Legal Aid helps light the pathway to peace

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

N.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence 919-956-9124 www.nccadv.org
N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault 919-871-1015 www.nccasa.org
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) www.thehotline.org
Legal Aid of North Carolina 1-866-219-LANC (5262)

RALEIGH — While recent high-profile incidents continue to fix the nation’s attention on the problem of domestic violence, Legal Aid of North Carolina is doing its part locally during Domestic Violence Awareness Month to shine a light on the critical ways Legal Aid can help victims escape from violence.

aidThroughout October, Legal Aid’s field offices around the state will display purple lights in their windows to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month and symbolize the ways that committed and compassionate Legal Aid attorneys can help light a pathway to peace for victims of violence. The effort is inspired by a campaign launched by the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“Everyone knows that uneasy feeling you get when walking down a dark path,” said TeAndra Miller, head of Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Practice Group. “Because you fear the unknown, you may walk very gingerly, start down the path and turn around or freeze in your tracks. Some victims have shared that they experience similar feelings when they are ready to seek assistance to end the violence. We want people to know that we are one of many lights – an important light – that can lead victims down the lit pathway to peace.”

Every year, Legal Aid’s domestic violence and sexual assault advocates, working in partnership with shelters and other service providers, help thousands of North Carolinians secure protective orders against their abusers, protect custody of their children, defend their housing and essential property rights, and address issues of employment, immigration, education and more.

“Legal Aid lawyers are the unsung warriors in the fight against domestic violence,” said Miller. “With no fanfare and often no recognition, Legal Aid advocates are on the front lines everyday representing victims and ensuring they have real, viable opportunities to escape their abusers with their safety, property and family intact.”

The role played by civil legal aid lawyers in the fight against domestic violence is not often in the spotlight, but a 2003 study by two economics professors found that the increase in the availability of civil legal aid in the 1990s, when federal funding for legal aid programs was at its peak, was one of the primary factors explaining the sharp decline in domestic violence incidents during that decade.

“Because legal services help women with practical matters such as protective orders, custody, and child support they appear to actually present women with real, long-term alternatives to their relationships,” wrote Amy Farmer and Jill Tiefenthaler in Explaining the Recent Decline in Domestic Violence, published in the April 2003 issue of Contemporary Economic Policy.

Throughout October, Legal Aid advocates will be hosting, co-hosting and attending outreach events across the state to help raise awareness of the problem and spread the word about the help that is available. The events include a candlelight vigil in Greenville, documentary screening and panel discussion in High Point, march and rally in Wilmington, training session for law students in Raleigh, and a community summit in Durham. The full list of events is attached.

Domestic violence victims who need help should contact their local domestic violence or sexual assault agency. Visit the websites of the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault for more information.

Domestic violence victims who need legal help should call our toll-free Helpline at 1-866-219- LANC (5262), fill out our online application or contact their local office.

Other civil legal aid organizations in the state that can help domestic violence victims include Legal Services of Southern Piedmont in Charlotte and Pisgah Legal Services in Asheville.

Legal Aid of North Carolina’s work would not be possible without the help of our supporters in the legal community and beyond. If you are an attorney who would like to provide pro bono service to Legal Aid clients, contact your local office for more information. Support our work by making a donation during Domestic Violence Awareness Month at www.legalaidnc.org/donate.

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at www.legalaidnc.org or find us on Facebook.

Filed in: Education, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety

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