Wednesday, October 6, 2010
AVLF Volunteer Honors Domestic Violence Awareness Month
By: Sarah Cash, Associate Attorney, Arnall Golden Gregory, LLP- (AVLF Domestic Violence Project Volunteer)
As a Commercial Real Estate Associate in last year’s tough real estate market, I was looking for a way to satisfy my desire for high productivity and community involvement. Being familiar with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation because my firm, Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, is an avid supporter of the organization, I began researching their various volunteer programs.
I knew that domestic violence was a growing problem and wanted to learn more about what I could do to make a difference, so I attended a training session for AVLF’s Domestic Violence Project. The Project matches pro bono attorneys with domestic violence clients who need representation in civil temporary protective order hearings in Fulton County Superior Court and mentors volunteers attorneys throughout the duration of the case. You do not have to be a litigator or have family law experience to participate. The requirements sounded straightforward but, to be honest, I was anxious about the possibility of an abuser redirecting his or her anger at me for getting involved.
When I met my first client, a young mother whose abuser choked and punched her when she tried to end the relationship, my fears quickly dissolved. After all, if this woman could stand in front of the judge and a courtroom full of people and tell her story, the very least I could do was help guide her through the process. And so I did, time and time again. Each case gave me more confidence, and each grateful hug gave me determination to help even more.
One Tuesday afternoon last month, the firm’s receptionist told me I had a visitor, a former client – we’ll call her Angela – who I helped obtain a Temporary Protection Order almost a year prior. I will never forget Angela’s case. It involved some of the most terrifying details I’d heard since I started volunteering: after years of physical and verbal abuse, her abuser held her hostage in her own home with a knife to her throat. As I hurried upstairs to meet her, I worried that she was visiting because something terrible had happened.
I was wrong. Angela looked happy and relaxed, with a huge smile on her face. As we talked, she told me that she had been doing great since the hearing. She now lived in a new apartment and was dating a new man who treated her like a lady. She was visiting me that day to say thank you and to let me know how my help had positively changed her life. I was speechless. While my clients always express sincere appreciation at the hearing, I rarely hear from them afterwards and often wonder how they’re doing. This was the first time a client had ever contacted me to let me know how their life had changed since our interaction. It was a very fulfilling moment.
As I reflect on my experiences this October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I realize that AVLF’s Domestic Violence Project taught me the real meaning of courage. Not from facing my own fears, but from watching those who were threatened, insulted and beaten confront their attackers and demand an end to the abuse. I am honored to stand next to them, and I encourage you to do the same.
For more information about AVLF’s DV Project or any of AVLF’s other volunteer programs, please visit www.avlf.org. If you are interested in volunteering with AVLF’s DV Project, please contact Toni Roberts at email@example.com.