.com)
- Pro bono: do we need to rethink the formula post legal aid? | Jon Robins (guardian.co.uk)
- Greenberg Traurig Celebrates National Pro Bono Week (prweb.com)
- Law firms’ proudest pro bono moments of 2012 | Siobhain Butterworth (guardian.co.uk)
- During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Use Georgia Online Resources to Help Stop the Cycle of Violence (lawscape.wordpress.com)
- Windsor Faculty of Law… er… Social (In)Justice (ifiwantedyouropinion.com)
- Open Announcement Re Nnedv (unitednationsdelegate.com)
- At D.C. Pro Bono Celebration, New York Judge Defends Bar Admission Rule (legaltimes.typepad.com)
- March deplores violence against women (bigpondnews.com)
- Battered and bruised (fijitimes.com)