Voices Against Violence: An Update on the ABA YLD Public Service Project
By Jason T. Vail
Jason T. Vail is an Associate Editor of The Affiliate and a Staff Attorney/Legal Editor at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law in Chicago, Illinois.
This year the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (ABA YLD) issued a call to action for young lawyers around the country to join forces to end domestic violence. The ABA YLD’s 2008–2009 Public Service Project, “Voices Against Violence,” was created to educate young lawyers about the epidemic of domestic violence, particularly among the teen population, and to engage young lawyers in efforts to respond to and prevent domestic violence in their communities. The project was launched formally at the ABA YLD Fall Conference in San Diego. Domestic violence survivor and advocate Sarah Buel spoke to conference attendees along with Casey Gwinn, former San Diego City Attorney and President of the Family Justice Alliance.
“Voices Against Violence” takes a multi-pronged approach to the problem of domestic violence:
  • “Voices Against Violence” Video on Teen Dating Violence for Young Lawyers— This video educates the young lawyers about the prevalence of teen dating violence, how it affects younger victims, and the importance of lawyer involvement. The video also explains how young lawyers can be involved in addressing this important national issue regardless of their area of practice or lack of prior experience or knowledge.
  • Young Lawyer Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Toolkit— Accompanying the video is a toolkit geared toward young lawyer members and state bar organizations. The toolkit provides an overview of the project, resources and information to help educate the young lawyer about domestic violence (particularly teen dating violence), and tools for implementing domestic violence prevention and awareness projects. The toolkit was mailed to all affiliate leaders to assist them in responding to domestic violence in their communities.
  • Voices Against Violence Website— Hosted on the ABA YLD’s homepage, this comprehensive resource provides information about the project, links to national and local resources, as well as the “Voices Against Violence” video and toolkit. Visit the website at www.abanet.org/yld/dv . <
  • Legislative Advocacy— The ABA YLD is working to raise awareness and engage young lawyers to support legislation preventing domestic violence and to assist victims and survivors.
  • National Directory of Domestic Violence Projects and Programming— The ABA YLD is gathering information from affiliates on the variety of existing domestic violence projects and programming from around the country, along with information on implementing those projects and programs. This information will be compiled into a directory that will be made available to affiliates at the end of the bar year. State-by-state resources are available on the project website at www.abanet.org/yld/dv .
  • YLD Conference Programming —As part of its programming throughout the bar year, the ABA YLD has scheduled at least one program consistent with the “Voices Against Violence” project at each of its conferences. At the San Diego Fall Conference, the featured program was entitled “Introduction to Domestic Violence Issues,” and at the Boston Midyear Meeting, the featured program was “Strategies for Legislative Advocacy to Prevent Domestic Violence.” Working with local organizations at the site of each conference, the ABA YLD has identified domestic violence community service projects in which conference attendees can participate. The Division recently hosted a teleconference on domestic violence in LGBT relationships, “The Last Thing Hanging in the Closet: Domestic Violence in LGBT Relationships,” co-sponsored with the Commission on Domestic Violence, Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education, National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Bar Association, and the ABA Center for Continuing Legal Education.
  • Domestic Violence Roundtables— Modeled on the Youth At Risk Roundtables organized by the ABA Commission on Youth At Risk, the ABA YLD hosted moderated roundtable discussions at its Fall and Midyear Conferences and will again at the Spring Conference. Local legal and social services providers, judges, and law enforcement personnel are invited to the roundtables to network, discuss the issues and challenges they face, explore new resources and partnerships, and establish working relationships to raise awareness and for collaboration to help prevent domestic violence. A guide is available to assist state bar organizations that wish to organize and host roundtables in their communities.
    During the San Diego Conference the ABA YLD organized and hosted a roundtable discussion for over thirty local domestic violence legal and social service advocates that was moderated by Cindy Dwyer, Director of the Office on Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice. At the Boston Midyear Meeting the ABA YLD hosted a roundtable discussion for local domestic violence legal and social service advocates moderated by Judge Pamila Brown, Chair of the ABA Commission on Domestic Violence with Massachusetts First Lady Diane Patrick as the plenary speaker.
  • Community Service Efforts— Conference attendees at the ABA YLD Fall Conference created posters for use at the first “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event held by the San Diego YWCA to raise awareness about domestic violence. The ABA YLD also held a “Survivor Appreciation Fair” at the San Diego Family Justice Center for survivors and young lawyers to meet and share their stories. In Boston, the ABA YLD hosted “Addressing the Legal Needs of Teen Victims of Dating Violence,” which increased awareness among lawyers and legal advocates about the unique legal barriers faced by victims of teen dating violence. The ABA YLD also hosted a table at the Midyear Meeting as part of Jane Doe’s annual “White Ribbon Day Campaign” to raise awareness about and to encourage men to take a stand against domestic violence.
The “Voices Against Violence” project has made significant progress toward raising awareness of domestic violence among attorneys and the need for attorneys to be active in putting an end to this crime in their communities. To find ways to get involved on a personal or affiliate level, visit the project website at www.abanet.org/yld/dv .