The National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act
August 14, 2008
The National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act would create a cadre of skilled attorneys providing free legal services to victims of domestic violence. The bill is awaiting action by the full Senate and House.
Sue Else, President of NNEDV, praises the bill and its potential to obtain justice for families affected by violence. "While great strides have been made toward ending violence against women through the Violence of Against Women Act, which has led to increased public awareness and an improved criminal justice response to these crimes, there remain significant barriers for victims escaping domestic violence. Free legal services to domestic violence victims help balance the scales of justice. Our nation cannot afford to fail those seeking refuge from domestic violence. Policy makers and advocates for victims of domestic violence must work in partnership to end the cycle of violence. It is imperative that Congress pass the National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act and secure justice for the thousands of domestic violence victims and families that come forward for help each day."
Domestic Violence is a crisis of epidemic proportion that affects one in four American women in her lifetime and costs the nation an estimated $5.8 billion annually in medical costs. Research suggests that over 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence each year which can affect academic development and increase the likelihood of being a victim and/or abuser. According to the National Census of Domestic Violence Services, in a single day in 2007, over 53,000 women, men and children in America sought support from local domestic violence programs. Those programs also answered 20,582 Hotline calls and trained 29,902 community members as advocates. Although the second most frequent reason victims called the Hotline is to request legal assistance, it is estimated that less than 1 out of 5 low-income victims of domestic violence ever seek legal representation because they cannot afford to pay attorney fees. According to the American Bar Association, legal services currently provide counsel to an estimated 170,000 low-income domestic violence victims each year - leaving the majority of the estimated 1 million victims of domestic violence without legal assistance.
About the National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act
The National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act will enhance access to legal services for victims of domestic violence by:
Mandating a Government Accountability Office study on the scope and quality of legal services available to victims of domestic violence across the country and issue a report to Congress within a year;
Creating a National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Referral Project to be managed by the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence in partnership with other national domestic violence and pro bono organizations, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline;
Authorizing a Pilot Program to establish the National Attorney Network in five states, which would then be followed in two years by a National Rollout; and
Establishing a National Domestic Violence Legal Advisory Task Force to provide ongoing guidance regarding the network.
Read the full press release.