Domestic Violence Prevention and Awareness:
The ABA YLD 2008–2009 Public Service Project, Voices Against Violence
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..
Domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking constitute a destructive social epidemic, imposing physical, emotional, and financial costs on individuals, families, and communities. Statistics provided by the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Domestic Violence are sobering: by conservative estimates, 1.5 million women in the United States are assaulted by their intimate partners every year. Nationally, one-in-three women will experience sexual violence in their lifetimes, and one-in-twelve women will be stalked in their lifetimes. Although women are the victims in the majority of these crimes, men also experience intimate partner violence at an alarming rate.
The legal system is often the best hope for victims trying to stop intimate partner violence. Every state has some form of civil protection order, and many states are creating civil protection orders for victims of sexual assault and stalking. Obtaining a protection order, however, can be daunting for victims, and particularly for the unrepresented. Attorneys play a critically important role both to ensure legal protections for victims of violence and to educate their communities about the scourge in domestic violence. This is why the ABA Young Lawyer’s Division’s (YLD) 2008–2009 public service project, Voices Against Violence, will focus on domestic violence awareness, education, and prevention.
The ABA YLD’s goal is to raise awareness about domestic violence and to assist affiliates and young lawyers in devising, implementing, and disseminating initiatives to complement and broaden existing efforts to eradicate domestic violence. Described in more detail below, the project has several advocacy and educational components, including materials on teen dating violence.
Video on Teen Dating Violence Targeting Young Lawyers
This video educates the young lawyer about the prevalence of teen dating violence, how domestic violence 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 targeted toward young lawyer members and their affiliates. 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 ABA YLD members and affiliates to implement domestic violence prevention and awareness projects in their communities.
YLD Domestic Violence Project Website
Hosted on the ABA YLD’s homepage, the project website will contain all of the information about the project, including the toolkit and video, as well as additional resources for young lawyers.
Legislative Advocacy/YLD Resolutions
The ABA YLD will raise awareness and seek support for legislation to prevent domestic violence and to assist victims and survivors of domestic violence. Currently, two major legislative items have been identified:
The National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act (S. 1515) . This Act would harness the skills, enthusiasm, and dedication of pro bono lawyers around the country to provide desperately needed legal assistance to domestic violence victims by enabling the ABA, through the Commission on Domestic Violence, to assemble nationwide directories of legal service organizations that are available to help victims and provide pro bono opportunities for lawyers.
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Provision for Legal Services for Victims . A provision in VAWA calls for legal services for victims (including teens), but this provision is an unfunded mandate that requires annual reauthorization of funding. As a result funding varies each year in whether and how much funding is available.
The ABA YLD hopes to see debates on resolutions regarding these, and other legislative initiatives, at its Assembly meetings in February and July 2009.
National Directory of Domestic Violence Projects and Programming
Throughout the year, the ABA YLD will gather information from affiliates about the variety of existing domestic violence projects and programming, along with information on how to implement 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.
Conference Programming
As part of its 2008–2009 conference programming, at least one program consistent with this year’s public service project will be presented at each ABA YLD conference. Further, working with local organizations at the site of each conference, the ABA YLD is identifying community service projects in which conference attendees can participate.
Local Domestic Violence Roundtables
Modeled after the Youth At Risk Roundtables organized by the ABA Commission for Youth At Risk, the ABA YLD will host moderated roundtable discussions at its Fall, Midyear, and Spring Conferences. Local legal and social services providers, judges, and law enforcement personnel will be invited to the roundtables to network, discuss issues and challenges they face, explore new resources and partnerships, and establish working relationships to raise awareness and help prevent domestic violence. A guide will also be available to assist affiliates that wish to organize and host roundtables in their local communities. Through this year’s public service project, young lawyers will find a rewarding opportunity to lend their valuable skills, talents, and expertise to the effort to eliminate domestic violence. For more information, visit .