Domestic Violence & Legal Advocacy at Barrier Free Living
Residents in BFL’s Freedom House Emergency Shelter are often uncertain about their legal rights. Victims of domestic violence can find the legal system confusing and scary.
Our team can advocate for shelter residents, ensuring that all their needs are being met while protecting everyone’s rights involved.
Following is a story where our advocacy was crucial in a very difficult case.
Jean is the mother of two children, Robin (4 years old) and Alexis (2 years old). Jean came to Freedom House due to her husband’s severe emotional, physical, and financial abuse.
Jean’s husband had a lucrative job and was very wealthy. When Jean’s husband realized that she had left home, he immediately went to court and requested custody of the children. Although not granted custody, he was granted overnight visitation rights.
After the second weekend visit, Robin began to complain of pain. Jean immediately took her daughter to the emergency room and the child disclosed that she was being sexually abused by her father during the visits.
Jean was told by her lawyer that she would have to continue to take the child to the visit until the judge amended the visitation order. Obviously, Jean was not happy putting her daughter at risk.
The staff at Freedom House, including the social workers and Directors, advocated that the child not be brought to the visits. We stressed the seriousness and danger of the situation to both Jean’s lawyer and to child protective services. In addition, Jean was encouraged to speak up and share her concerns.
Jean’s lawyer was able to call an emergency court hearing, which resulted in the judge ordering supervised visits until the investigation was completed. To help support Jean through this difficult time, we provided her with individual counseling, allowing her to share her frustrations and fears in a productive and safe manner.
As a result, she was emotionally prepared to face her abuser.
We were also in close contact with her lawyer and child protective services, regularly assisting them in explaining to Jean what the next steps in her case were.
Shortly after coming to Freedom House, Jean found an apartment and moved in to her own place. The investigation was still in process when she left.
Advocacy Key Points:
- Encourage your client/resident to speak up and voice their concerns
- As a professional, voice your concerns regarding the situation
- Be clear and concise about what the problem is
- Assist with problem solving