On average, survivors have multiple legal problems associated with their abusive situation, and many cannot afford the assistance of an attorney. Agencies like HAWC (Healing Abuse Working for Change) seek to ensure all abuse survivors can have access to the appropriate legal services they need to secure and maintain their utmost safety. Why legal assistance helps:
- It dramatically increases the likelihood of obtaining a protective order Research from the Institute for Policy Integrity shows that 86% of abuse, or domestic violence, victims who were represented by an attorney were successful at obtaining a protective order. The rate for abuse survivors without legal representation was only 32%.
- Hundreds of thousands who need help are turned away every year Each year, hundreds-of-thousands of domestic violence victims and abuse survivors are turned away from help, including legal services. This often leads to victims feeling helpless and, in some cases, going back to their abuser. In 2015, nearly 13,000 survivors were turned away each day from various domestic violence services, including shelters. Lack of funding and donations are the primary cause for the decreasing lack of services for victims.
- Fifty-eight percent of victims need additional and transitional services Legal representation doesn’t end in the court room. Attorneys and legal advocates assist in everything from divorce proceedings to property protection, when related to the abuse.
- Legal problems are complex A domestic violence survivor will, on average, have at least three legal problems to resolve after obtaining safety and during any criminal proceedings. In many instances, survivors don’t realize how many separate legal issues will arise when initially trying to escape their abuser.
- Without legal representation, a victim’s voice often goes ignored Domestic violence victims without legal representation often report that police, hospital staff, and judges do not take their claims “seriously,” going as far as to ignore them completely.
- Immigrants and adolescents are the most underserved Obtaining legal services is an uphill battle for all victims of abuse. However, immigrants, adolescents, and their family are at the highest risk of not obtaining the appropriate legal representation because of various barriers to service.
- The likelihood of losing of custody of children increases without an attorney present Thousands of abuse victims lose custody of their children each year because they could not afford an attorney. The same research shows that, without an attorney, children may not receive the therapy and other psychological support they need during such a traumatic period.
How HAWC Helps
Our trained legal advocates provide advice, assistance, and, depending on availability, representation for abuse survivors who seek a life free from fear and violence. Part of our mission is to make these services immediately available for everyone who needs them.
The most direct way we can help more domestic violence survivors is by bringing in more attorneys, legal advocates, and trained volunteers to the HAWC family.
By supporting our legal service efforts, you’re giving thousands of domestic violence victims the chance to be safe from physical, emotional, and economic harm. Specifically, each donation goes towards:
- Abuse and harassment prevention for survivors
- Access to clinics with our team of pro-bono attorneys
- Referrals for other services like individualized safety plans
- Legal representation for high risk clients
HAWC offers immediate, comprehensive support to those experiencing domestic violence. By expanding our legal service offerings, we can ensure that all victims of domestic violence get access to the legal support they need.
- Covert, Bryce (March 1, 2016). Thousands Of Domestic Violence Victims Who Seek Help Are Turned Away Every Day. Think Progress. Retrieved from
- Rosenberg, Jennifer S. and Grab, Denise A. (July 21, 2015). Supporting Survivors: The Economic Benefits of Providing Civil Legal Assistance to Survivors of Domestic Violence. Institute for Policy Integrity New York University School of Law. Retrieved from
- Access to legal services in women’s shelters (2017). Journal of Family Violence.
- Civil Legal Services and Domestic Violence: Missed Service Opportunities (2015). Families in Society.
- The Reported Availability of U.S. Domestic Violence Services to Victims Who Vary by Age, Sexual Orientation, and Gender (2015). Partner Abuse.
- Depending on the kindness of strangers: protecting indigent litigants by granting the right to an attorney in civil custody proceedings (2015). Journal of Child Custody.