Missouri Bar Young Lawyers’ Section Spreads Awareness of Domestic Violence and the Law

Volume 37, Number 3


Melissa J. Healy is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and an Associate in the Portland, Oregon, office of Barran Liebman.

After several months of preparation, the Missouri Bar Young Lawyers’ Section (YLS) recently issued its Domestic Violence and the Law: A Practical Guide for Survivors. The YLS’s 2010–2011 Chair, Heidi Doerhoff Vollet, spearheaded the project, with the assistance of Andrew Lyskowksi, the YLS’s Publications Chair.

The idea for developing the domestic violence handbook came after YLS leaders reviewed a prior handbook on the same subject, which had been drafted in the 1980s, and discovered that it was not up-to-date or user-friendly. After electing to do a complete overhaul of the old handbook, YLS leaders worked with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence and the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services to draft the content of the new handbook. The Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence is an association of organizations and individuals working to end violence against women and their children through direct services and social and systemic change, while the Office of Prosecution Services assists prosecuting attorneys in their efforts against criminal activity throughout the state. “We are always looking for ways we can involve young lawyers to help provide valuable services to the public and to the bar,” said Jason Sengheiser, a member of the Missouri Bar’s YLS Council and the bar’s liaison to the ABA. “When we learned there was a need for this type of resource, we jumped at the opportunity to provide it.”


A $2,000 grant from the ABA and a $5,000 grant from the Missouri Bar for printing and layout work on the handbook paved the way, and the result is a 68-page guide filled with resources and practical information for survivors of domestic violence. Among other things, the handbook:

• Details those offenses that constitute “abuse” under Missouri’s Adult Abuse Act (the primary law that provides for Orders of Protection). After citing the statutory definition for each type of offense, this section goes on to provide an example of a situation that would fall within the definition of that offense.

• Explains the difference between ex parte and full Orders of Protection.

• Provides comprehensive information on the process for obtaining an Order of Protection. This section discusses (1) who can file for an Order of Protection; (2) where the filing can be made; (3) when the filing can be made; (4) what relief is available under an Order of Protection; (5) what kind of information can be released to the abuser, along with other safety concerns; (6) how to develop a safety plan; (7) the court’s procedure for examining a request for an Order of Protection; and (8) renewal, enforcement, and other issues that may arise after an Order of Protection is granted.

• Explains the difference between civil and criminal remedies for violation of an Order of Protection.

• Offers guidance on preparing for a criminal court proceeding, which includes being ready to tell the court what happened, along with knowing the crimes and charges.

• Provides tips for those in need of immediate assistance such as seeking medical help, calling an advocate or lawyer to help with the system, and locating a shelter.

• Offers a comprehensive list of resources for persons dealing with domestic violence. The list is broken down by regions of the state and includes contact information, counties served, and services provided.

So far, the handbooks have been a resounding success. The Missouri Bar has been generous in making free copies available to state prosecutors, domestic violence shelters, and advocacy groups across the state. In the future, the YLS hopes to make copies available in court clerks’ offices. In addition, translation of the handbook into Spanish, Vietnamese, and Bosnian is already underway. The YLS is so far relying primarily on volunteers to do the translations but may at some point seek additional funding of around $4,500 to translate the book if necessary. In sum, according to Sengheiser, “There has been a tremendous positive response to the guide from all who work in this area.”

“This project was a great example of how young lawyers can help spearhead a project in coalition with our state’s leading authorities in a substantive area of law to meet a very important societal need and help those who are vulnerable,” Sengheiser said. “We are looking forward to organizing similar projects in the future.”

To view the handbook in full, go to the YLS’s website at



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