With the welcome of October comes the opportunity to honor National Pro Bono Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While October is the month we choose to bring awareness to these topics, I want to challenge us to think about domestic violence throughout the year and to think about ways we can volunteer with various organizations to bring about the cessation of family violence.
So what can we do about it? Sign up to volunteer with Legal Aid of North Carolina! Legal Aid lawyers across the state spend countless hours advocating for survivors of domestic violence as part of Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative. An academic study by two economists found that access to civil legal aid was one of the three major factors explaining the 21% decline in domestic violence during the ‘90s. The economists found that access to civil legal aid was more likely to decrease domestic violence than the availability of shelters, hotlines and counseling programs for victims. That’s incredible and you can be a part of that by volunteering to help in whichever capacity you can.
While a DVPO (domestic violence protective order) is definitely a good first step in providing protection for a domestic violence client, domestic violence clients many times need so much more than that to truly bring them and their families to safety. Some of their needs include help with custody, financial assistance (post-separation support, alimony, and/or equitable distribution), divorce, housing, and so much more. Although there are self-help packets in our court system for some of these needs (such as custody and divorce), there is not self-help guidance for many other actions (partly because of the complexity of some of the actions).
That’s where you come in! As attorneys, we have a unique skill set that’s invaluable to victims of domestic violence. Whether you can take on a little or a lot, there’s a place for you to help. By volunteering with Legal Aid, you have the ability to choose the depth of service you can provide. This can be anything from providing basic advice to taking on a pro bono case in its entirety. Nothing is too small. Any help is appreciated and makes a tangible difference in the lives of families suffering from domestic violence.
If this sounds like something you would be interested in, please take a look at Legal Aid’s volunteer page and see how you might be able to help: http://www.legalaidnc.org/give-help/volunteer. If this is not the time for you to add something to your already busy practice and lifestyle, that is respected and understood as well. In that case, just take the time to educate people on the issue of domestic violence when it comes up in conversation, or encourage your colleagues to volunteer with Legal Aid. Most importantly, reflect on the way you think about and address domestic violence, and start the change there. Happy October!
Larissa Mañón Mervin NCBA Family Law Section Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair
https://ncbarblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Blog-Header-1-1030x530.png00FamilyLawhttps://ncbarblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Blog-Header-1-1030x530.pngFamilyLaw2019-10-18 13:37:482019-10-18 13:47:57Using Our Skills to Make a Difference - Pro Bono Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month