Law Day Recognizes Important Role of Laws in Securing Safety and Freedom
April 29, 2014
NNEDV recognizes May 1st as Law Day. Originating with the American Bar Association in 1957 and later recognized by President Eisenhower in 1958, Law Day is meant to underscore the importance of the law and legal processes, and to recognize how they contribute to the freedoms that all Americans share.
At NNEDV, we see the critical impact that laws have in securing safety and freedom for survivors of domestic violence.
Research indicates that, "because legal services help women with practical matters such as protective orders, custody, and child support, they appear to actually present women with real, long-term alternatives" to abusive relationships.  Access to civil legal services is one of the most significant factors in explaining the decline of domestic violence, and one study found that an increase in the number of legal services available for survivors is associated with a decrease in intimate partner homicide. 
Despite the importance of legal services, almost 70% of domestic violence and sexual assault victims must appear in court by themselves because they cannot afford or access legal representation.  According to NNEDV's National Domestic Violence Counts Census, 58% of programs were able to have an advocate accompany a victim to court and only 12% of programs were able to assist victims with legal representation on the survey day. In the past year, 50 domestic violence programs reduced or eliminated their legal advocacy services and 69 programs reduced or eliminated their legal representation services.
On Law Day, we recognize the valuable role that laws and legal systems play in our national, state, and local response to domestic violence. Not only does the law help individuals, but it is also used to hold the entire system accountable. We are mindful that navigating the legal system can often be challenging and overwhelming for survivors of violence, and there is still more work to be done to ensure that our laws meet the needs of all victims.
Check out these amazing resources that help make the law more accessible for and responsive to victims:
- WomensLaw.org, a project of NNEDV, provides state-specific, easy-to-understand legal information and referrals to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, as well as to their friends, family members, and advocates. Through the website, survivors can access comprehensive information about matters such as restraining orders, divorce, child custody, and support in their area – and can write in to the Email Hotline to receive more specific information.
- The American Bar Association Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence works to increase access to justice for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking by mobilizing the legal profession. Through their publications, resources, and trainings, they help grow the capacity of attorneys to provide high-quality representation to victims.
 See: Farmer, A. & Tiefenthaler, J. (2003). Explaining the Recent Decline in Domestic Violence. Oxfords Journals; MacFarlane, J. et al. (2004). Protection Orders and Intimate Partner Violence: An 18-Month Study of 150 Black, Hispanic and White Women. American Journal of Public Health, 94(4), 613-618.
 Reckdenwald, A. & Parker, K.F. (2010). Understanding Gender-Specific Intimate Partner Homicide: A Theoretical and Domestic Service-Oriented Approach. Journal of Criminal Justice, 38, 951-958.
 Carter, T. (2004). Pour It On: Activists Cite Rising Need for Lawyers to Respond to Domestic Violence, A.B.A. Journal, pg. 73.