Theresa is 34. She is married and has a six year old son and a three year old daughter. She has family; she has friends; she is employed; her colleagues think she is happy. In fact, she is terrified that her husband, again tonight, will drink and beat her, perhaps with the belt he has begun using more regularly. Her deepest fear is that he will also hurt their children.
Theresa is not alone, but she and other victims of intimate partner violence do not always know of the array of services that may be available to them. In particular, she may not be aware of the Safe Families Office, a partnership among the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, Partnership Against Domestic Violence and the Family Division of the Superior Court of Fulton County. The Safe Families Office is the only courthouse-based free legal support program of its kind in Georgia, serving survivors of domestic violence and stalking. This court-based clinic assists every person in Fulton County seeking legal protection from intimate partner violence, including elder abuse and stalking, which numbers close to 2,500 people each year. The clinic also assists victims from outside the County seeking protection from abusers residing inside the county - serving women from 17 Georgia counties last year. The clinic is located in a reconfigured courtroom dedicated solely to this project. In this space, the Safe Families Office is able to serve as many people as need help; it has a Children’s Center and enough space for confidential conversations with several different clients to happen simultaneously.
But how do victims who need the services offered by the Safe Families Office learn of its existence? To help address this question, AVLF turned to the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers (GAWL) Foundation, and earlier this year AVLF was the fortunate recipient of a generous GAWL Foundation grant. The grant allowed AVLF to print postcards and related written materials in Spanish and in English, which have been and continue to be widely disseminated through community events, libraries, clerks’ offices, and partner organizations to help increase the number of victims who know about the Safe Families Office.
Founded in 1928, the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers serves the diverse interests of women lawyers in Georgia. The mission of the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers Foundation is to encourage philanthropy by women lawyers in Georgia for the benefit of the greater community. As part of fulfilling its mission, the GAWL Foundation gives out grants to other non-profit organizations that provide direct services to those in need in our local communities. Grants typically range from $500 to $2,000 and are awarded three times a year in the fall, winter, and spring. Recipients are selected using the following guidelines:
- Organizations that provide free legal services to disadvantaged women and girls;
- Organizations that provide free services to disadvantaged women and girls in the legal system; and
- Organizations that provide free services to disadvantaged women and girls.
The GAWL Foundation is accepting applications for the fall cycle through October 12, 2012. Feel free to contact Diana Cohen at GAWL.email@example.com with specific questions regarding the grant application process. Please contact Christina Baugh at GAWL.firstname.lastname@example.org with other questions about the GAWL Foundation.
AVLF is proud to report that the American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic Violence has called the Safe Families Office a national Best Practices model. We are proud that our work has confirmed that access to civil legal representation has the most impact on a survivor’s ability to make a permanent break from her abuser. And we are proud of and grateful for our affiliation with GAWL and the GAWL Foundation; because of their gift, the Theresa's of the world may yet be safe.