An Inside Look into our Expanded Legal Program

November 16th, 2017

Glenda* was referred to JCADA for representation in her final protective order hearing from one of JCADA’s legal partners at the Montgomery County Family Justice Center (FJC). Glenda had gone to the FJC looking for assistance after being physically assaulted by her husband. The physical assault left her fearing for her life and requiring medical treatment. Obviously shaken, Glenda got a temporary order of protection against her husband. Because her husband was in jail for the assault against her, Glenda was terrified to see him for the first time since the incident at the final protective order hearing.

This is where JCADA’s Legal Program comes in. Clients who have legal representation for final protective order hearings are proven to do better than those without an attorney.1 First, many respondents (individuals whom the order would be against) hire attorneys. If you are someone like Glenda, who could not afford an attorney on such short notice, this can be very intimidating. Most of us do not understand the many intricacies of the legal system, which can often be overwhelming. Having an attorney can help alleviate some of that overwhelmingness, helping victims and survivors feel more empowered to go forward with their legal issues. Second, as in the case of Glenda, we know that having representation may also mean a victim or survivor will not have to testify, reducing the amount of revictimization a victim or survivor may face.  Lastly, an attorney in any legal proceeding between a perpetrator and victim of abuse can help correct the power imbalance that exists in intimate partner violence relationships. 

JCADA’s staff attorney was able to negotiate with Glenda’s abuser’s attorney and come to an agreement. As per the agreement, Glenda would receive the financial relief to keep herself and her child safe and supported, while ensuring that she would not have to testify in open court about that traumatic and violent night. This was especially important because Glenda had already retold her story to law enforcement, the FJC, and the JCADA staff attorney. JCADA wanted to ensure that she wasn’t forced to retell her story more than necessary. After the negotiation with the abuser’s attorney, Glenda and her JCADA staff attorney went before the judge. Her abuser simply consented to the protective order and the relief it stipulated. In the accompanying criminal case that continues against the abuser, JCADA’s staff attorney is able to provide crime victims’ rights representation, which means ensuring the victim’s rights are protected in the criminal case, including working with the prosecutor to represent the victim’s interests in the case, court accompaniment, and helping draft a victim impact statement.  Feeling supported and empowered, Glenda is now well on her way to creating the safe and healthy future her and her child deserve. 

See Jennifer S. Rosenberg and Denise A. Grab, Supporting Survivors: The Economic Benefits of Providing Civil Legal Assistance to Survivors of Domestic Violence, Institute for Policy Integrity (2015).

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